The Grass ISN’T Greener On The Other Side

Is it really greener on the other side?

Jealousy is an interesting thing; we experience it in our love lives, among our friends, at the work place, among family, and with our neighbors. It’s something that we pick up when we’re children and the other kid has the new action figure or Barbie doll. Psychologist have noticed and sought to find an explanation, what they’ve found is relative deprivation. A phenomenon that gives us some insight into why we tend to think the grass is greener on the other side.

What is it: Relative deprivation is the experience of feeling deprived when we compare ourselves to others that are in a same or similar situation as us. We see the person, in this case our neighbors, as doing better than us even though they may be doing the same or worse. While they may have just bought a new car, which looks good on the outside, the may be under a tighter financial budget than you are due to the added expense.

How’s it work: Relative deprivation works off of our natural tendency to evaluate ourselves through the eyes of others. It’s something that is programmed into us going as far back as childhood, parents and teachers encourage us to be more like (insert successful person here), our childhood friends encourage us to be more like our favorite super hero(ine). With all of this reinforcement to evaluate ourselves through comparison the relative deprivation phenomenon is a natural evolution of our psyches.

How to be aware: With something such as relative deprivation that has permeated almost all of our thought processes being able to successfully modify it can be difficult. One of the simpler ways to go about doing so is to notice when the thoughts are occurring and ask yourself if what they have really is better for you. Take a moment to think about if the item or ability in question would really improve your life, and if it’s worth investing the necessary resources.

If your car works just fine, and shows no intention of breaking down in the next year or so, do you really need to add the extra costs to your finances? Will buying the new pair of shoes that your friend is wearing really make that much of a difference? Chances are you’ll find that everyone likes you the same whether you have the item in question or not. So instead of thinking of yourself as deprived when comparing yourself to others, think of yourself as unique, because that same person is wishing they were you.

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Which Glue Holds You Together

Below are three statements, read them and chose the one that best matches how you relate to others.

1. It is difficult for me to trust or depend on others completely. I begin to get nervous when someone gets close, my significant other/romantic interest wants me to be more intimate than I am comfortable with.

2. It is easy for me to get close to others, I don’t worry about my significant other/romantic interest wanting to be too close and it is easy for me to depend on others and have them depend on me.

3. It is hard for others to get as close to me as I want. Sometimes I scare my significant other/romantic interest away because they think I’m “moving too fast,” I worry that my close friends aren’t as trusting as they seem to be.

Each of the above statements represents one of the three attachment styles that we form during childhood and are prevalent throughout life. The first statement relates best to those of us with the avoidant attachment style. Those of us who primarily have this form of attachment may sometimes be called loners, or described as being ‘not a people person.’ They tend to prefer working alone, may usually feel insecure in their relationships and when uncertain or threatened become withdrawn, detached, and dismissive of the issue at hand.

The second statement refers to those of us with the secure attachment style. These tend to be the ‘people persons,’ they are generally comfortable with intimacy and prefer to be with people they are close to when threatened or uncertain. As the name suggest they are secure in their relationships both with friends and lovers.

The third statement describes those of us with the anxious attachment style. Those of us who relate best to this are similar to the avoidants in feeling insecure in relationships. However, those of the anxious attachment style actively seek closeness with others, they might be described as ‘clingy,’ ‘controlling,’ ‘fast moving.’ When threatened or uncertain they tend to try to become even closer with their confidants or significant other, they also tend to continuously worry about their relationships.

Having an avoidant or anxious attachment style does not automatically spell doom, just as having a secure attachment style does not automatically mean success. Attachment styles represent only one aspect of our personalities, and it isn’t uncommon for someone who shows secure attachment tendencies in the work place to show anxious attachment tendencies at home.

Various combinations are a common occurrence, knowing what your attachment style is refers to the most prevalent, it is not the be all end all to your personality and future relationships. These attachment styles are based off of the attachment theory, which is a theory describing how the early attachments we formed as children with our parents continue to influence our relationships and personality throughout life.

There has even be a study conducted by Mary Ainsworth known as the strange situation. In the experiment she had a mother and baby  enter a room filled with toys. The mother placed the baby on the floor allowing it to play. While the baby played a stranger would enter the room and the mother would leave, soon after the mother would return and comfort the baby if it cried during her absence. The mother would then place the baby back on the floor to play with the toys, if the baby resumed crying she would comfort it once again and the experiment would be concluded.

Ainsworth used this experiment to study the three attachment styles. When the mother returned if she quickly comforted the crying baby, the baby was said to be forming a secure attachment style. If while playing the mother intruded on the baby and/or rejected the baby, and the baby cried or showed anger when placed on the floor with the toys the baby was said to be forming an anxious attachment style. If the baby ignored everyone in the room and rejected the mother when she attempted to intrude or offer comfort the baby was said to be forming an avoidant attachment style.

Mary Ainsworth’s strange situation study was only the first of studies looking to further our understandings of attachment styles, and personality. Our personalities are multilayered  and complex, and there is no one theory that can describe it in whole so it is important to not generalize one aspect of your personality to the entire thing. Knowing our primary attachment style can offer us interesting insight into ourselves that we may otherwise not be aware of. It can also make for an interesting conversation piece with your close friends to find out which attachment style each of you are.