The Truth in Resentment
Whether it’s a colleague, an ex, a spouse or family member, our resentments can often run the show in our relationships. We can go years avoiding people, places and things we don’t like. We might even like having a “healthy” understanding of our dislikes; our dislikes might feel justified and comfortable to us. But are they really?
Resentment, by definition, is associated with the perception that we have been treated unfairly. When we look at the presence of resentment in our own lives, it can show itself as a re-feeling, a recurring story we repeatedly tell ourselves, and the emotion attached to it. We play that tape over and over, and even though it might feel horrible it can be hard not to succumb to it. We hold on to these resentments because we justified in doing so, and by retelling the story, it can serve as a reminder of things we will never let happen again, mistakes we won’t make again, people and action we won’t accept into our lives again.
Resentment can give us a sense of security. It can make us feel safe, when in reality, it is the tool we use to keep reliving a certain kind of hell, over and over again. In reality, resentment robs us of a certain kind of freedom.
When we rid our relationships of resentment, we aren’t passively letting people off the hook, we are freeing ourselves from old ideas. In order to do so, we need to examine the little nooks and crannies of our current situation and develop a better understanding of how we got here. We need to understand that our best thinking got us where we are today, that our resentments served some sort of purpose. But we also need to acknowledge that we have an accumulation of emotion that isn’t serving us.
Though our resentments can feel natural and justified, they aren’t useful to us. They are little glimpses into slight sicknesses of the soul, a little piece of us that wants to stay stuck. They can fester for weeks, months, and even years, but when we open things up and dig around, we can see where the sickness came from. And if we want to recover from resentment, we need to get honest about why we are holding onto it, what purpose it is serving. Then, we can reevaluate its presence, see the part we play in holding onto resentment, and come to understand that our resentment is actually blocking us from getting what we need. By taking a hard look at it, we learn that our resentments aren’t fulfilling a purpose at all. This is how we let the light shine in. This is how we start to let it go.
So whether this resentment is related to a relationship (parents, spouse, friend), to something you don’t like about your life (school, your job, your city or government), or to something you don’t like about yourself (your weight, a bad habit, your lifestyle) be mindful of resentment. Notice the stories you’ve been retelling yourself and the feelings that are stuck on repeat. Recognize that you have no control over the past but that you can use it to your advantage. Try to understand that the initial function of this resentment (kept us right, kept us safe) isn’t working anymore, doesn’t serve us anymore, and is keeping us stuck. Be thankful for the purpose the feeling served, then become willing to let it go, let some light shine in, and be open to seeing things differently.
More to come on resentment and letting go.