Once you realize you have a resentment, how do you release it and regain your power? The simple answer is to let people and situations off the hook for not meeting your expectations. Easier said than done, I know.
There are countless methods for dealing with resentments. Here are a few steps that work for me. These steps are a combination of different processes I’ve done over the years:
1) Feel the resentment. Then breathe into it. First, let’s physically or visually get in touch with the resentment. What is the feeling behind it? Are you angry, sad, furious, disappointed? Where does this resentment/feeling reside in your body? Close your eyes and feel around for it. As mentioned in my last post, I felt tightness in my chest and churning in my stomach. While you're at it, can you visualize the resentment? No worries if you can’t, but can you? Another time I pictured a resentment as this amorphous black mist chillin’ in front of me. Now breathe into that part of your body where the resentment lives without any judgment. Try not to feed into the story behind the resentment either. Just breathe into it.
2) What’s your expectation here? Uncover and acknowledge what you expected. I prefer to do this through writing, but speaking aloud, like into a voice recorder, can work too.
E.g. I’m pissed at Kyle because I expected him to call me if he was going to cancel instead of bailing on our study date. Actually, I expected him to keep his commitment, period.
3) What does it mean that (insert person’s name) did or didn’t do (insert behavior)? What meaning are you attributing to the behavior? Nine times out of ten I have no clue why people do the things they do; however, the mind generally doesn’t like uncertainty, so it will create a story (often a dramatic one) to give some sense of perceived closure. E.g. Kyle’s not showing up means that he doesn’t care about me or respect me. I must mean nothing to Kyle. This especially hurts because I have a bit of a crush on him. Try and get real honest and acknowledge the vulnerability with this one. The more I can boil it down to the truest reason why I was affected, i.e. hurt, by the other person’s behavior or outcome of a situation, the deeper my release will be from the clutches of the resentment.
4) Can you just let it be what it is? Captain Jack Sparrow said, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?" Here’s where the rubber meets the road and the reclamation of power is most potent. Are you willing to see this person as a human who makes mistakes just like you? Sometimes I'm able to release the grudge by honestly answering yes to the “can you let it be” question. Sometimes it is enough for me to acknowledge that I have no clue why this person did what he/she did. And even if I am 99.99% sure, I have the choice to let it be. I can choose to realize that my mind is playing fill-in-the-blank. What often follows this period of acknowledged blankness is an upchuck of emotions. I may have to let the tears roll. I may have to beat a pillow with a broom. I may have to scream at the top of my lungs. Let the situation be and let the feelings out.
5) Share with a confidante. Time to pick up the phone or schedule a coffee date. For this step, you’ll want to pick someone who won’t cosign your B.S. What I mean is, share with someone who’s not going to feed into the drama. You don’t want to pick someone who would say “Girl, he’s such a bum. I can’t believe he did that to you! You know what you should do? You should . . .” Nope! Not gonna cut it. This person will only add oxygen to the fire of your resentment and help you lose your power all over again. You’re sharing with a confidante to help gain closure and to further release your grip. What I specifically share with my confidantes are my outcomes of steps 2-4. Since I’ve written it down, I just read it to them from my journal or piece of paper. I ask this person to help me see where I can further release the hold and if any follow up action towards the object of my resentment is necessary. Ultimately, this confidante serves as a supportive listening ear and helps me find loving power-keeping closure.
Resentments can arise in a flash, irrespective of persons, situations and locations. They’re sneaky buggers. A coworker keeps his used coffee cups on the break-room counter, never throwing them in the trash. Your friend reschedules half of your planned get-togethers. Your neighbor plays his music too loud. Any, or all, of these occurrences are fit fodder for a resentment. Be on guard because the little stuff can fester, add up and lead to unnecessary physical and mental drama. The above 5-step process doesn’t have to take very long (a few minutes on average), but the result is well worth it: peace of mind, clarity, taking ownership and developing a solid game plan on how to proceed with the object of the original resentment, if necessary. Resentments do not have to run your life any longer.