Have you ever felt such resentment that it almost overwhelmed you? Had it well up in your throat until it feels swelled like a bullfrog’s? Have you ever felt unable to say no to a situation as then gotten angry with yourself and the person who requested favor? If you’re like me, then I’m guessing there have been moments you’ve felt this way. Times when you’ve wanted to lash out because you feel taken advantage of or unappreciated. Despite the temporary satisfaction one might feel from lashing out, it tends to make things worse. This made me wonder what would be a better strategy for dealing with resentment? Here are a few of my theories.
First of all don’t nurse the damned thing. The worst thing I’ve ever done is hold onto resentment, fed it and nurtured it until it grew into something uncontrollable like the plant Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. It made the situation worse and blew everything out of proportion. Instead of feeding it in the darkness of our hearts and nurturing it like some malignant mushroom, I should have talked about it with someone – preferably the person I felt resentful towards. In my experience, the key to stopping or healing resentment is bringing it up into the sunlight. Sunlight purifies and removes the toxins. Perhaps sharing how I felt (without trying to shame or blame the other person) might have alleviated this feeling and avoided a lot of problems down the road.
A habit I am still working on breaking is using the resentment generated by this situation to feed other festering resentments I haven’t addressed. The end result is that instead of any possibility for a rational conversation about the issue, I drag up every single time I’ve felt resentful and dump it on that person (usually the hubby). Not the most effective method of conflict resolution or resentment reduction I must say.
Another tendency I have that often proves more harmful than beneficial is bitching to friends and family about it. With the best intentions, friends and family tend to unquestionably support your grievance. Often in an effort to be supportive and claim solidarity they will reinforce your resentment. What was already an issue now begins to take on epic proportions and goes from one problem to an entire tapestry of them. Once again, feeding the beast simply makes thing worse. We hope venting will help relieve us of the anger and resentment. However, unless we’re clear about what our goal is and why we’re engaging in this process, we unintentionally strengthen its power over us.
One possible technique that has often helped me when I’m making a professional presentation and might be helpful here too is to make a bullet-point list of my grievances. Take some time to think about things in a calm, clear-headed manner before discussing it with the “offender”. I think creative a calming environment for yourself – maybe a cup of tea and some soothing music, can make this process less anxiety producing. The goal is to stay calm and focused on the specifics of the situation, not let your emotions overwhelm you. We have every right to feel angry and hurt, but sometimes expressing them when we’re trying to resolve a conflict is counter-productive.
I’m sure you find my ramblings fascinating and insightful (how could you not? ;D) However I thought maybe a touch of advice from the Tarot might be in order too. So I asked Arnell Ando’s brilliant Transformational Tarot “What can help us deal with resentment?” I drew The Sage/Hierophant – wonderful! It’s telling us to see wise counsel, seek advice from those who have the knowledge to provide genuine help rather than well-meaning support that merely reinforces the problem. The Sage may represent asking elders, a counselor/therapist for advice. It may be suggesting we seek the wisdom available from the plethora of authors who have written on this subject. It may even point out the support one can find in one’s spiritual tradition. The reality is the solution will be different for each of us just as what triggers resentment is different for each of us.
I hope the next time you feel overwhelmed by resentment towards a loved one you’ll find some useful guidance or insight here.