to resent something means literally to feel emotions again.
believe it or not – there is something seductive about this repetitiveness. it can be done quite effortlessly, it’s familiar. nothing new needs to be learned, no new perspective needs to be considered.
it’s also a massive waste of time.
one of my clients used to have a real problem with that. over and over and over again he would think about how badly his mother-in-law treated him. he would come and bring one piece of evidence after the other: she said this! she did that! she forgot this! looked at me that way! the more he talked about it, the more upset he would get. but he couldn’t leave it alone.
this type of resentment is exhausting. and this is why it is a waste of time:
just do the math: let’s imagine our emotional life runs along a path. every day we have the opportunity to “walk”, say, 10 miles. we can walk these 10 miles in a straightforward direction, which would gain us 10 miles. of course this rarely happens.
we can walk it in a wavy, zigzag direction that still generally moves in a forward direction and we’ll gain maybe 7 miles; that’s the best we can usually expect.
if we’re stuck in resentment, though, we go back and forth and back and forth, and no matter how many days we walk and exhaust ourselves, we hardly ever gain an inch.
what are ways of getting rid of these resentments? as usual, it depends on the person and the situation. here are a few things that might help:
i always imagine resentments as something clingy and graspy. a powerful image for me is to imagine myself holding on to the resentments and then just opening my hands and letting them go. – what’s your image?
meditation, especially buddhist meditation, is often all ABOUT letting go. in insight meditation, for example, one experiences feelings and thoughts like clouds on the horizon of our awareness. they come, they move from here to there, they disappear. i find this particularly useful because practicing this kind of meditation helps us realize that we are not our feelings and thoughts, and that we don’t have to be ruled by them. it’s the other way round: they are part of us, they belong to us, we decide what to do with them.
contemplation / reflection
in contemplation or reflection, you can quietly and gently use your thoughts to feel your way through a situation. during a long walk, while lying in bed, or in some other quiet, relaxed situation, you can ask yourself questions like, “where do i feel this resentment in my body?”, “what would happen if i wasn’t resentful against this person or situation anymore?” the idea is to be curious and full of wonder, accepting of whatever response may or may not come
and then of course, you can also talk to a friend, or to a counsellor. don’t have a counsellor? get in touch with me.
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