When we have been hurt, sometimes the idea of letting go of resentment may seem dismissive of the pain we suffered. However, healing resentment is never about minimizing or dismissing what we experienced. If you have been hurt, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, the pain you felt was real. Healing resentment comes as we open compassionately and see it in full, so that we can ultimately ease our suffering.
We first began to touch on resentment last fall, as we investigated the “blame trap” and how it kept us from inner peace. Now, for the sake of our own healing as well as peace in the world, let’s look more deeply into the nature of resentment.
Since my first language is French, I find myself reminded, each time I hear the word “resentment”, of its Latin root:
Re – to do over again
Sent – to feel
Resentment is like a broken record. We feel painful emotions over and over again that keep us tied to our past. For some reason, our ego has us convinced that this is a good thing to do. It may give us a sense of temporary power. It may feel as though we are somehow getting back at someone we feel has hurt us. But as we re-sent, feeling painful feelings repeatedly, ultimately, we suffer.
Psychologists say that our brains do not really discern between present events and past memories. When we replay painful incidences in our minds, our brains react by triggering stress chemicals into our bloodstream as though those events are actually happening. We literally recreate trauma, and damage ourselves again.
If we take it one step further, because we are all connected, as we hold onto this pain, we contribute painful thoughts and intentions to the atmosphere. This affects everyone, not just ourselves and the ones we may resent, but even those we feel we love. Preoccupied with the past, we are less available to meet the fullness of the moment.
We may not wish to think that holding on to the idea of being ill-treated is to take from the world. Yet is it not the case? We have recently been exploring the way COVID-19, and all viruses in general, take from life. Resentment also takes. It diverts the flow of life and is a form of toxic energy sucking. It holds people captive in our imagination about a wrongdoing we have perceived. Instead of moving to resolution, resentment remains in an eddy that does not return to flow, healing or forgiveness. When we hold onto it, we are repeatedly feeding the past. Stuck in divisive thinking, we cannot receive any soul nourishment. Because we are out of the present moment, we lose access to the abundant now.
There is nothing to gain in resenting. Yet, like all emotions, it carries a message for us. It tells us that we are not yet ready to move on. We are clinging to a story about the past, a limited idea of ourselves.
It is important to remember that in resentment, we are the ones holding on. No one is keeping us in that feeling. We may have been ill-treated, but the choice to return to inner peace is always ours. Our true ability to be present for whatever the moment brings is not contingent on whether the moment is pleasant. To make others responsible for our state of presence is to give away our power. This is good news, because if we gave it away, we can reclaim it.
THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
If you have been injured by someone else’s action, letting go of resentment and finding forgiveness are essential for your inner peace. This does not mean you have to say the person’s action was okay, or that you have to make nice with them. Forgiveness is a state of non-attachment in which you are in service to the creative flow of Nature. You can see that you have been invested in a limited, erroneous perception, to impossibilities that create suffering. You can understand that any sense of “I am me and you are you, we are separate, and in this separation, you owe me an apology” is actually just resistance to the reality of interconnection. To have the feeling of “You owe me an apology” is to identify with a sense of “not enough,” with the experience of lack. Then you suffer.
But, you say, this person did do you wrong! They do owe you an apology!
On one hand, someone could have acted in disconnection, and caused harm, and you feel resentful about it. In this case, two egos are at play. Someone else’s disconnection has triggered the same in you. If someone hurt you, they, too, have the opportunity to find inner peace. But that is up to them. They may also be attached to the erroneous perception “I am not enough.” In their transgression, you have taken on their notion of “not enough,” and now you also feel you are “not enough.” This is a lose-lose situation—a co-creation in impossibilities. It is sobering to remember that if we did not identify with “not enough” in the first place, we would not take on that sense from anyone or any circumstance.
On the other hand, someone could have acted in a way that was balanced, but that you for whatever reason found offensive. In this case, their state of connectedness highlighted your state of disconnection. Through the experience, you have been gifted with an opportunity to let go of your attachments and grow into a new way of being.
In both cases, the only thing you can change is yourself. So how will you find forgiveness from resentment?
Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself to return to inner peace. It begins with understanding that you have been attached to the erroneous perception of “not enough.” You understand that the other person may be attached to that erroneous perception as well. If so, doesn’t that put you on the same page? Rather than a victim and a transgressor, there are two people in a state of disconnect. In this understanding comes a release.
You may also come to understand that the other person was acting in clarity, maybe even compassion. It just did not appear in the way you thought it should. There was no actual transgression. You want the best for yourself and the other person does as well. Again, does that not put you on the same page, this time as two people who are dedicated to interconnection?
When your understanding is complete, there is a realization, an illumination, an insight into the inherent untruth of your attachment. Is it true that you are not enough? No. You are an infinitely loved being, one with pure consciousness.
PRACTICE: WITNESSING RESENTMENT
Between now and next week, try this.
Ask yourself with love and kindness:
● Do I feel resentful towards anyone or anything in my life?
Do your best to be honest. Take a moment to really sense and notice without judgment what comes up for you.
Then ask yourself:
● Where do I feel this resentment in my body?
Notice where you are holding it. Is it in your head, jaw, shoulders, gut, heart, toes…?
Describe how it feels. For example, is it tight? Does it feel hot, dry or cold? Does it have a colour or a shape? Just notice, again, without judgment, what comes up for you.
Now speak to that place, as you would a frightened child. Allow the resentment to soften, simply because you are bringing your attention to it, and listening, without trying to push it away. Notice what happens in this process.
See if you can forgive yourself for holding onto this pain. Let your grip soften around it. In understanding that attachment to separateness keeps you suffering, allow the energy that you have pushed aside to return to your heart. Give this space, and more space still. Welcome the disconnected part of yourself back into your heart. Allow the energy trapped there to return to flow.
When you have had enough, thank the resentment for its presence. Thank yourself for your presence. Thank the other person or situation for the opportunity to grow. Thank the universe for the love that is ever-present.
From my heart to yours,