Turning Resentments into Acceptance
Resentments are tough to let it go of because you get to be right and tell a good story. But over time, that prevents the relationship (or you) from healing. Holding onto a resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die, is a popular saying in 12 step programs. Harsh but true.
Here you'll find what it takes to let it go, and why in some cases, you'd rather hold on to it.
What causes resentment?
- Expecting someone to be different than who they are
- Feeling wronged, betrayed or offended
- Not admitting your true feelings
- Hoping someone will give what you give
- Wanting to avoid conflict
When you feel resentful, notice what happens in your body. Do you have a knot in your stomach or feel tense? Unexpressed resentment gets stored in the body and feels like bricks on your back. Eventually they can cause stress related illnesses if they're ignored.
So why hold on to them? Because the anger feels justified - and that feels good. It's called secondary gain. That means there's a payoff for keeping the resentment going despite how it much hurts. Finding out what that gain is will help you move past it.
Examples of Secondary Gains:
- It gives you energy and a sense of purpose.
- It gives you a compelling story.
- Re-telling the story gives you attention and support.
- It continues the cycle of being a victim so you don't have to do anything different.
By repeating the story, the resentment continues and nothing gets resolved. Initially you get support and some empathy but when resentments linger it changes your attitude. Have you noticed that ...
- Resentments cause you to pull away and not trust people?
- You start to assume others will hurt you?
- You worry that if you let it go you will have to forgive?
- Think why bother since you don't want to be vulnerable anyway?
The Impact on Health
Resentments can also effect your physical health. A study by Carsten Wrosch, an associate professor at Concordia University, shows that people who are angry or resentful have higher blood pressure, increased heart rate and are at a higher risk for heart disease. Long term hostility has been linked to respiratory disease. That's a lot of stress on your body.
So if you're willing do something different...
Writing to Heal
Here are the steps to heal a resentment.
- Write down the resentment in detail. Tell the story without censoring yourself.
- Second, write how this resentment impacts you. Does it impact self-esteem, emotional or financial security, pride, relationships, or career?
- Third, look at how your attitudes, words, gestures, even your silence sends a message. Find your part in the resentment.
- Next, write a letter focusing on what's unfinished. This does not have to be sent. This is for your benefit only. Saying what you need to say can bring closure.
How to Communicate Resentment Effectively
Here's a simple format for communicating your resentment.
- Name the behavior that's upsetting you.
- Communicate your feelings and perspective (avoid trying to be right or arguing details).
- Stick with one concern to avoid launching an attack.
- Acknowledge your part to lessen defensiveness.
- Be willing to hear their point of view.
When you share your perspective, it comes across less defensively. It's a neutral way to communicate that avoids defensiveness.
Using an "I statement" encourages the listener to respond rather than feel accused. An "I statement" simply states how you feel. It avoids blame which creates the chance of a better outcome.
"I feel hurt when you don't answer my texts. I'd appreciate it if you could respond within an hour."
Resentments linger when you can't accept the outcome. Acceptance is being in the moment without necessarily agreeing with it. You can face reality instead of trying to control it. You may not like what happened but by working through it, you can find acceptance.
One most important step in decreasing resentments is taking a look at your own behavior. Owning what you said and did shifts the focus and increases empathy because you realize that it's not all about what they did. You had a part in it too. When you're accountable the story changes and you can finally let go.
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