Kay Simmeth Counseling Group

Individual and Relational Counseling, EMDR Therapy and Consulting

Resentments and What to Do With Them

The New Year comes with a fresh start. Many of us even make goals or resolutions for how we want to live better, healthier, or more productive lives. However, keeping those goals can be a different story, and it’s especially hard if we’re burdened by the weight of unresolved trauma or emotional pain.

Before you make your resolutions about what you want to do this year, take a moment to think about what you’d like to let go of first.


Dealing With Resentments

Some people can spend hours dwelling on the wrongs done to them — the injustices, the slights, the snubs, insults, indifferences, slurs, and just plain bad treatment. They can think of a particular instance and, sure as Pavlov’s dog, up comes the same feeling the original occurrence caused. Soon they’re mad all over again. They hold onto their resentments with the same tenacity that dog’s hair might cling to a cashmere sweater.

Resent comes from the French word “sentir,” to feel or experience. To resent something or someone is to feel again the fear, the anger, the hurt, the humiliation, the pain of the original experience — real or imagined. Carried along with us, this feeling gets packed away in a bag labeled grudge or blame. It’s a bag full of judgments where other people are always wrong and at fault, and, after a while, it can make for a pretty heavy load.

“Of all the futile and destructive emotions to which human beings are prey, perhaps the most universal is resentment,” said Theodore Dalrymple in his essay, “The Uses of Resentment.” Resentment eats away at self-esteem and peace of mind. It replaces hope with bitterness and opportunities for growth with stagnation. If a person can blame someone else, then they don’t have to take responsibility for themselves.  Of course, we can’t always have control over what happened to us, especially if we were children, but we do have control on how we choose to respond to it today, and how we will deal with it.

A life filled with resentments chains the one who would be victim and stifles any change that could make life easier, more productive and joyful. As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “Resentments keep us from the sunlight of the spirit.”

From one perspective, any time resentment takes up emotional space, it indicates there’s something at issue that has not been resolved. Maybe the best thing is to slow down and try to see what part of it is still trying to get your attention.

Getting rid of old resentments isn’t as easy as simply saying, “Resentment, be gone.” Judgments, the need to be right, not taking responsibility for certain actions or behaviors, a feeling of being special or entitled, vindictiveness or a need for revenge, a simple (or not so simple) misunderstanding, or an inability to forgive — all these might be in the way of releasing resentments.

Along with causing a “re-feeling” of the original emotion, resentments give a person an opportunity to re-look at an event or situation. Sometimes holding onto resentment is a way of avoiding pain, and this re-looking can unlock the doors that have held it at bay.

Taking Action

So how do you deal with resentments? Unless you address the underlying issues involved, it can be difficult to rid yourself of the power they have over you. Start by writing them down. Talk about them, not in a blaming way, but with a willingness to see all sides of the issue. Determine what the lessons are, what needs to be let go of, what needs more work. Whether you do this on your own, with a friend or a therapist, when you deal with your resentments, you’ll begin to see where empathy can create wholeness and forgiveness can heal.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

These posts are meant to encourage some reflection and emotional work in your life, not to provide simple answers for deep issues. Holding on to resentments or other powerful emotional weight is usually reflective of a much deeper trauma or emotional pain. Many people need help to process those issues so they no longer create a powerful negative belief in a person’s life.

In our office, we’ve seen the positive results of using EMDR to help treat trauma and other emotional pain that affects a person’s ability to be their best self. If you’d like to learn more about the work we do and EMDR, please call our office at 818-681-6627.

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