Letting Go of Resentment


In previous blog posts, we talked about the role of forgiveness in alleviating resentment. The main take-away here is that forgiveness can help us to unload emotional weight we’ve been carrying around and achieve peace of mind. The tricky thing is that holding on to resentment and anger came happen so automatically that it can be extremely difficult to even know when we’re doing it. 

The first step in identifying resentment is understanding the two types. It is important to know which type you are experiencing because the way in which you cope with it will be different. 
  • Current resentment: this type of resentment is caused by something that is happening day-to-day in the present. These are things that feel unfair but are also difficult to change. We may think to ourselves “this keeps happening and I don’t like it”. An example would be being continually saddled with an unreasonable amount of responsibilities at work or at home.
  • Past resentment: this relates to old hurts or “unfinished business”. While we may have decided to “let it go” mentally, we are unable to do so emotionally. Past resentments are usually tied to attachment wounds, when we experienced a significant amount of betrayal or disappointment from the person we are angry with.

Tune into your anger and identify which type of resentment resonates most. It is important to keep in mind that one is not better or worse than the other. Regardless of what you are experiencing, it will affect you in relationships because resentment makes it hard to show kindness, generosity, appreciation, gratitude and warmth toward the other person. 

 How do we cope? 

While it is tempting to push negative feelings down, doing so will only cause them to keep building up. 

    • to cope with our anger, we have to make contact with anger. Acknowledge the emotion and ask yourself “what am I angry about?” 
    • for past resentments, it is important to revisit the past and process what happened. Experiencing the pain and anger instead of shutting down. This could be an opportunity to practice the skill of forgiveness in order to let go of the emotional burdens that have been weighing us down. 
    • for current resentments, identify what relationship feels out of balance. We can ask ourselves what we would like it to look like instead. What needs to happen day-to-day? What would be fair to both parties? While this may be more difficult to do in a work relationship where the power dynamics are different, there is usually some room to negotiate agreements.

Remember, resentment happens due to feeling like we can’t talk about your anger, which leaves us feeling “stuck”. Staying silent fuels resentment and breeds hostility. Eventually, that hostility will cause us to behave in less than ideal ways toward the person we are angry with. This person, not being able to read our mind, will likely be completely unaware of why we are irritated and why we are acting the way we are. The key point to remember is that people cannot understand your anger until they can connect it with something they can deal with. The way to help people connect is by talking about emotions, rather than pushing them down. Focus on “fairness” and be willing to negotiate and compromise. You may find that taking just this first step can be surprisingly cathartic in itself!– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

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