Resentment is normal. But getting stuck in resentment is counter-productive and can leave us in a negative, dark, and lonely place. It is a waste of good energy. What to do and how to get out of it?
Sometimes we can do resentment so well, that no one would ever guess, just how much resentment we carry. We hide it well. Sometimes we can cram in so much resentment and can carry it for years, decades, even a lifetime. That is a skill and requires determination, focus, and a lot of energy.
Imagine what else you could do with all the energy it takes to fuel resentment?
I know. I used to be a master resenter, but decided I had to thoroughly knock it on the head because it became unbearably hard and painful to live life like that. It does not leave much room for the good stuff, like cheerfulness, hope, gratitude, being lighthearted, being good company, being happy, to feel love. It all became too negative and dark.
There is nothing right or wrong about resentment. It is a normal feeling, often residual from anger, which we might feel from injustice, betrayals of trust, indifference, and so on. Some circumstances or human behaviours will make us feel angry. And unless we do something helpful and constructive about it, then the anger will fester and turn into bitter resentment. And before we know it, it can become a permanent state of being and looking at the world. Instead of rose-tinted glasses, we look at life through dark shades of resentment.
You may also recognise some of the physical manifestations of resentment:
- The knotted stomach.
- The heaviness in the chest.
- The lump in the throat.
- The tension in the shoulders, lower back or other parts of the body.
- The headaches.
- The restless sleep, and more.
If you are a master resenter you will have at least some of these.
So the issue here is how not to get stuck and burned out or being overburdened by resentment. How to channel the skill and energy it takes to do resentment into a more helpful way of dealing with people and situations that trigger all of this in us.
Step 1: Pick an example
When I started looking at my pattern, I would pick a situation that made me feel really angry and resentful, and I tried to articulate in my head (you can also say it out loud or write it down), what thoughts and beliefs had been going on for me at the time. A lot was about the other person, who triggered my resentment. This went something like:
- You think you will get away with this.
- You think you are better than me.
- This is not fair.
- I cannot get through to you; you just don’t get it.
- You have betrayed me.
- You have disappointed me.
- I am stuck in this.
- You have the control and there is nothing I can do.
Now if you repeat the same exercise for something or someone, that you feel resentment for, you will come up with your own expression of feelings and beliefs.
Step 2: What does this tell you?
In my case, all thoughts lead to one conclusion:
I am stuck and nothing will change because of the the other. I have little power and value.
In that mindset, the often unspoken and unconscious assumption is: I will only feel better if YOU do something about it, if you stop doing what you do, if you apologise, etc.
Step 3: Realisation and rethinking
I realised thinking like that was wrong, wrong, big time wrong, and dangerous.
I was giving my power away.
People (including you and I) are what they are. We are not perfect and we are limited. If we make our feelings totally dependent on how others treat us or what feelings they evoke in us, then we are on shaky grounds.
So what can we do?
I started to understand and recognise my anger and resentment triggers. A major issue for me is hitting my head against the proverbial brick wall, when dealing with companies who I pay to provide me with a service but they don’t and fail to see the problem, and are inconsistent and arrogant and unhelpful and turn it on me, as if I am the one with the problem. That is a big thing for me, and even writing about it, I feel the resentment surging up, because, bottom-line, I feel helpless.
But I realise what I actually feel is the fear about being helpless. I am a grown woman. I may have been helpless as a child, when people treated me unfairly, and I may have somehow internalised that experience and the fear of feeling like this. But the fact is, this is not my reality now. I am not helpless and therefore the feeling and fear are, while understandable, not a reflection of the real situation.
The reality is:
- I can walk away.
- I can complain.
- I can pick my battles.
- I have better things to get on with in my life, than carrying bitterness about XYZ.
- Life is too short.
- I have got to get on.
- And I want to get on.
Step 4: Preparation
Knowing all that, I know that when I go or find myself in such trigger situations, then I need to remind myself of:
- What might happen.
- My self-worth.
- My dignity.
- The choice I have to pick my battle.
- The choice to vote with my feet and go to another provide.
Ultimately, I am responsible for the choices I make.
Resentment is human and understandable. Too much is unhelpful, emotionally and physically. We have the ability and choice to break out of the patterns, which may take determination and energy.
Not doing resentment well — that is a skill, just like doing resentment well.
Originally published at karinsieger.com