Resentment is so incredibly common. We all feel wronged by someone at some time or another, and where there is blame, over and over again, there is resentment. Everyone walking the face of the earth is imperfect, so we are bound to be hurt by those we are in relationship with…it is inevitable. How, then, can we reduce, and even eliminate, resentment? The answer may not be what you think.
To do this, we’re going to track resentment back to it’s root. When you think about blame, anger, and just straight-up rage at another person, your focus is external. You are thinking about them, about what they did to wrong you. It doesn’t feel good, does it? I would suggest to you that allowing the feelings of rage and resentment, however, is the easiest way to stay stuck exactly where you are…mad.
At this point, most people would say to me, “But I don’t want to feel rage and resentment, I just can’t help it because he/she hurt me so much. Don’t I have the right to feel angry?” To this I would say yes, you have the right to feel how you feel, but you don’t have to choose to camp there indefinitely, or continue to allow the same hurts to go on and on over time. These feelings are only an indicator that something needs your attention, and aren’t meant to continue on perpetually.
Staying in a place of rage and resentment is also the easy way out. When we have these feelings, we are focusing outwardly which keeps us thinking about the other person changing, instead of ourselves. It’s always easier to want someone else to change than to change ourselves.
As we continue to track it back to it’s roots, we notice that before rage and resentment begin, there is a precursor. That precursor is judgement. When we resent others, we have come to the conclusion that our way is the right way and that their way is wrong. This is also focusing on the external, over which we have no control. We really are pretty powerless to change others, any attempt to do so is met with resistance, and it usually only works for the short term at the very best. So how do we focus internally regarding an action that has been perpetrated on us? Seems pretty impossible, right? We always think the other person is the one, the only one, who has to change.
When we follow this all the way back to the core, however, we notice that something we have done or not done is really at the heart of it. The feeling of resentment grows over time and after multiple infractions. People are going to do what they are going to do. They are going to do imperfect, hurtful things. They are going to be unsafe and selfish sometimes. They are going to do what they know how to do, in a usually self-serving way…especially if it works to get them what they want or possibly a dynamic that is in line with what they are used to. This is something we have to deal with on a daily basis.
What we can do in these situations, rather than take the stance of the powerless victim, is to have a strong, non-reactive voice, standing up for our own boundaries and telling others when something they are doing is not OK. We can focus inwardly on how we have not had good boundaries and where we can co-dependently keep our mouths shut too much. The fact that this involves ourselves instead of the other person is the good news and the bad news.
It is the good news because we have control over ourselves and our thoughts and actions. The bad news is, it is really hard to take responsibility for, and take control of, ourselves and our thoughts and actions. It takes a great deal of humility and a truckload of courage. Has someone been treating you badly for years? Why are you still there? Where is your healthy entitlement? Where are your boundaries? What are the appropriate consequences for their actions? Have you used them? How have you failed to teach them and hold them accountable for treating you well? Have you made your boundaries stick? Where have you lacked self-respect? How have you been reactive to them, perpetuating the cycle?
You have control over all that stuff. Resentment builds over time, and it builds because you haven’t done what it takes to let it go, take responsibility, and look in the mirror. It is your job to not allow the same thing to happen to you over and over again. That’s the birthplace of resentment, and you have the power to back away from those situations with good, strong boundaries and a non-reactive voice. Finding that voice and working through feelings of low self-worth are not easy. Having good boundaries is not easy and involves quite a bit of risk. It is worth the effort, though, because in order to feel truly peaceful and interact with the people we love who are just as imperfect and you and I, these are the skills we must master.
If you enjoyed this article or know someone who might, please feel free to pass it along via social media, etc. Thank you so much for reading!
Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. E-Counseling is available for residents of Indiana. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038
© 2015 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW