Resentment is one of the strongest hooks that anchors a person to the past. The thing is, it is even stronger if it is ignored. It has to be directly faced and resolved. Resentment is a state of being in pain as a result of perceiving that you have been treated wrongly, unfairly and unjustly. It usually involves not feeling willing or able to accept someone or something that you reject. I call it a state of being because it is not an emotion in and of itself; instead it is like a soup of different emotions all associated with being treated unfairly. Emotions like dumfounded, fear, anger, disgust and sadness.
One of the main challenges as far as resentment is concerned is that it immediately converts itself to distrust. If you want to learn all about trust, watch my video on YouTube titled: What is Trust and How To Build Trust in Relationships. Trust is essentially the feeling that you can rely on someone to capitalize on and care for your best interests. So obviously when you feel like you have been treated unfairly and unjustly and wrongly by someone, you have learned that you cannot rely on that person to capitalize on and care for your best interests. And so, you do not trust them. This bitter distrust is usually what people are feeling in someone when they say that someone can’t let go of resentment.
You will find that it is easier to let go of something painful in the past that does not have a big negative impact on the present or the future. The thing about resentment is that it often involves being treated unfairly in a way that does have big negative impact on the present and future. For example, if your husband or wife spends all the money in your account on gambling, that may mean that you lose your house in the present and that you cannot afford to put your kid through college in the future. Even if these kind of big consequences don’t exist, distrust still exists when resentment is present. This means you will feel closed off and like an enemy to that person in your life now and you will expect them to betray you again in the future.
Fair vs. unfair and wrong vs. right is a subjective perspective. However for the sake of our understanding, there are circumstances where a person has felt like they are treated unfairly when in fact they were treated fairly. And there are circumstances where a person perceives themselves to have been treated unfairly when in fact they were treated unfairly. Either way, the state of being called resentment is present.
It is tempting to think that the struggle with resentment is all about whatever recent conflict has occurred. But the reality about resentment is that it is almost always fueled by years worth of earlier experiences with being treated unfairly, not being considered by others, being disregarded and having your boundaries violated.
We can’t be fully conscious about resentment without being conscious about the subconscious positive intention below it. It is a refusal to forgive. Letting go or forgiving gives most people the feeling that they simultaneously have to let go of the unmet need to be treated fairly and justly in a way that creates trust. And so, in order to honor their need to have just and fair treatment, they will not forgive. Resentment essentially can be like a wall that a person uses to protect themselves and try to get their needs met. A person may keep resentment as both a boundary and a personal reminder as if to say “No one will ever do this to me again”. Also, the sense of self, also called the ego can feel a sense of itself being right and good when it is in he victim role (good and right) with someone else being in the perpetrator role (bad and wrong). Often, especially in close relationships, being the one who was wronged puts the other person in a role where they have to “make it up to you”. This is a less powerless role with more of a guarantee of fair treatment going forward. So, it can be a way of using past wrong treatment as leverage to get what you want from someone and/or to stay safe. If you distrust someone because they treated you unfairly, it is quite tempting to control them through guilt in this way.
So, what should you do to help resentment to let go of you?
1. When you feel resentment, become super clear about what you feel resentful about. What happened to you that you felt was wrong, unjust and unfair? Then go deeper and ask yourself, what long history of unresolved unfairness and wrongness is behind this resentment? What did people do to me that they shouldn’t have done and what didn’t people do for me that they should have done? Am I confusing this person or situation with someone or something from my past?
2. Ask yourself honestly; am I really resentful towards myself because of my role in the situation where I ended up being treated unfairly? For example, perhaps I got raped after drinking too much and blacking out. Perhaps the resentment towards the other person is a way to avoid the resentment I have towards myself for drinking so much that I let my guard down enough that it happened and now, I cannot trust myself. You will find that resentment and the blame that goes along with it feels better than self blame and better than being blamed by them. Sometimes, we can only let go of resentment towards others if we let go of it towards ourself.
3. Get really clear about what aspects of your life your resentment is effecting. See the impact of the resentment itself. And close your eyes to imagine the long term effects down the road if that resentment was not altered, but stayed the same and got worse? For example, if I resent my spouse, I can see that I have no desire to make love with them and so we may drift apart and he or she or I may seek another partner.
4. Acceptance is a key part of letting go of resentment because if resentment is present, it means you cannot accept something. Don’t confuse acceptance of something with adopting something as your preference or endorsing it. Take a look at the situation that is causing you to feel resentful and ask yourself, what am I unwilling to accept about this situation? Why am I unwilling to accept that? If I accepted that, what would it mean or what bad thing would happen? The thing you have to see is that if you resent, you are pushing hard against something on a mental and emotional and even potentially physical level and you cannot push against something without putting that same pressure on yourself. Try to hit a door without your hand being hit too. The question to ask yourself is: Is it worth it?
5. Ask yourself honestly, what bad thing am I afraid would happen if I were to forgive the person I feel resentment towards today or if I forgave myself for my role in the situation? For example, perhaps my answer might be, if I forgive him or her, I make what they did to me ok and it isn’t ok. Or if I forgive him or her, they will not get how much they hurt me, so they will do it to me again. Or if I forgive him or her, I’m being like a human punching bag or doormat, which is pathetic. Or if I forgive him or her, I’ll never receive the justice and fair treatment I need.
6. Resolve the emotional resentment wound in the distant past that is fueling the present resentment. To do this, use the completion process on the feeling of resentment as it occurs in your body. For information about how to do that, read my book titled The Completion Process. You will find that this process also naturally causes insight about action steps you can take to how to resolve the more recent wounds leading to resentment.
7. Deal with your powerlessness and rumination differently. If you feel resentment, you are preoccupied with thinking about the causes and consequences of your distress instead of focusing on solutions to it. This is your being’s natural way of trying to draw focus to the wound that is not healed. But the decision to look for solutions to the distress and solutions for how to make the present or future different in a positive way, turns your focus in a different direction, a direction that will lead to results. It may help to look at the worst case scenario relative to the negative consequence you are imagining and figure out what you learned from what happened and how you can deal with the worst case scenario if it happens so you no longer fear being blindsided by it and powerless to it.
If you struggle with resentment, the reality is that whatever situation you have been experiencing that is unfair, caused you to feel powerless and so you are vacillating. When you look at the situation and at your life, you are looking at it from a perspective that you are powerless. Then, you pull yourself into anger, which is the vibrational improvement upon anger in order to try to gain back some power and get out of terror. But then you slip back into viewing the world in a powerless way. What could you do relative to this situation that would make you feel less powerless to others?
When we feel resentment, it is an indication that an aspect of us feels like a victim. That aspect needs to be acknowledged and cared for and validated. But you will find that looking for any way that you were responsible in the situation and taking that responsibility and taking it into your hands to learn that lesson and do differently in the future has an interesting side effect… You will no longer feel powerless to the other person. Just avoid slipping into self blame if you do this because self blame is worse than blaming someone else.
8. Take the scenario where you feel you were treated unfairly and make yourself think of all the positive things you can think of about the scenario and about the experience. Find approval for it. People who do not suffer from past traumas are the ones who manage to see them as a benefit to themselves instead of a detriment. As hard as it may sound, do not take this as an invalidation of the pain. Simply do this practice for the sake of your own desire to feel better personally. Earlier I explained that resentment means you are unwilling to accept something that you do not want and do not like. The best and most aggressive way to accept something is to find approval for that thing. This causes us to no longer reject that thing. Involve others in this process if you want. Have them brainstorm what is GOOD about the situation that is causing you to feel resentment. Let them help you to find approval for it. Focus towards it in a way where you can agree with it instead of disagree with it. Part of this process should involve looking at how the situation could have been worse than it was. This helps you to actually naturally develop acceptance for what occurred. And make this more about a commitment to your own wellbeing rather than anything else.
9. Meaning is the basis of suffering. When we are treated unfairly, we add negative meaning to the experience. That meaning is painful. It causes us to suffer. So, become aware of the negative meaning you have added to the experience if you feel resentment. For example, if the unfair experience I had was that someone cheated on me, I may have made that mean that he or she didn’t love me. That belief is causing me to suffer. To understand this dynamic in depth, watch my video titled: Meaning, The Self Destruct Button. When we add meaning, we always take things personally. So on top of discovering the meaning you’ve added to the experience, try to figure out how the unfairness and injustice shown to you is NOT personal. It may be about what is going on with the other person more so than it was ever about you.
10. Resentment is often synonymous with lack of expression of painful emotions and truths. When something happens that upsets you that you don’t feel is fair, but you don’t want the potential consequences of confronting that person on the spot with your real feelings, those feelings become internalized and unresolved and therefore convert themselves into resentment. Take a look at what you did not express in this situation that you feel resentful about. What’s the truth you did not share? Take an even deeper look at WHY you did not express those things. For example, you may have been terrified of rejection or fearful of losing the connection or you may have felt like it wasn’t going to make any difference if you did.
11. Take a serious look at your expectations and communicate them. If we feel resentment, without fail it means that someone or something didn’t meet our expectations. So get clear on what you expected as well as what you currently expect and express those things. To understand more about expectations and assumptions, watch my video on YouTube titled: Priceless Love Advice (Expectations and Assumptions).
12. If you feel resentment, it means things are not how you want them to be. You have already subconsciously decided that something SHOULD be that isn’t or SHOULDN’T be that is. You could question the attachment to should and shouldn’t in this situation. The work of Byron Katie is amazing for this kind of approach. You could also realize that because of this, this situation has made you aware of what you don’t want and what you do want specifically. So, as if you are choosing to put energy into what you do want instead of into ‘what is’ that you don’t want, so you can look towards that, communicate that, spend time visualizing that, take steps to get that.
Resentment kills relationships. But it is not a monster or an enemy. Instead, it is just the natural byproduct of lack of resolution. Focus directly on the resolution and the byproducts of non-resolution, including resentment, will cease to exist.