Retroactive Jealousy. A condition that ruins both lives and relationships.
If you tell your neighbour you suffer with RJ, you may well receive a blank look. If you tell your GP/counsellor/psychiatrist/eminent university professor, etc; that you have RJ, the chances are they too, will give you a blank look.
You will not find Retroactive Jealousy in any medical or psychiatric manuals (yet).
Broadly, it is the emotional distress caused by a chronic and frequent obsession with thoughts associated with the romantic and/or sexual history of your current intimate partner. It is also often accompanied by a compulsion to seek reassurance through the pursuit of more information. Asking a partner endless questions and sometimes researching into their past via social media, or even intruding into private diaries, is not uncommon.
The consensus is that in order to qualify as RJ, your distress has to contain some degree of irrationality, and that it sits at odds with your personal values and/or the norms of your culture.
For example, there are some cultures where any form of premarital sex is regarded as anathema. If you were living in such a culture, and fully 'bought into' those norms, it would not be unexpected if you became horrified if your spouse suddenly disclosed a 'back-catalogue' of sexual partners. Similarly, some fundamentalist Christians might view premarital sex as sinful and abstain from it, expecting a prospective partner to do likewise.
However, if you conform to the common Western secular view of gender, relationships, sex and sexuality as well as the relative spectrum of 'okay' behaviours that run alongside it, but still apply harsh judgements to your partner’s past which you would not apply to your own, you are more than likely suffering with Retroactive Jealousy
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Possible Causative Factors
Retroactive Jealousy may have multiple Bio-Psycho-Social causative factors; by which we mean the physiological, emotional, cognitive, societal and interpersonal. These elements may all play a part.
No one knows for sure, but here are the most current theories.
1/ A Touchy Brain
The amygdalae (plural of amygdala) are located in the brain, roughly where two imaginary straight lines (one running through the back of your eye, and another running between your ears,) would intersect.
Its function is to alert us to danger by triggering a flight, fight or freeze response.
Obviously our bodies and brains are designed for a natural, wild environment, not for post-industrial living. In the absence of sabre-tooth tigers, our amygdalae are a little sketchy these days on what constitutes a danger and what doesn’t.
So why would they send us an alert about events that happened years ago? The theory goes that they cannot differentiate between present threats and historic ones.
A good analogy is to imagine a Prime Minister or President, whose aides have the job of waking him or her up during the night in the event of a major threat to national security with things like: 'Mr President, two aircraft just flew into the world trade centre! Or 'The Argentinians just invaded the Falkland Islands'.
2/ A Primeval Brain
In a primeval situation where there are threats of attack by other tribes or wild animals, women would be particularly vulnerable in pregnancy, so before engaging in sex they would need to evaluate if the potential father is someone who will stick around with his spear. If he’s more interested in Wilma and the other females in the tribe, he is likely to be the sort of man to leave her undefended. So a man focussed on other women DOES, in this context, represent a danger.
As for men; If a man is inclined to stick with his mate, his instinct is to protect his own genes. If one of his children is a cuckoo in the nest, he will see that as an unwelcome drain on his scarce resources, thus putting his own survival at risk.
These instincts are hard-wired into us. In some of us, they lie dormant, in others, they are more active. They can also appear to lie dormant for years until something specific triggers them to become active.
3/ A Sticky Brain
Many think that RJ is a form of complex Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and recent theories suggest it is not a mental illness but a physical problem with brain function, which means that part of the fore-brain, which should pass on signals to each other are 'stuck'. Hence our thoughts get into and endless 'WASH-RINSE-REPEAT' cycle. RJ has a lot of similarities with the 'Intrusive thoughts' which are now also considered to be a form of OCD.
This is the 'social' element. OCD can fixate around almost anything, so why sexual and romantic history?
Our generation, and those of the last sixty years, have experienced more social (and sexual) changes than any generation in history, and yet we still carry a strong residue of the values of a pre-contraceptive society, consciously or unconsciously. As a result, many of our heads are in a mess about what is right and wrong and what the 'rules' should be for sex and relationships.
On top of this, as gender roles become blurred and merged, leaving us with no idea of how we should be as men or women (we won’t get into non-binary gender roles here other than to acknowledge their validity).
This can lead to low self-esteem and a propensity to be anxious and insecure. Some RJ theorists cite insecurity as key causal factor in itself.
5/ A Multifaceted Brain
Over time we are observing and identifying certain personality traits or co-morbid conditions which seem to correlate with RJ. We explore this further in the workshops.
The Retr-ACT Approach.
My methods are very holistic and have many overlaps with the work of the others practitioner I shall mention later.
I am a qualified counsellor, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist. My training was Integrative. This means I draw on the teachings of all the major schools of psychotherapy and combine their theories, methods and techniques to best suit the person I am helping. This can range from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), to a much deeper Psychodynamic approach. My work with Retroactive Jealousy is informed by many things including; Attachment Theory, Relapse Prevention Models, Twelve Step Recovery, Mindfulness & equanimity practices, gender/relational/social and cultural dynamics, as well as neuroscience.
Retroactive Jealousy does not exist in a vacuum, therefore, I seek to address any co-existing or underlying issues we may encounter along the way. My many years of experience working in mental health settings is a valuable resource, especially as depression and anxiety are strongly associated with Retroactive Jealousy.
I am willing to look at any issues and have specialist expertise in; addiction recovery, recovery from sexual abuse, working with sexual & domestic violence offenders, and in gender identity.
Neuro-Divergence, which includes things like; Asperger's Syndrome/ Autism, Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia are also areas of special interest.
I respect and work alongside established medical and psychiatric professionals. Currently. I have spent many years working for the NHS in another capacity.
Retroactive Jealousy appears to be a complex form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) with some similarities to the phenomenon of Intrusive Thoughts. It has been seen to respond well to a modified form of OCD treatment.
Hypnotherapy sessions are only available face-to-face. Most other services can, if required, be carried out online via Skype or FaceTime. Please send me a message if you want to organise an online session.
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Therapy and mentoring sessions are relaxed and informal and are always scheduled at times that fit for you.
I am committed to the codes of practice for both BACP, British association for counselling and Psychotherapy and UKCP, United Kingdom Council for Counselling & Psychotherapy. Both of these bodies require me to invite you to agree to a contract. This can be viewed as an additional level of ‘quality control’. I do not ask clients to make long-term commitments, as many therapists do. This will always be at your discretion and as an outcome of the discussion.
A PDF copy of my standard contract can be downloaded from a link at the bottom of this page.
Whilst I comply with all the professional requirements required of a psychotherapist, my style differs slightly from the norm. I provide a blend of both counselling and coaching and provide numerous links and suggestions for other resources when I think they will be helpful.
Commonly, I receive feedback along the lines of "I've seen several counsellors and therapists over the years but could never get on with any of them." "Somehow you are different.", or, "You are the only one that has ever properly explained that to me." "I have not been able to share about that before."
When people recommend me to others, they say things like. "You should see this bloke who helped me, he really listens and understands, but he's completely down-to- earth and he tells it like it is."
My approach is friendly, interactive and conversational. I don't want clients feeling the need to fill uncomfortable silences or worry about what to say. Where appropriate, I like to bring humour into the mix. I subscribe to the paradoxical maxim; 'Recovery is far too important to be taken seriously all the time'.
If an informal chat would help why not send me a message to get the ball rolling?
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