When my grandmother ‘Mama’ was alive she would sit with me and talk and talk to me about bitterness. She would practically beg me to not become bitter as I lived my life. At the time in my late teens and early 20’s I used to feel a little offended. Sorry Mama.
I valued being kind to people. Why would she think I would become mean and twisted? I felt on this point alone she really misunderstood me.
It has taken me a few decades to understand Mama’s wisdom. It has not been until now– in my 40’s – that I finally understand what she was meaning. She was referring to the way I processed the pain after someone had hurt me.
She understood the lens I was viewing life better than I could understand it myself. She witnessed my heart break with disbelief each time someone whom I was meant to be able to trust harmed me with their words and actions. She saw in me in deep pain, overwhelmed with a sense of injustice.
Mama was really talking about resentment. When she warned me to “not become too bitter darling” she knew I was exceptionally vulnerable to holding resentment towards others. Even unbeknownst to myself.
The dictionary describes resentment as a ‘bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly’. The recipe for resentment includes disgust, sadness, surprise, disappointment, anger and fear. When you mix those ingredients together and add a dash of injustice you create a bitter dish that leaves us in pain and despair.
As 2016 has come to a close I have been working on my own feelings of resentment. With the help of a wonderful and powerful reiki healer I have been clearing out the emotional and energetic debris.
I am, like you, always refining the idea of living a balanced life. As I have worked on understanding and releasing my resentment I have compiled some ideas to share with you.
Please note the following suggestions relate to those people in your life who have hurt you and to date have not been able to demonstrate any or little insight into the impact of their behaviour upon you. There are many who are more emotionally capable if they ever do hurt you to willingly make amends and support you to feel better. Yet there are those people whom through no actual fault of their own cannot see nor understand what they have done. At best those people may say the word sorry but that is as far as they can go. The following ideas are to help you navigate your way through your unresolved hurt feelings as a result of their actions. We all know them. They may be friends, family, husbands, wives, lovers or work colleagues. And each one of these people is in your life for a reason.
- Resentment is a misunderstood emotion and does not get great press. Once you understand that resentment simply is the act of holding onto the sense of injustice, shock and pain that you feel when someone hurts you then you can see that everyone feels resentment at some stage. It is in fact one of the most understandable emotions we feel after we are hurt.
- Resentment is just a feeling calling you to know your own power to heal yourself. If your feeling of resentment had a voice it would say to you – “I’m here to help you understand that you can not control others. Their pain is separate to you and does not define your value. It is time to let go of any hope or attachment that the person will change. Let go of the idea that the other person has the capacity to right the wrong or even understand your pain. I’m calling you to understand this so you can let go of that hope, turn inward and know the power of healing yourself. “
- People become stuck in resentment; (present company included) when they believe that they will only feel better once they receive some validation from the person who harmed them. When you are stuck in resentment you do hold a belief that you will only feel true relief from that pain once the person both acknowledges your hurt feelings and then takes the steps required to make amends.
Wanting the one that hurt you to validate your feelings and help you to feel better is a natural response as that is how healthy relationships work and it is the easiest pathway.
If you are stuck in resentment then it stands to reason that this example in your life has gone on long enough to give you a clear indication that the person who has hurt your feelings cannot see or understand what they have done. They just are in a different state of awareness. They are operating from their own perspective.
In truth the most effective way to repair a hurt relationship is to say sorry and then take actual steps to attend to the other persons feelings and make amends. And there are many people who can do this very well.
There are however the people that I refer to as ‘the sorry but’ people. Those who at best may say sorry, however will also then say “Sorry, but lets just move forward and put that behind us.” The “sorry but” people usually at this stage then feel a sense of indignation about the fact that you cant just “get on with it”. Sadly they do not realise that the only way forward if they wish to go forward together with you, is to help you attend to your wounds so you are emotionally safe enough with them to restore an authentic connection once again. Basically it is hard for your heart to be open to them when it’s broken.
The other common statement many “sorry but” people say is that yes I had the affair, abused her/him; but that was because (fill in various explanations/excuses). I am not saying that the other person has not hurt them, disengaged from the marriage etc – however this is a separate issue to the pain that they have caused and does need to be addressed separately. Basically they use the other person to minimise their responsibility for their harm.
If you have people in your life who may be like this then it is ultimately painful for you both. I really believe that in general people do not hurt each other on purpose. It is not their fault that they don’t understand the steps needed to openly repair and then connect authentically. Usually these people are wonderful and kind in so many other ways.
- They know not what they have done. It is important to understand that any attempt to get the other person to “see what they have done” ends badly for you both. You will not receive the validation and repair that you are seeking from them and the other person will feel deeply hurt as they will feel on the receiving end of your judgment and therefore feel attacked. So it becomes very quickly a lose lose situation.
- Releasing resentment. In my own professional and personal experience when the natural repair and healing process can not take place between you and the other person then it is important that you find a way to free your self from resentment. Here is how you can heal yourself. Come with me, it is easier than you may think.
- Acknowledge that they are who they are and you cannot change them and that is ok.
- Allow them to be who they are and not expect from them something that they cannot give.
- Then decide what does that mean for you. What kind of a relationship can you have with that person based on who they are right now? This may be no relationship, a once per month visit or a yearly contact. What ever works best for your heart, mind and soul here is best.
There is a huge amount of personal freedom that comes once you follow these steps. When we understand and allow people to be who they are, you instantly release yourself from the pain that binds you and then you create a space for forgiveness to emerge.
It is not about condoning their behaviour. Forgiveness can come when you understand that based on their lens that is the best they can do. And once you release the resentment then it will come to pass that compassion will flow into your life both for yourself and for the other person.
- So what is your part here? When we are stuck in resentment the part of the equation that belongs to us is the fixation on someone to give us something that they can’t possibly give. We are setting ourselves up to be hurt over and over again. This is the part that we are reasonable for. It is about learning the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. There is great personal liberation that comes when we chose our own wellbeing first and become able to identify those who can and those who cannot meet us with safe emotional intimacy and only invest in those who are capable of meeting us at such an emotional level.
- You can look after your own feelings and heal yourself. The only reason we remain fixed and feel unable to unlock ourselves from the pursuit of the other persons validation (which will likely never come) is simply because we don’t believe it is possible to look after our own feelings. So we seek others to do that for us. Sometimes desperately.
The truth is you can easily look after your own pain. You do not actually need another to help you feel better. It is lovely and feels healthy when that happens but you do not need that for you to be ok. Many of us have not been taught how to attend to your heavy feeling as children. The good news is that it is never too late to learn. And once you know how, you can live with the greatest emotional freedom.