“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
I’m hitting it hard with that quote, I know, I know, it’s because I believe holding on to resentment is THATdestructive. And with October being #emotionalwellnessmonth, I thought this was a subject that needs to be brought to light in order to have greater levels of well-being. I spoke on the topic of resentment during coaching couch, an igtv live I do every Thursday, and when I researched the topic, I recognized that I myself had a lot of work to do and how much it has, by holding on to it, been eating away at my wellness.
Resentment is defined as bitter indignation in feelings of anger and rage…yuk. And I used to believe that those feelings were directed outward towards those who’ve wronged us, but nope, those heavy feelings stir inside of us, the victim of the original offence, and continue to fester as long as we continue to hold on to the pain. As if we weren’t wronged enough. Just to drive the knife further, research has shown that 5 min of anger can affect our immune system for up to five hours!
You may have thought the title of this blog was simply for click bait, and, in part, it was, but the facts on stress and our health are staggering. Stress, in general, directly affects our emotional wellness and is believed to be the cause of up to 90% of diseases we experience and approx 76% of people report experiencing stress that is affecting their physical health. In other words, most of our health issues are directly related to how much stress we experience. A certain amount of stress is good for us and is necessary for our growth as human beings (think growing pains but on an emotional level) but the extra stress that we experience, like from holding on to that anger and rage from feeling wronged, is what becomes the “straw that broke the camels back”, which is why we need to release it.
This means that we have to forgive, which is the beautiful counterpart to resentment, in order to increase our emotional wellness and reduce stress. Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. It’s a choice and it’s one you make for you, not necessarily for the other person and it does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offences, it’s more about recognizing that it doesn’t serve you to hold on to it.
I know forgiveness and letting go isn’t easy, EVER. We feel this way for a reason, it’s valid. Also, it’s impossible to forget, we can’t erase memories, believe me, I’ve done the research and tried (so very) hard. So if that’s the case, how can we forgive? Whether we are justified in our resentment or not, doesn’t actually matter, it’s about loving ourselves enough to want to let it go for our highest good.
So, if you’re ready to feel better, here are some things that you can do that will help on letting that anger and rage go:
Take the lesson. This is the best way to transform anything “negative” that happens in your life. It also helps to give you an overall better mindset as it takes you out of victim mode and helps you gain clarity, you go from “life keeps happening to me” to “life is happening for me”. To get you started you can contemplate or journal on this questions: “what did I learn from this and how will it help me to live better in the future”. When you’re pondering this, please keep in mind, we are all just doing the best we can and the best we know how to do in every moment of life, this goes for the person you are harbouring resentment towards as well. This perspective will help you bring compassion to the person and situation and make it easier to forgive. An example from my own life would be when I think about my mom holding me back from attending a school exchange to England in grade 6. I was very upset over this for years but what I’ve come to realize is that she was coming from a place of protection and love. I was afraid of flying and I rarely enjoyed sleep-overs so she was afraid that I would get on the plane and that I would breakdown or if I got over there and I would want to come home but stuck. I can look back at that situation now and feel love for my mom for looking out for me ♥️
Set boundaries. This one can be harder than it seems. A boundary is a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line. It is conceptual when it comes to relationships, it’s about being clear about where you end and someone else begins. Paying attention to when someone steps over your proverbial line. You know this by how you feel, so it starts with getting clear about what you like and don’t like, what makes you feel good or bad, what feels wrong or right to you and start communicating it. It looks like this: maybe you don’t like the word “idiot” or “stupid” and you don’t like when someone uses it in reference to you or someone else, you feel its rude and unfair. Now let’s say someone you love uses it in passing like while in traffic, they often say things like “what idiots people are” and it makes you feel bad or “triggered”. What you do in that moment is very important for your relationship. It’s up to you to let them know that you don’t like the word, give your reason and let them know the consequence of using it in your presence. So maybe you say “I really don’t like that word and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t use it in my presence.” Then if they protest or argue, you take it a step further with “I understand you didn’t realize how I felt about this but now that you know, if you choose to use it in my presence, I won’t engage in that conversation and I will put my headphones in so I don’t have to hear it.” If you’re like me, the idea of this made me super uncomfortable but when I recognized how the continual crossing of my boundaries created resentment and hurt me and my relationships long term. I recognized how it was necessary for my wellbeing and for the health of my relationships. This is also difficult because the other person will most likely feel “slighted” or may not like having to change their behaviour at first, which is why it’s important to let them know how much you respect them and your relationship which is why you’re choosing the boundary. It’s to strengthen the relationship, not take away from it. More than likely, they’ll come around because they love you and, BONUS, this gets easier and more empowering each time you do it. SIDE NOTE: if you happen to be in a toxic or abusive relationship, this may not work. Please recognize your worth and please reach out for help in your family or community because you deserve better and you are not alone, I’ve been there myself 💞
Send it compassion. If you have a scenario that keeps replaying in your head, a memory that keeps bringing up resentment, send it love. As weird as that may sound, it’s works! Anytime it pokes it’s head, you can put your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and visualize yourself, the other person and the scenario being surrounded by love. It helps to have already done the journaling prompt more than once because you’ll have a different outlook on it. The reality of this is, you may need to keep doing this repeatedly because it takes time to heal, just like any other wound. And sometimes a scenario will happen and the scab gets ripped off again so the healing process needs to keep going.
These techniques only work if you use them repeatedly. Resentment is a wound that takes time to heal and boundaries have to be reinforced so this is definitely not a one and done.
I really hope I’ve inspired you and made it clear as to why it’s important to let go of these feelings and how it will benefit your over all emotional wellbeing and will strengthen your relationships as well. There are so many more reasons to let it go and so many more ways to help you with this. If you’re interested to learn more check out last weeks IGTV @stephanierussellcoach (October 21, 2021) for more on the subject and for more solutions.
Let me know in the comments, what do you believe will be the most useful tool for you to free yourself and your relationships from resentment and live your most fulfilled life?