Are you holding onto resentment that you just can’t shake?
Sometimes it’s on the surface; other times it’s buried deep. But you can always feel it, gnawing away at you.
Resentment can stem from something another person said or did. Or from a life situation that’s outside your control. But whatever the source, the resulting sense of unease can fester for months or even years.
And however hard you try to ignore or just let go of resentment, it stubbornly imprisons you in its grip, triggering all sorts of uncomfortable emotions at unexpected times.
• Your own dreams have been put on hold while you raise kids, take care of aging parents, or support a partner.
• You’re diagnosed with a serious medical condition, uprooting life as you know it.
Resentment is like a chain on your ankle keeping you shackled to a state of discontent, holding you back from inner peace and happiness.
It permeates your being and acts as a negative filter coloring every aspect of your experience.
But guess what?
You’ve Got More Control Than You Think
In fact, you can start to chip away at that chain today.
True, you can’t change the fact that a hurtful situation occurred, but, with practice, you can dissolve resentment’s power over you.
If you ask yourself the following seven empowering questions, you’ll be well on your way to breaking free.
Begin the process by asking yourself…
1. “What does resentment feel like in my body?”
Have you ever noticed a tightness in your stomach or a tendency to clench your jaw when you feel resentment? Or maybe just a heaviness of spirit?
Negative emotions manifest physically, often before we even realize we’re upset about something.
Identifying the emotion as soon as you feel its physical trigger is the first step to creating some separation between the emotion (in this case, resentment) and your “self.”
When you feel resentment in your body–in the pit of your stomach, for example–take a few conscious breaths and just sit with the sensation. Simply say to yourself, “That’s resentment,” without judging or resisting it. Visualize the emotion as a separate entity that can float away if you allow it to.
2. “Is this really a ‘problem’ or just a ‘situation’?”
One of my favorite Eckhart Tolle quotes is, “There are no problems, only situations.”
Removing the “problem” label makes a resentment-inducing situation more manageable. It’s the first step to accepting the reality of what “is,” rather than how things “should” be.
So if you catch yourself thinking, “This is a problem,” or, “This is a crisis,” switch those nouns with “situation” and notice how much more empowered you feel.
3. “How important is this, really?”
What makes a situation “important”? Each of us would answer differently. Something life threatening? Life changing? Time consuming? All or none of the above?
More often than not, when I ask myself directly, “How important is this resentment-inducing situation in the greater scheme of things, at this point in time?” I can’t come up with much of an answer.
Put under the spotlight, we discover that resentment is fueled less by a situation’s “importance” and more by the indignity of being “wronged” in some way.
4. “Is this inner voice really ‘me’ or just my ego talking?”
Not every voice in our heads deserves our attention. The ego inside us (which is not our true “self”) always wants us to be “right.” Its favorite way of doing so is to make everyone else “wrong,” the foundation for resentment.
Stillness, whether during meditation or simply a few mindful moments of quiet, slows the chatter in our heads. In that quieter state of mind, pinpointing sources of thought patterns is much easier.
Are negative thoughts feeding your sense of righteousness? That’s your ego talking.
As soon as we shine a light on the ego, it no longer has power over us. As soon as I laugh at my ego, it high-tails it for the hills.
5. “Am I focused on the future or the past, instead of the present moment?”
If you’re like most people, you spend the bulk of your life thinking about the past or the future. You’re “here,” but you want to be “there.” Since the present moment is the only place you can take action, the past and future shouldn’t be ruling the roost.
Being present is a powerful antidote to resentment. By accepting the reality of what “is,” by letting go of your resistance to a situation, you take control of your state of mind.
6. “What do I have the power to change?”
Let’s face it. You can’t control everything. Sometimes crappy things happen that you have no way of stopping.
But you can take action to improve things. Nobody’s suggesting you should be a doormat!
Focus on what you have the power to change or influence, and take action. Don’t waste your energy stuck in victim mode.
And if you can’t take action, use that energy to accept the situation as it is and just…let…it…go.
7. “What’s the silver lining?”
Being aware that good things can come out of seemingly “bad” situations limits the scope for resentment to take hold.
Once I started paying attention to these silver linings, I was astounded at how often I could find them.
If you think about it, I bet you can point to a good number of silver linings of your own. The key is to be on the look-out for unexpected positive outcomes. Telling a friend or writing down your silver linings gives them even more heft.
A Few Real Life Examples
You might be saying at this point, “Yeah, the questions are great, but what do you actually do once you ask them? How does this work in real life?”
Let’s go back to those examples of resentment-inducing situations at the top of the post:
Someone has done or said something hurtful:
Take action by telling them how you feel. If they didn’t realize their actions caused pain, you’ve done them a favor by enlightening them. If they deny it, don’t waste your energy trying to convince them (you’ll fail anyway).
Ask yourself the “importance” question (see #3), then look your ego in the eye to dissolve its power over your happiness.
Life circumstances are holding you back from pursuing your dreams:
Use this time to identify your true passion. Hone your skills for when you can move forward. If needed, take a class (online or otherwise) that supports your passion.
Slowly putting the building blocks into place over time will help you move quickly when the time is right.
Stay present, rather than wishing you were someplace in the future (or past). And if you’re taking care of kids or aging parents, cherish your time with them — it’s fleeting.
A medical diagnosis uproots life as you know it:
Turning to a personal example, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. The series of surgeries related to my mastectomy stopped me in my tracks for close to a year.
Still in the grip of my ego at that time, I resented how my life had been put on hold by illness. I wish someone had recommended I ask myself the empowering questions above!
But the silver lining has become brighter and brighter with time. Cancer set the stage for a full mind/body/spirit transformation that has left me happier than I’ve ever been, resentment-free and grateful for each day.
So Get Going…
I know, I know (believe me, I know)…Life can be hard at times.
Situations can be difficult. Really difficult.
But you do have a say in how much suffering you allow into the process.
Resentment is suffering. Holding on to things you can’t change is suffering.
That heavy chain of resentment and resistance keeps you from living your optimal life. Why?
Because no matter how far you stretch to grasp happiness and contentment, the chain keeps those prizes just beyond your fingertips.
So take control.
Decide to break free.
Laugh at your ego.
Stay focused on what your deeper, truer heart’s voice tells you is important.
If you do these things, you’ll feel the shackle around your ankle loosen.
Then, you can step away from the chain, feel how much lighter life becomes, and charge ahead!
|Written on 6/17/2013 by Martha Brettschneider. Martha Brettschneider is a writer, blogger, positive energy seeker, and balancer of order and chaos. Join the conversation on her blog, where she shares musings, inspirations and tips with other life journey explorers.|
Photo Credit: Life Mental Health