How to let resentments go
|Resentment is having bad feelings about being wronged. Resentment can bring out hard feelings including anger, bitterness, and ill-will. It can set off feelings and thoughts of bad memories. Resentful thoughts and feelings can cause the person having them to suffer inside.
When the person feeling resentment is directing the emotion at themselves it appears as a strong feeling of guilt and regret.
Resentment can result from a variety of situations. Some of these include public shaming, unfairness because of who someone is, being treated bad because one isn’t accepted due to race, religion, etc., jealousy or feeling used and taken advantage of. Resentment can also take place when a person refuses to express their true feelings toward another, when they embarrass that person on purpose, ignore them or put down another person.
A person who has resentment can look at themselves for signs like the need for keeping control of their emotion: such as faking happiness while with a person to cover true feelings toward them, or speaking in a mocking or demeaning way to or about the person. Due to feelings of anxiety or rejection directed at the object of their resentment, a resentful person can sometimes get angry, discouraged, or depressed for no apparent reason.
Resentment is most powerful when it is felt toward someone who one is close to or intimate with.
Resentment can take away ones’ sensitivity and when unresolved, can have a variety of negative results on the person experiencing it, including touchiness or edginess when thinking of the person resented, denial of anger or hatred against this person, and angry feelings come up when this person is recognized positively. It can also have more long-term effects, such as the development of unfriendly, suspicious, mocking attitude that may stop other healthy relationships, lack of personal and emotional growth, difficulty in opening up, trouble trusting others, loss of self-confidence, and giving too much credit to one’s self. By contrast, resentment does not have any direct negative effects on the person resented, except for a damaged relationship.
Resentful feelings are dangerous to live with and need to be dealt with. Resentment blocks good and healthy relations, and must be handled and removed by self examination and forgiveness. Getting rid of these resentments usually depends on the person and the situation.
Imagine resentments as something clingy and easy to hold on to. A powerful image is to imagine oneself holding on to the resentments and then just opening one’s hands and letting them go.
Meditation, especially Buddhist meditation, is often all ABOUT letting go. In insight meditation, for example, one experience feelings and thoughts like clouds on the horizon of one’s awareness. They come; they move from here to there, they disappear. This is really because practicing this kind of meditation helps one to realize that they are not their feelings and thoughts, and that they don’t have to be ruled by them. It’s the other way around: thoughts are part of us, they belong to us, and we decide what to do with them.
Contemplation / Reflection
Contemplation is to study something thoughtfully. In contemplation or reflection, one can quietly and gently use one’s thoughts to feel their way through a situation. During a long walk, while lying in bed, or in some other quiet, relaxed situation, one can ask oneself questions like, “where do I feel this resentment in my body?”, “what would happen if I wasn’t resentful against this person or situation anymore?” The idea is to be curious and full of wonder, accepting of whatever response may or may not come.
Talk to a friend, or counselor.
How to adjust thinking and behavior regarding resentments
Anger is inevitable
Accept the fact that you will have anger to deal with.
Raise your awareness
Be aware of the anger on purpose. Many people are used to being angry, and they don’t necessarily realize that they are keeping resentments towards others. These people will have difficulty moving ahead until they can raise themselves up to a level of self-awareness that allows them to see what they are doing to themselves.
Cool off before you communicate
Once you are living with this increased level of awareness, you’ll probably notice rather quickly when your anger increases. Walk away from the situation so that you can cool down a bit and give yourself some time to process things. Later, you are going to go back to this person that you are angry with and talk it out. Before you can do that, though, you need to give yourself (and probably the other person as well) some time to calm down. One way to do this is to meditate.
Identify the emotions beneath the anger
Before you can talk it out, you need to tear apart the anger you’re feeling. Anger is a secondary emotion–it never comes up by itself. It is masking another hidden deep feeling–namely fear or hurt. You need to identify which emotion the anger is covering up. You might say something like this:
“I felt hurt when you said that I should lose some weight.”
“I felt scared when you told me that you were leaving town for six months.”
Do not confuse feelings with your opinions. Notice that there is a difference between feelings and your opinions. Make sure you are using feelings, such as sad or mad or glad or scared. If you say something like “I feel like you just …..” then that is NOT a feeling. You are giving an opinion and probably furthering a negative argument at that point. Communicating those hidden feelings to the person who caused them is the key to ending resentment.
Forgiveness: A key to overcoming resentments
There are times when we have been truly wronged through no fault of our own and we are clearly a victim. In cases like this, it is tempting to say that resentment due to a good reason. However, there is no place for a “justified” resentment in a substance abusers life, because it will consume them just as much as an “unjustified” resentment or one for a good reason. The anger is able to do harm to a person either way. If we were truly a victim, then we need to practice forgiveness. True forgiveness will allow us to let go of the anger and move on with our lives. Forgiveness gives us a new freedom.
Five steps to facing and resolving resentful feelings.
(1) Identify the source of the resentful feelings and what it is the person did to evoke these feelings.
(2) Develop a new way of looking at past, present and future life, including how resentment has affected life and how letting go of resentment can improve the future.
(3) Write a letter to the source of the resentment, listing offenses and explaining the circumstances, then forgive and let go of the offenses (but do not send the letter).
(4) Picture a future without the negative impact of resentment.
(5) If resentful feelings still linger, return to Step 1 and begin again.