Resentments are like weeds, they’re invasive, deep-rooted, and destructive. I can think back to a specific time in my life when I held onto resentment. Working through resentment was one of the most difficult and rewarding things I’ve ever done. Resentment seems to have a formula for how it arises; when someone we care about betrays our trust, we get offended. When this person continues to hurt us after the initial injustice, we no longer feel offended, we feel resentment. Resentment can eat away at our peace, preventing us from being productive and depleting us of the focus necessary to reach our goals.
There is only one path to healing the damage of resentment and that is the path of surrender. We have to surrender to our circumstances and accept things as they are. Forgive the past and those who have hurt us, and choose to walk in the light of positivity rather than the darkness of indignation.
Below I have listed 4 steps to overcome and let go of resentment.
Cognitive restructuring works by reshaping your beliefs, by challenging and interrupting negative thoughts. Furthermore, cognitive restructuring, also known as cognitive reframing, involves changing your beliefs, which literally creates physical changes in your brain. Through the act of thinking negative thoughts, you strengthen the part of your mind that creates negative thoughts. If you wish to halt this habit, you have to interrupt the negative thought with a positive thought. Regardless of what it is you want to change about your life, the change needs to begin with yourself. And the only way to do that is through changing your thoughts.
So, in the event that you find yourself constantly ruminating about a negative experience or person, I suggest changing your pattern of thought. You can think about anything; I literally interrupted a negative thought the other day by thinking about apples. What you think about doesn’t matter, as long as it isn’t negative. Try it out, and see if it works for you. Restructuring your mind should be an enjoyable process; just think about things you like.
When all else fails, try to be compassionate. I know it can be very difficult to feel compassion for someone who betrayed you, but had you not trusted and cared for this person initially, they wouldn’t have been able to hurt you. Think back to when you first met this person, there must have been some positive qualities which caused you to like him or her. Try to send loving thoughts this person’s way, allow yourself to feel compassion for this person instead of resentment and animosity. Realize that your resentment comes from a place of injury, and we can’t heal an injury by continuing to associate with what hurt us.
Try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. Understand that they were probably hurt, and dealing with their own resentment towards someone else when they hurt you. Send the one you resent loving thoughts, be sincere in wishing them well. “Whether or not you believe in prayer, you can still set aside time during the day to think loving thoughts about someone you resent, wishing them good fortune and blessings.”
For me, this is the most difficult part. How do you just accept that someone has hurt you? What works for me is to consider the alternative; how will I feel if I don’t accept what has happened? How will it feel to carry this resentment around forever? Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die; it’s not only wasteful and foolish, it’s also deadly.
Acceptance is very similar to forgiveness in a lot of ways. To be able to forgive, you have to first be able to accept what has happened. We do not forgive, or accept what has happened for the other person. In fact, we forgive and accept for ourselves, as a form of healing. We forgive and accept to honor the love within our lives and decrease the negativity by taking away its power. To accept and forgive does not mean that you approve of someone’s bad behavior. It just means that you aren’t allowing it to burden you with its weight.
Many of us are so anxious to get what we want, that we won’t get what we want, so we reach for our desires with desperation, we extend ourselves too far, and we try to control that which we want. And in doing that our grasp is weakened and we lose everything we were reaching for. Then we feel disappointed and depleted, and we continue to operate from this place of lack. So we reach again, and again, and thus continue the endless cycle of reaching and falling, reaching falling.
Resentment has a lot to do with control. We resent outcomes that are not what we want and we resent people when they fail to give us what we want. We only try to control people when we’re scared of losing them. When we try to control someone, we put that person in the position of needing to reclaim their freedom. When we are attached to our emotions we identify with them so much, that we believe we are them. We love conditionally, believing that it is the other person’s responsibility to keep us fulfilled, and that the other person is responsible for making us love them.
The blame game
When we identify with our emotional pain and our attachment to another person, we begin to blame the other person when they aren’t making us happy. It is not unusual to then try to manipulate that person into changing their behavior to make us happy again. We are putting the cause of our suffering onto someone else. Choosing to detach from our emotions is about reclaiming a sense of power and responsibility over our own lives.
To have life and to have its pleasure, you must first let go of the desire to control it. We want to hold onto circumstances, relationships, and people so badly, that we end up squeezing the life out of what we want with our too firm of a grasp. And when our beloved fails to meet our expectations, our love can turn to anger, frustration, or resentment. That is conditional love. The opposite would of course be, unconditional love.
So, if conditional love says: I love you because ________, unconditional love says simply: I love you, without any reason. The condition is inconsequential. You do not love because someone makes you feel a certain way, you love merely for the sake of loving. Conditional love is not true love, conditional love is selfish, and it’s about the ego. It’s about what you can get from the other person to boost your own sense of self-worth. If we look beyond this and search for a deeper meaning we realize love isn’t about anyone; it’s about an overflowing of energy which comes from the heart and is always renewable.
The only way to end this cycle is to choose to dis-identify with your desire. Separate from your egoic identity; your emotions and desired outcomes of situations, and connect to your heart. All sensations are very short lived, they can’t last forever. Do not attach yourself to things that are fleeting.
Non-attachment is about being able to detach from your emotional pain, step back, and see the bigger picture. This may seem like it’s not a big deal, but being able to utilize this skill can save people and their relationships from chaos and destruction. Where there is control there is also fear of losing it, control comes with attachment. By letting go of control you’re letting go of attachment and stepping away from fear based living into love based living.
If we are able to grasp and utilize the concept of non-attachment, we will never feel resentment. There will be nothing to resent; we will not cling to past injustices committed against us by someone who was not responsible for our happiness in the first place. We will accept that we have been wronged, we may not choose to associate with this person again, but the love will never cease, because it can’t.