Four steps to letting your resentment go
Resentment creeps into your life when that voice in your head tells you that you have been wrong, taken advantage of, or unjustly treated. Resentment has a hold over you when your thoughts and feelings seem to be held captive by an injustice that preventing you from living your life to the fullest. Simply put, resentment has a negative impact on your life, like an unwanted guest that won’t leave.
When I picture resentment, I think of Lady Justice, she is blindfolded and holding balance scales and a sword. She is out for justice and wants to right any wrongs, balance the scales, and make things harmonious. This can be a bit unnerving because anyone with a dangerous weapon like a sword, and who is blindfolded, may not hit their target. She may hurt those she does not intend to hurt, including herself. In fact, in the end resentment is likely to hurt us the most.
A heavy sense of resentment is an unwanted emotion that is difficult to exorcise from your daily thoughts. It is a negative emotion, like anger, fear, or hate that can consume you, blocking you from living the life you deserve. Instead of giving you the justice that you seek, resentment may strip from you the life that you want.
We often feel resentment towards relationships, family members, or even someone from our past that we still hold a deep grudge against. In other words, resentment is the experiencing of past injustices, whether they are real or perceived, and the hurt feelings that come along with that perception.
How do you know if you are feeling resentful towards someone or a situation in your past? Ask yourself if Lady Justice is whispering in your ear when you are experiencing the following:
- Are you unable to move forward without feeling bitter or angry when you think about the incident?
- Do you find it difficult to stop thinking about the event or events that caused the tension in the relationship?
- Have you lost your cool or are easily irritated when dealing with this person?
- Do you feel regret, inequality, or unimportant in the relationship?
- Do you find you fear or avoid conflict?
- When you think about this person, are your feelings predominantly negative?
Resentful feelings block our ability to move forward. The best way to let that resentment go is to get a handle on how you perceive the situation and question it from all angles. It may be that you conclude that you no longer want to continue with a relationship, or you may feel that you MUST continue with a relationship. Whatever your situation may be, getting a better handle on your perception of the situation could help you release the resentment.
Below are four steps to gaining more clarity and releasing resentment:
Step 1: Notice the weight of what you are holding
The weight of the scales and sword in Lady Justice’s hands must be heavy. How long can she carry all that around? The first step is to acknowledge the resentment. What is the magnitude of the resentment that you are feeling? How is it impacting your life? What feelings come up when you consider moving on from the resentment?
See if you can pinpoint when the bitterness started and how it grew into what you feel today. It can help create a timeline about all the events that you feel contributed to your negative perception. Did you miss anything positive about the situation? Try to understand and process it with a trusted, objective person.
One example would be if you resent your spouse because they want to move for their job so they can continue climbing the corporate ladder. Perhaps you would feel uprooted from the move, and that is causing your underlying anger. You may have agreed to move but feel bitter because it is not what you truly want to do. Try to look at the situation from every angle and see what feelings come up for you. Would you feel guilty if you said no to your partner? What more can you learn from the situation.
Step 2: Take the blindfold off
Lady Justice had the blindfold on to represent she was being impartial but it’s hard to fully understand the situation unless you can see your own part in it. In the example, the blindfold represents not seeing your own role in the situation. Therefore, if you take it off you take ownership for at least some of why you feel resentment. What part do you play in the situation? Do you gain anything from the situation?
This step can be very hard, and you may need help from outsiders to give you a different perspective. The role you play may be very small especially if you were primarily an innocent victim. Ask yourself, is it hard for you to let it go because being resentful is part of your identity, especially when the resentment has been held in for a long time?
By using the same example of a spouse moving for a job, did you say yes to the move even when you didn’t want to? Did you try to compromise or speak up for what you wanted? Where you able to give your partner some boundaries? For example, “I will move for your job but if I am unhappy after a year, I would like to discuss our options. Will you agree to that?”
You can also switch the perspective and take the blindfold off by thinking about what you gained from the experience. Maybe moving provided you with the confidence that you can start all over and make new friends. On the other hand, perhaps you learned more about what is important to you and what you can’t live without.
Step 3: Put the sword down
Lady Justice used a sword as authority; however, before you swing your sword in haste, try and understand the other person’s perspective, especially if resentment is directed toward a relationship you want to keep or improve. In what way, if any, can you find empathy or understanding for the other person’s situation?
Could there be a misunderstanding, or did the person do something hurtful by mistake? Are you at the point where you are so resentful you only see the negative things the person does? What did you like about the person before the resentment started? What needs do you feel are not being met in the relationship? Maybe you are not clearly asking for what you need, or the misunderstanding grew into something you don’t recognize anymore. Once you see things in a different perspective, you are using the sword to cut yourself free.
Step 4: Where can you tip the scales?
If Lady Justice is holding the scales and they are tipping towards resentment, how can you add more balance to the scales? Intentionally add in positive feelings like gratitude, joy, and fun. It’s hard to feel like you are being wronged when you are feeling grateful for things in your life.
Ask yourself these questions:
What parts of the relationship do you currently have the power to change? If you are not happy with your current situation is there a way you could comfortably express your feelings to the other person?
Where can you add positive feelings? For example, can you write down what you are grateful for every morning? How can you add laughter and fun into your life? By tipping the scales with more positive emotions, you slowly let the resentment go and free yourself from the weight of it.
For example, you are resentful towards a person in the past that bullied you in school, but you learn that they grew up in an abusive home. Would that make a difference in how you perceive the events? Knowing the other person’s hardships does not make their actions okay but forgiveness is not for them, it’s for you. Finding a sense of understanding for what they may have been going through helps you let go of the anger. In addition, you could add in some positive emotions by wishing this person well and hoping they find peace.
It’s an internal process
In conclusion, feeling resentful can be very hard to let go but not impossible. If you feel you have been wronged and want justice, then seek legal justice but not revenge. You can choose to forgive and let it go. Forgiveness is a daily process of saying, “I forgive you” every time the resentment returns to your thoughts.
Removing yourself from the situation causing the resentment is a solution that is event specific but choosing to let go is an internal process. It is ultimately your decision as to how and when you move forward. Ask yourself, will hanging onto the negative feelings bring you more harm than good?
Let people that you trust know that you’re trying to let go of this resentment. Also, write down your intention to let go of the resentment. If you let your intentions be known, you will make progress. Finally, once you take that first step to decide to let resentment go, you are already on your way to being free of this burden!
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