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How do you let go of Resentment?

How do you Let go of Resentment - Tara Kanerva - April 10th

Let's begin by acknowledging that resentment is a deeply human experience. It's a feeling that we've all encountered at some point in our lives, often starting from our teenage years and persisting into adulthood.

Think back to those moments when your friend flaunted their latest trendy shoes, leaving yours feeling dull and outdated. Or perhaps it was the repeated incidents of your roommate devouring your snacks, leaving nothing behind but crumbs. Maybe it's the countless times your partner seemed blissfully unaware of the tasks piling up while they rested. Or even when your spouse insisted on leaving a generous tip despite poor service, leaving you questioning their judgment.

In each scenario, we're met with that familiar cocktail of emotions: judgment, anger, disgust, or a sense of injustice.

Resentment is a complex challenging to navigate and even harder to overcome.

Its difficulty lies in its inherent nature—a clash of values. Through my work with countless clients, I've come to recognize a consistent pattern underlying resentment.

Here's the formula:

  1. You observe a behavior, a state, or a feeling in another person that you find disagreeable (whether consciously or unconsciously).

  2. You experience negative feelings towards them, often consciously, because deep down, you yearn for what their behavior represents—a need or desire that you feel is unmet within yourself (often residing in the unconscious).

  3. These initial negative emotions evolve into resentment, a conscious reaction fueled by the awareness that meeting that deep-seated need would require compromising your personal values—an internal conflict that feels impossible to resolve, thus breeding resentment at an unconscious level.

See the chart below:

Consider this scenario: You walk into the kitchen to find your roommate devouring the meal you carefully prepared for yourself—yet again. This marks the initial step of resentment: noticing a behavior that rubs you the wrong way. As you witness this, you might label it as selfish, rude, inconsiderate, or any other interpretation that fits the situation. Naturally, a wave of negative emotions washes over you.

But beneath the surface, step two unfolds quietly within you. Deep down, there's a recognition that your resentment isn't solely about the lost meal—it's about something deeper. It's about the audacity of someone to indulge their needs without any regard for yours, disregarding your boundaries and desires. This lack of consideration feels like a personal affront, stirring up a potent mix of frustration and anger.

Many might express this resentment with a frustrated quip: "Wouldn't it be nice to just help yourself to whatever you please without any thought for others?

This sentiment of "wouldn't it be nice to..." is an ever-present companion to resentment, unfailingly surfacing in every instance. It's not about coveting the behavior itself—you wouldn't want to emulate it. Instead, it's about longing for something deeper. Consider the decision to prioritize one's own needs without regard for others—a notion that seems tantalizingly liberating, particularly when witnessed in others, like your seemingly carefree roommate. Oh, to indulge without a shred of guilt or remorse—now that's a thought!

But then comes Step 3, where reality confronts us head-on. You wouldn't dream of helping yourself to someone else's meal, nor would you readily satisfy your own needs without considering their impact on others. And even if you did, the weight of guilt and remorse would crush any enjoyment. Why? Because you're deeply invested in values like consideration, sharing, kindness, or caring—values that form the very core of who you are.

And so, an impossible dilemma emerges. Like any human being, you yearn for moments of self-indulgence, yet the mere thought of indulging clashes with your deeply held values, threatening to undermine your sense of self. Thus, you find yourself silently seething as your friend slurps down your noodles, resentment festering like a toxin.

But here's the thing—there's a cost to holding onto resentment, one that extends far beyond the present moment. Over time, it corrodes your happiness.

Fortunately, I've discovered a way to release it.

Here's the formula for LETTING GO of resentment:

  1. Notice the behavior and the emotions it stirs within you.

  2. Delve deeper and identify the underlying need or yearning. It's not about extravagant tips or overlooking flaws in service; it's about the profound desire to find contentment and ease even in imperfect circumstances. This is the essence of the "must be nice" feeling nestled deep within.

  3. Recognize the value that appears to conflict with fulfilling this desire. Perhaps it's the value of hard work, giving your best, or striving for excellence. There's a belief that meeting this yearning would compromise your commitment to these values.

  4. Envision a way to honor both the need and the value—the yearning to relax and accept imperfection alongside the commitment to doing your best. There's no inherent conflict; it's simply a matter of discerning when to satisfy the desire and when to uphold the value, finding harmony between the two.

5. This is where the magic happens—notice how the resentment dissipates. You may still find the situation unpleasant; perhaps you wish your wife wouldn't tip excessively or your roommate wouldn't help themselves to your food. You might even express your disapproval of their behavior. However, the difference lies in how it feels within you. It's no longer that ugly, searing sensation of resentment that consumes and corrodes. Instead, it feels like a choice you wouldn't make or a boundary you deserve to have respected. It's your opinion, plain and simple.

I invite you to try this approach with your own resentments and those of your clients. It's a foolproof method that deepens our understanding of ourselves and guides us toward greater self-compassion and inner harmony.

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