What makes us jealous? For me, it’s invariably the fear that I’ll be jettisoned, whether because of some genuine shortcoming of mine or, more likely, simply because someone else has more, better than I do. But it boils down not just to a fear of loss, of abandonment, but worse: of annihilation, invalidation.

It’s not just that I’m scared I’ll lose her. It’s that I’ll lose her TO someone, someone who, by virtue of being more desirable (to her) than I am, renders me completely undesirable.  (And, for what it’s worth, “her” in this instance could equally well be my wife or a flight attendant I’ve known for five minutes.)

But why is jealousy such a powerful emotion? Why do we organize so much human activity – and absence of activity – around the imperative of minimizing jealousy? Why can we not bear to shoulder the burden of jealousy even for a moment?

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