Overcoming Resentments: The Path to Freedom and Better Health
Some people spend too much time thinking about what bad things may have been done to them.
They obsess over every remark, possible insult, slight or rejection they have ever experienced. They can torment themselves with upset or anger over past events.
Such behavior or harmful thinking is holding on to one’s resentments. This is a practice that can not only be damaging to a person’s self-esteem but can potentially be damaging to a person’s health and well-being.
A mind preoccupied with resentments has very little space for the creative process. Resentment needs to feed and what it feeds on is your energy, as much of it as it can get.
Just as all ecosystems on Earth seek to find balance, so too does your mind and body. If there is a way of finding a proper resolution to a problem then it is in the natural best interest of a person to do so.
Resentments often exist in a space where resolution is not possible.
There is a lesson to be learned here. That is to either change your perspective about people or events that contaminate your thinking in order to achieve a more balanced mind, or remain toxic to yourself.
In the drug and alcohol rehab community individuals are encouraged to deal with their resentments through personal reconciliation; a type of acceptance that all things cannot have perfect resolution or outcomes and that life is often unfair but we are here to live it the best way possible.
Overcoming Your Resentments
Whenever we feel that someone has hurt us or treated us badly we are likely to become angry, sad and even hostile. It may be possible at some point to deal directly with the issue but sometimes it is not.
When we are unable to confront the person and reconcile our differences we may let ourselves dwell on this injustice and become preoccupied with a seething feeling of hostility and vengeance.
This grudge we hold really holds us captive. It swallows us up and makes us bitter. It can be the cause of anxious feelings, depressed mood or even general irritability that gets in the way of feeling good about ourselves or having a satisfying relationship with another.
What follows are some strategies you can use to eliminate resentment. If you are holding onto resentments try putting these strategies to work.
Look at your objective. Look at why you are holding on to this upset by asking yourself what is in it for you? How do you benefit from being angry and resentful? Is it an excuse to drink and use drugs? Does it make you feel strong? Does it keep others far enough away so that you don’t have to examine your own behavior?
You may discover that you have been behaving this way for so long that it may feel unnatural to change. If that is the case it would be time for you to learn how. This can prove to be frightening and awkward but it must be done. Seek help if necessary.
Look at the cost. You may have never considered this idea very seriously. There are very real costs to holding onto resentments and bitterness. These come in several forms. You can become depressed, irritable and generally not much fun to be with. You can end up alienating friends and/or loved ones. You are likely to attract others who are typically feeling the same way about their lives, thereby creating a fully toxic environment.
There are physical costs as well. Chronic bitterness, anger and resentment cause the system to produce toxic chemicals. Strokes, heart disease and compromising the immune system in general are potential effects of holding onto these negative emotions.
Learn to see the other point of view. If your feelings of resentment and bitterness can be traced to a particular event (or even more than one event) commit to the following exercise.
This exercise requires that you do 2 important steps: 1) train yourself to carefully review the details of the event(s) causing your resentment; and then 2) compel yourself to see that event from another point of view.
This exercise requires that you put yourself in the other person’s place, try to see the event from their side and understand what he or she was feeling at that time. Could they have felt offended and were just defending themselves? Was there really no intention to offend you in the first place?
Whatever conclusion you draw from this exercise, it will be the way that you decide to feel about it that makes the difference.
Here is where your desire to change gets tested. It is here that you can change your victim mentality by recognizing that you are in control of your thoughts and feelings and it is up to you to choose which path to take.
Learn to forgive. There is an old quotation which fits well when it comes to holding onto resentments and being unforgiving:
“Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”…source unknown.
Learning to forgive is not just some philosophical, religious or spiritual concept. It has at its core some very strong scientific evidence that points to the enhanced health and well-being that is derived from the act of forgiveness.
When you forgive someone you stop blaming them for making you feel bad. You begin to acknowledge your own role in making yourself feel bad and, therefore, recognize that you can change that by making a perspective shift.
In the end life is too short to go through it feeling bitter, resentful and angry all the time. The choice is yours.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers, and intimacy. He also specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work life balance.