Turning Resentments into Acceptance
Are you struggling with a resentment right now? Resentments can be impossible to let it go 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 right?
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
When you feel resentful, notice what happens in your body. Do you have a knot in your stomach or feel tense all over? 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 help you move past it.
Examples of secondary gains:
- Resentment is like anger - it gives you energy and a sense of purpose.
- It gives you a compelling story.
- Telling the story over and over again 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. Sure, you get support which is a great but at some point it causes problems. It starts to change your attitude about relationships. Have you noticed that ...
- Resentment causes you to pull away and not trust people?
- You start to assume others will hurt you?
- You worry that if you let go of it you will have to forgive?
- Think why bother since you don't want a relationship anyway?
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. 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 you'd like to say to them if you could. 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 your resentment effectively
If you need to communicate here's a simple format.
- Name the behavior that's upsetting you.
- Communicate your feelings or opinion.
- 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 feelings and opinions, 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 angry when you don't answer my texts. I'd appreciate it if you could text back."
Acceptance is being in the moment without necessarily agreeing with it. It's about facing reality rather than trying to control it. You may not like what happened but by working through it, you can find acceptance.
Being willing to look at your part is what invites acceptance. It also increases empathy because you realize that it's not all about them. That mind shift lessens the resentment and changes the story.
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