I was just recently massively triggered by a resentment. My buttons were pushed, and I reacted.
The funny thing is that it was a button I didn’t even know was there!
However, that’s the thing about resentments…they’re sneaky. They lie dormant, hidden just below our conscious mind until something prods them awake.
In this instance, I was talking about an experience from the day before that had to do with some yet unhealed, recent emotional loss. As I was processing through what happened, my husband jumped in and contradicted me with his version of an unrelated event surrounding the person at the root of my recent loss.
A couple things happened in this split-second moment, and I found myself reacting hard. Caught in a whirlwind of reactive anger, I found myself yelling at my partner. All because he cut me off while I was talking about something vulnerable. And while getting cut off mid-thought is frustrating, yes—it didn’t warrant the reaction I allowed to come rushing out of me.
I was angry because I felt unheard and as though he was trying to tell me what my truth should look like. However, while feeling unheard is completely rational, my level of anger in response to it was way over the top.
Overreactions usually points toward a resentment or unresolved issue within us. It generally has zero to even do with the person who triggers it, and we then blame. So let’s talk about what exactly a resentment is for a moment. It is defined as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly,”—or, “T
I don’t know about you, but that sure resonates with me big time! I was bitterly indignant because my filters were telling me that by cutting me off mid-sentence, I was unheard in the raw moment of vulnerability I was in the midst of. And to me, that felt unfair, and it hurt me. In my mind, it caused injury—although again, the perceived injury did not warrant my attack.
This is what I experienced today when I was provided the opportunity to see an area where I need healing and release. Clearly, there are unhealed wounds inside me around not being heard and being told what to think and feel about situations.
And like I said, the funniest thing about resentments is that they often have nothing to do with the person who ends up as the target of the bitter indignation when it is unleashed. Most of the time, our resentments are not new. They are rooted in a past long buried in our subconscious mind.
So, how do we deal with—and release—resentment?
Ah, the question of the ages. The thing about resentment is that we are the only one stewing over it. More often than not, we are carrying around some old festering wound, picking at it, and keeping it open, while the other person isn’t even thinking about what happened any longer. Most likely, they probably don’t even know they hurt us.
I would like to share with you the Buddhist wisdom that helps me in this area:
- “Instead of the resentment being an obstacle, it’s a reminder. Feeling irritated, restless, afraid, and hopeless is a reminder to listen more carefully. It’s a reminder to stop talking; watch and listen.” ~ Pema Chodron
- “The way I regard those who hurt me today will affect how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it.” ~ Pema Chodron
- “What is more important is that which is actually in your hands, the future. Thus, you should rather give rise to love and compassion in order to ensure a happy future. If you think about others’ faults you will only get angry and resentful. Think about their qualities, and stop thinking about their faults, then love will arise. If you can’t stop the thoughts, think of Tara and recite her mantra.” ~ Garchen Rinpoche
- “Those who give up resentful thoughts surely find peace.” ~ Easwaran Eknath (one translation of the Dhammapada)
- “Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.” ~ Buddhist slogan
A practice to reduce resentment:
- Send the person you resent loving thoughts and prayers. Ask for anything you would ask for yourself for this person. Wish them well in your heart and mind. Bless them with love and kindness in your mind’s eye. It will feel forced at first, but keep it up.
- Practice gratitude. When we are full of gratitude, there is no room for anger and resentment. By focusing on what we have in our lives, we don’t have time or energy to focus on what we don’t have or what we’ve lost.
- Examine the root of the resentment. Ask yourself why you are so angry about whatever or whomever appears to be the cause. Oftentimes, we find that the real cause is something deeper and older, and the current event is just triggering the unhealed event. Journal about it, and send all involved love and kindness.
- Watch your motives and expectations. Believe it or not, we set ourselves up for resentments when we place expectations on others. Especially when we don’t make our expectations clear. Our expectations are often centered around our wants/needs. When we don’t communicate what those are to those around us, we set the stage for bitter resentment and disappointment. Check your motives on all that you do, because if you’re doing it with an expectation attached, you will often be disappointed!
- This one’s important! We must own our own part in past and present events. Nothing is ever 100 percent someone else’s fault. Take a look at how you contributed to the situation you are resentful over, and take responsibility for it. Don’t get me wrong, sh*tty things happen to us where we are traumatized by predators and sick people. Sometimes our only part in the resentment is that we are still holding on to whatever occurred. When we take responsibility for our feelings, we free ourselves.
Reducing resentment takes practice and mindfulness. Cut yourself some slack, and be gentle with it!
Find the love, forgiveness, and humor.
Author: Lindsay Carricarte
Image: Flickr/Biswajit Das
Editor: Travis May