Coping With Resentments

May 8, 2017
Johann Kassim

Resentment is to feel a feeling again. Anger kept long enough breeds resentment. It’s the obsession of an angry moment repeated time without number. It lasts for a long time. Resentment is  responsible for various character defects. Dishonesty, low self-esteem, and shameful behaviours have its beginning in resentment.

Resentment is like drinking poison hoping the resented would suffer. Resentment is like carrying a bag full of heavy bricks. We need to let go of it so that we don't get tired of carrying it around life. These are all aphorisms alluding to the power resentments have on the one who resents. In brief, resentment disempowers us rather than those whom we resent.

Why do we resent when it doesn't serve us? We have delusions of control that if we got angry enough, some power would punish those that we dislike. This belief goes so deep that it blinds us to the reality of things. In truth, we harm ourselves more by being resentful than we do anyone else. We harbor animosity, which only we can feel; and has no bearing on those who have rented free space in our heads.

The people we resent are ever present in our minds. We become obsessed with them. We justify harming ourselves because of our resentments. Resentments have fuelled addictions of all kinds. It has resulted in great harm towards ourselves and others. It is for this reason that the 12-steps movement prioritizes working on it as part of clearing our pasts. Click here to read more about the 12 steps.

The irrationality of resenting people comes from a traumatic past. People resemble archetypes of individuals who used to hurt us. Long ago, there was an incident that hadn't yet found a resolution. Someone hurt us, mistreated us, shamed us, or shunned us. Today, we come across people who resemble these. We change from treating them as normal human beings to being resentful at their place in our past trauma. We've written about "How Childhood Trauma Affects Addiction." It's well worth reading this article to know more about how the past still holds us in the present.

It is only in dealing with the past that we can remain at peace in the present. A good program can help to address these issues and give you the life of peace, happiness, and serenity. In recovery, we are looking to step away from this past. But, first, let's look at how we dealt with resentments in addiction.

Coping with resentments in addiction

Addiction was about keeping the past alive in the present. It was about harboring resentments. We would adjust our thinking to justify our hatred towards others. It gave us permission to use. We would say things like:

"If you had the pain I have, you'd use too."

"If you had to deal with so and so, you'd use too."

"If you went to my school, you'd use too."

It's not to say that these things do not matter. They do, which is why they are robust enough to make us harm ourselves and those we love. But, our addictions have kept them alive for so long. Most people have a way to let go of their sordid pasts. Addicts, do not have that skill-set until they've decided on recovery. It's because active addiction masks the pain involved in letting go of resentments. So, if the addiction goes unaddressed, so do the resentments.

Denial is the bread and butter of addiction. Addicts will deny that they have any resentments or problems. It will be the most believable thing to the user because using helps them to feel normal. The power of addictive behaviors and chemicals dull the pain of life. Eventually, addiction will not work to mask that growing pain. It's the reason why addicts will escalate their using over time. They feel they can control this ever-increasing pain through their addictions. We've written an article on "Denial Breaking." Do take a look at it, by clicking here.

In addiction, addicts find themselves reactive to any past triggers. They are hypersensitive to people, places, and things. Life has developed, while they are stuck in the past. Trapped in the resentment. It has gotten a hold of them to the point that they deny life itself.

In the end, life becomes unmanageable to the point that addicts only relate to those who are using. From being unable to live with resentments, to being unable to live with anyone; addiction has won. Addicts have coped with resentments by not coping at all. They hide it until life becomes unmanageable.

Coping with resentments in recovery

In recovery, we learn how to deal with past resentments. We understand its destructive power. Our addictive past has taught us that. There are many ways to deal with resentments, but here are ten tips that may help you to overcome them:

1) Admission of resentments

You need to come to terms with what your resentment. List the people, places, and things that you resent. Express the resentment and admit that it has taken over your life. By acknowledging your resentments, you learn more about yourself. In itself, this is a healing process of immense value.

2) Admitting powerlessness over the past

When we take a closer look at the resentments, we will find that we have no power over it. I mentioned earlier that we have this delusion that if we got angry enough, we might conjure a punishing force. It's this belief that we have control over other people that we need to let go. We are powerless over the past as we are powerless over others. The only power resentment has, is over us. It has the ability to make us ill.

3) Admitting that we have been confusing people today with past archetypes

Past archetypes were individuals who hurt us at a deep level. They left us traumatized and scarred for life. They could have frightened, shamed, or shunned us when we needed love. Today, we come across people who represent these archetypes in some form. These are our current triggers. We need to stop living in the past and address the confusion. We need to accept others as they are today, in their real form. They are not objects of our past. Nor do they have any role in the dramas of our resentments. We've conjured stories about them based on those who've hurt us long ago.

4) Accept the rejection

In one word, the hurt was rejection by others. For some unknown reason, we got rejected by those whom we loved or looked up to for guidance. We need to recognize that these people were human too. They were not angels. They had flaws, character defects, and prejudice. It was unfortunate that you were the victim of those flaws. But, it was not your fault that you got hurt. Even though it wasn't your fault that you got hurt, it is your responsibility to let it go. You need to accept the fact that they rejected you, and move on.

5) Understand where real power comes from

Resentments as a powerful force is an illusion made from fantastical thinking. It hasn't the strength nor the power to enhance life. The real power lies in forgiveness. You need to seek that power out for yourselves.

6) Identify triggers to resentment

We are not free from resentments until we can accept its occurrence in the now. Identifying triggers such as people who remind us of our past archetypes will help us in letting go. We need to work on those triggers, and in time, their power will lessen.

7) Practice mindfulness to stop the escalation of resentments to get some space

Mindfulness is the noticing of events without attaching meaning to it. You can notice yourself in simple daily activities like showering and cleaning dishes. When you do this long enough, you will be able to create space between action and reaction. Over time, this space will allow you to assess the situation for what it is. For more information on mindfulness, visit our article on it. It’s called: “Is mindfulness a religious or spiritual practice?”

Let there be space between the trigger and your well-being. When a trigger occurs, acknowledge and feel it for what it is. Then, take it apart. You can use CBT and DBT to do so. CBT disputes our resentments by challenging our thoughts and DBT allows us growth from where we are. We've written articles on CBT and DBT. They can be accessed from the following links: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for CBT and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for DBT respectively. When there is a buffer between you and the resentment, you will not react to it as much as you used to.

8) Acknowledge your part in the abuse

Do you blame the world for a stomach ache? On a similar note, resentment is painful because you are in pain. Blaming others for it is futile. It's not an obvious pain like having a sore stomach.

You need to acknowledge your part in the resentment. What is feeding the pain? Where have you been at fault? Were you people-pleasing? Were you trying to be perfect? Do you feel ashamed? Do you feel afraid? Where is the pain? What were you doing or not doing? Once you've answered these questions, forgive yourself for your imperfection. Then, make a commitment to refrain from it in the future. It's a lot like abstaining from foods that caused you to have that stomach ache. We do this so that it won't happen again.

9) Make peace with past archetypes and current triggers  

Stop declaring war against past archetypes. Resentment was the result of trying to fight against the hurt provoked by the past. The fight is over. Peace must descend. If that means making amends with those who've hurt you, do so. It becomes much easier when you can own your part in the abuse.

Find out where you were at fault and own up to that. If the past archetype or trigger is still alive, letting bygones be bygones has a healing effect. It removes the resentment in one instance. Real power resides here. I will invite you to take the plunge once you've worked on yourself.

10) Let go of the past

The entire process is about clearing the past. Hidden resentments have the power to bring us down and will jeopardize our recovery. It's important to let go of these.

We can do this in two ways:

First of all, we need to forgive those whom we can. The ability to forgive comes from our willingness to own our pain.

Next, if we are incapable of doing that, for we are human; we need to forget. We can practice some thought stopping techniques to induce forgetfulness. Mindfulness, taking up a sport, writing, or even listening to music - can be useful for this.

Self-care and nurture are vital in letting go of these toxic thoughts and urges. It's this that creates the space that buffers us from reacting to the past.

We do this for a reason. We get something out of it. We forgive and forget not to capitulate to those we resent. We do this to give ourselves a gift of peace, serenity, and love. Something that all sentient beings deserve for living life to the fullest.

The Freedom is yours to own

We do this for a reason. We get something out of it. We forgive and forget not to capitulate to those we resent. We do this to give ourselves a gift of peace, serenity, and love. Something that all sentient beings deserve for living life to the fullest.

In the 12-steps movement, we end our meetings with the serenity prayer. I would invite you to take a look at an article we wrote about it. Read "The Serenity Prayer" for more information. It's in the serenity of knowing where the real power lies, that is the secret to lasting recovery.

Freedom from resentment is bliss. There is no more baggage. What only stands is life as it is. There's no more plotting, hiding, begging, and crying. It's just happiness and unconditional love for everyone including ourselves. Do you want this freedom? Or do you want to live the way of the resentful? That choice is yours to own. Do make it a choice worthy of your soul.

Working a 12-steps program at Solace Sabah

It's not easy to work on resentments by yourself. You need professional help. If you are already addicted to a substance or behavior, you will need treatment for that. In the context of therapy, you will be able to work a program that will address these issues. At Solace Sabah, we use a couple of methods to process the past.

One primary method is working the 12-steps with a counselor. At The Solace, you will have your personal counselor who will guide you through the program. You will look at a particular step and process your past with him/her.

Each step will tease out something from the past. It will arouse the past to come forth. You can then process this past in group. Interpersonal group therapy (IPGT) is an excellent way to gain some insight.  With this insight, you could delve deeper into the issues and core beliefs that were at work.

Past wounds, once exposed, could get processed further using other methods such as CBT and DBT. Our professional clinicians are always available to help you. Early recovery will be very challenging and exciting as you discover your true self. It's a worthwhile journey. It's a beginning to the rest of your life. A life free from resentment. A life of bliss.  

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