On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, a small group of women gathered in the upstairs room at the Bridgehampton Community House to delve into a topic few of them had probably ever actually spoken about before — jealousy.
At its core, jealousy is the concept that what others make, possess or do in their own lives has the potential to spark resentment in those who feel as if they are missing out, or left behind. Standing on the other side of the fence, as it were, looking in at privilege, love or acceptance that is not their own.
But East Hampton’s Kate Mueth, founder of the theatrical troupe The Neopolitical Cowgirls, believes that there’s something deeper going on here, especially in the lives of women, and it has to do with misplaced focus or skewed values and the need to get back to ourselves. While it’s rare for most of us to actually vocalize or even think about our battles with things like jealousy, in this first of three workshops Mueth is offering throughout the fall, she encouraged the women present to take a deep breath and a deep dive into their psyches.
Through readings, discussions and activities, the goal of Mueth’s workshops are to help participants look inward in order to affect their day-to-day lives, communities and work environments. The session on jealousy opened with Mueth asking participants to say the names of parents and grandparents in order to anchor the women in a personal history with a sense of who they are. Each participant then shared a trait about herself that she liked, and another personal trait with which she wasn’t so happy. Talk also focused on sharing circumstances when jealously had entered in their own lives,
As Mueth explained, it’s all about encouraging women to look within in order to improve the health of their relationship with themselves, the world, and each other.
Prior to the start of the session, Mueth took a few minutes to talk about why, in the current political and social climate, she feels it’s important for people — particularly women — to begin taking stock in this way.
“There’s a sense that’s been going on for years, particularly with women, of feeling helpless and scared — simultaneously going for it and then being exhausted,” she said. “We don’t see any progress or changes, and ask why the f— am I doing this?”
While she concedes that women have long felt frustrated by many facets of life that hold them down, or back, she finds that in this current political climate, the perceived backslide for women fighting to find their place and power in society is particularly noticeable, and troublesome.
“Hillary [Clinton] got taken to task for this. We don’t have to be nice. The world is dying, our black citizens are being killed,” said Mueth. “I’m a pretty insulated person. I’m not one to hang out with groups of women, but I firmly believe it will be women who save the world and the change will come from us.
“We have a responsibility to do this … we have work to do. These workshops are about all of us coming together in a room, diving into ourselves to know where we’re stuck.”
When it comes specifically to the emotion of jealousy, whether its source can be traced to the possession of power or material goods, Mueth feels that the issue for women, in particular, is that it is an emotion that is often used as a weapon against other women.
“It hurts us, when we’re experiencing it we don’t even realize it,” she said. “There’s a kind of emotional tension hooked in, the microscope gets stronger in comparisons. Who has money who doesn’t? It’s such a waste of energy.”
“This workshop is about conversations shared between us,” Mueth added. “Creativity is the engine, plus there is a bit of movement, and guided writing prompts that will thrust us into where we go with the conversation.”
Mueth admits that for her, jealousy has often been attached to specific people who she believes have been unkind to her, her family, friends or others in the world. And while everyone makes bad choices and says unwise things to others, she says, at some point, it’s important to recognize one’s humanness, vow to do better and make peace within.
“Not only does [jealousy] suck energy from us, but it doesn’t add anything but sourness,” she said. “If I want to see change in our political communities, or even the pick-up line at school, I have to find my own ways of seeing and feeling.”
Ultimately, she feels, compassion is the right path to coping.
“Compassion is the idea of comparing myself to a strong tree, a running river, a jagged rock — things that add a pondering for beauty. Otherwise, I’m judging myself or that person, which is so wasteful,” she said. “When we’re wrapped up in comparing ourselves to others, we’re missing opportunities to make change that creates traction in our politics, communities, and kids in our schools.
“We need to create more joy for us, but also pay attention to our communities and where we’re needed. There are people with stories to tell here that would crush you if you knew them. We have to be great as women.”
Additional topics to be explored in the workshop series include “Finding Sisterhood” on Sunday, October 13, a session that delves into the notion of bonds and boundaries, followed by “The Grass Under Our Feet” on Sunday, November 10, which is dedicated to knowing when and how to take a rest. Workshops run 1 to 4 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Community House, 2368 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton and are recommended for women age 17 and up.
Participants should wear comfortable clothing and bring a special journal or writing implement, if they like. Each workshop is $65. Register at npcowgirls.org.