The Sunday Magazine

Jealousy: Stalking the Green Eyed Monster

Peter Toohey is a classics professor at the University of Calgary. In his book "Jealousy", he explores how this disturbing emotion can be a force for both bad and good.
1937: A jealous wife finds a photograph of her cheating husband's sweetheart. (Credit: General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

"Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" (Proverbs 27:4) Now before you say "Amen to that!" you might want hear what Peter Toohey has to say about the "Green Eyed Monster" that has been stalking us for millennia: "It can be a beautiful thing!"  Yes, you read right!

Peter Toohey is a professor in the Department of Classics and Religions at the University of Calgary. He is also the author of the recently published Jealousy, a book that makes the bold claim that this troubling emotion can provide social cohesiveness, make a faltering marriage stronger, and make one more productive at work.

No, you haven't have fallen down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.  Professor Toohey is well aware that jealousy has a dark side.  He makes use of examples from the world of science, psychology, art and literature to underscore this point. Remember Othello, Shakespeare's Moor of Venice?  The poor guy was so consumed with jealousy that he strangled to death his beloved Desdemona. Toohey points out that obsessive jealousy is known in psychiatric circles as the "Othello syndrome", defined as "a type of delusional jealousy, marked by suspecting a faithful partner of infidelity, with accompanying jealousy, attempts at monitoring and control, and sometimes violence."

If you're looking for a better understanding of this often misunderstood emotion, listen to Michael's interview with  Peter Toohey. He's not only an expert on the topic, he is personally well-acquainted with it. "Academics are the most jealous people I know," he chuckles.