How to Manage Resentment

I spent 38 years of my life carrying a resentment against my parents for the things that occurred when I was growing up. I was a bitter, angry person, filled with self-pity. I drank heavily, saying, “You’d drink too if you’d had an upbringing like mine.” The thing is, the resentment was only hurting myself, and did nothing to move me forward in life.

Resentment is defined by Webster as a feeling of bitter hurt or indignation, from a sense of being injured or offended. In recovery circles, it is distinguished from anger by the thought that a resentment means to feel again and again.

Today, I have resolved my resentment and enjoy a fine relationship with my parents, as well as with others. How did I do that, get to that place?

First, I looked at what was behind my resentment. I found it was usually because I was hurt or disappointed by something someone did or said. I took that hurt and disappointment and ran with it, feeling it again and again, feeling indignant that “this” was done to me. As I mentioned, I was filled with self-pity.

The second thing I did was to conduct a self-appraisal. This involved looking at my positive points first, and then my negative ones, my negative thoughts, behaviors, and actions. What I discovered was that I had very high expectations, higher than, for example, my parents could meet, given their own wounds they received while growing up. They were incapable of being who and what I wanted them to be. When I realized this, I was able to let go of my expectations and enjoy the positive things that came my way.

Also in that appraisal, I discovered ways in which I had gotten the ball rolling on a resentment. In other words, I did or said something to hurt another and they reacted in a human way back to me. I then resented them for how they reacted. But I started the whole affair. I had to learn to identify my part in things, and in the case of resentment, I found it was caused usually by my behavior and actions.

That was an embarrassing thing for me to realize, as I thought I was “justified” in my resentment, but when I saw that I started the whole thing, I had to let go of the resentment. I had to learn to identify what was behind the resentment and it was most often hurt.

It was also because I was disappointed by something and blamed it on the person I thought disappointed me. After doing my appraisal, identifying when I was disappointed, I began to learn not to expect anything from anyone. This way, when something happened that was nice, it was a pleasant surprise.

To recap, my resentment was almost always caused by my high expectations that someone couldn’t meet, or by something I did or said to get the ball rolling. How did I get past my resentments?

Well, after the self-appraisal, I began to develop compassion for others. For example, when I allowed myself to look at my parents and what they endured during their childhood, I began to realize they were just repeating what was done to them. Knowing what that was like, I felt compassion for their childhood, and for them. From this compassion, I was able to forgive. That does not mean I condone what happened; it just means I am pardoning their behavior, having seen its root causes.

I hope this is helpful information that you can put to use now or in the near future. Here’s to the resolution of resentment in your life.




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