It’s hard to maintain healthy relationships when you feel resentful and it’s also hard to experience joy.
Resentment is one of those prolonged emotions that easily turn into a state, a way of being; it puts a distorted tint onto one’s perspective and before long, it becomes something much more than a feeling towards another. Resentment envelops every aspect of those who harbor it; how they act, think and perceive the world around.
Resentment goes unnoticed many times, so individuals might be unaware of the ways in which it affects their lives, decision making, relationships, and even level of creativity. Resentment leads individuals to move away from the self and the world through isolation, anger, and a sense of righteousness borne out of internalized humiliation (many times unconscious).
Some say “let go of your resentment.” But what does that even mean? In “letting go” the resentful assume and fear losing their power, failing. Individuals use resentment to raise themselves from the humiliation they felt at a time or more. This deep humiliation becomes internalized and turned into resentment which typically is expressed through anger. Resentment can’t be “fixed” by “letting it go.” In fact, it’s not about “letting go” but about accepting the often painful reality that has led one to feel resentful and understanding that despite appearances, the only one suffering the consequences is none other than the one who does the resenting.
You can recognize resentment in the way you may behave around the resented; you may tend to make an effort to appear pleasant towards them despite your true feelings and how you choose to express them.
You might experience bouts of anger – as if out of the blue, feelings of internal verve of mixed anxiety and in some cases a loud attitude (in tone and vocabulary used) towards that person typically in an indirect manner.
Resentment is a very common emotion; one considered negative and oftentimes learnt. In a culture where confrontation (that’s another negative-sounding word) is discouraged and tends to be avoided at all costs, it makes sense that resentment became a coping tool (not a very helpful one, but functional nonetheless). As a child, how many times did you witness the adults in your life swallowing their feelings and becoming resentful towards another family member, friend, and neighbor? The ways in which our caregivers deal with their feelings becomes a blueprint for how we –future adults- handle emotions, relationships, etc.
Yet still, a blueprint does not imply that your future is determined, that things are set in stone and can’t be traced back, worked though and that change is impossible. Human beings constantly grow, improve, and change despite of the natural resistance to change that they might initially feel. The most important factor in dealing with resentment is the willingness, the desire to want to; feeling convinced to the core that by foregoing resentment one does not lose the ongoing battles they carry out internally with others. Rather, they win the battle against themselves and the things that keep them stuck, angry, and unhappy. It can be hard to become convinced that you have the ability to not use resentment as a form of coping with relationship issues (among other things), especially if you have used it as a tool for most of your life. Hard but not impossible, nor improbable.
The journey to willingness can be a painful one (many personal demons come to the surface) – but a healing one nonetheless.