Deeply ingrained in human nature, jealousy occurs in everyone's life, with varying intensity and significance. Profoundly puzzling, jealousy provokes humans to irrational, sometimes violent acts against others or against themselves. It is a passion that has fascinated writers, storytellers, and audiences through the ages.
Hildegard Baumgart, a practicing marriage counselor, pursues a multilayered exploration of jealousy that is at once public history, based on literary and cultural records, and private history, drawn from individual clinical cases and psychoanalytic practice. In the process she discovers provocative new answers to two central questions: How can one understand jealousy, whether one's own or another's?
Baumgart focuses on the fear of comparison with the rival that motivates much jealousy, and she shows how this idea is, in fact, built into both mythology and theology. She adroitly combines a rich array of documentation and evidence: detailed, clinical descriptions of the classic dilemmas of love triangles; a history of the concept of jealousy in the Judeo-Christian tradition; examples from the lives and writings of a fascinating gallery of authors (Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Goethe, among others); discussions of Freud's writings on jealousy and of later psychoanalytic methodologies such as systems analysis, paradoxical intervention, and communications theory.
Throughout her narrative, Baumgart writes with compassion and feeling. Drawing on her personal experience of jealousy, her own psychoanalysis, and anecdotes from her counseling work and the clinical literature at large, she presents many fascinating vignettes of the painful—sometimes crippling—effects of jealousy as seen from the standpoints of both sufferer and therapist. What is more, she offers sensitive and sensible solutions to the problem of jealousy.
Baumgart's intriguing tapestry of the varied manifestations and interpretations of jealousy gives extraordinary resonance to the case histories she describes. In providing such a panoramic view, Jealousy invites everyone—analysts, counselors, sociologists, jealous lovers, and avid readers of advice columns—to reconsider both the cultural significance and personal meaning of this universal emotion.