By Maria Sylvester, MSW, CPC
If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished? ~Rumi
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. ~Rumi
We have all been there. You’re fired up and furious, stuck in the muck—the deep muck of resentment. The bitter taste of it contaminates our ability to see straight or feel anything but restlessness and discontent. Rolling in the deep muck of resentment can be downright painful and haunting. It can feel depressing, with your capacity to feel joy seriously compromised. When harboring resentment, your ability to cope with other aspects of life is depleted. You simply feel bad.
Many of my coaching clients seek my support because they’ve become stuck in some area of their life. Exploring this, we often discover their paralysis stems from long-harbored resentments. Resentment—defined as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly”—is, unfortunately, sometimes a tough state to relinquish. It is gut-clenching and energy-sapping.
One reason resentment is hard to release is because it fuels anger. And the longer one focuses on the presumed injustice, the more intense the anger becomes. Additionally, for better or worse, anger around resentfulness can sometimes feel like protection or confident self-righteousness. At times, it can even feel momentarily satisfying. To blame is always an attempt at freeing oneself of responsibility.
Yet once that anger takes root within, it’s like a stain that just can’t be easily washed away. It sets in. You experience this strong, dark emotion no matter how hard you try to distract yourself from it. You might, for instance, just feel at the mercy of another’s behavior. Or perhaps the incident that triggered the resentment gets replayed over and over again in your head. What may have begun as irritation over perceived unfair treatment festers and grows into extreme discomfort or even hostility. No fun at all.
Resentment, and the vast internal preoccupation it fuels, robs us of being able to be present. And present moments matter. So how does one get back into the present, into being able to embrace the moment at hand, flying free of resentment? How do you return to the fullness of who you are? For it is this fullness that gets lost in the grip of blame or resentment.
There are two key ways to clear resentment, and often they work hand-in-hand. First, one must realize that feeling resentment toward someone means you have given your power away. To reclaim your power, you must flip your energy back to yourself, rather than concentrating on something someone has done (or not done) to or for you. Stepping fully back into the driver’s seat is a key way one can banish displeasurable feelings of resentment and the quagmire of this icky predicament. You have this choice. You always have this choice! Harnessing your personal power is definitely the way to go.
Resentment washes away amazingly quickly when you can shift focus inward, back to yourself. Often you will discover that you have abandoned yourself while ruminating on an injustice at the hands of another. You may realize, for example, that you’ve stopped attending to your own needs, desires, or feeling-good states. By considering what you can do differently for yourself, you immediately redirect your energies. You empower yourself. You take control. This will feel much better than the out-of-control feelings of resenting someone.
Perhaps you have a friend who repeatedly fails to show up for you in ways you long for. Painful, yes. Concentrating on your resentment, however, only makes you feel worse. Your self-esteem dips. Flip your focus to recalling friends who treat you well, and your reality immediately feels brighter. Taking action and connecting with a true friend feels even better. So simple. Yet why do we often fail to do this? I think it has something to do with how easy it is to see negatives rather positives.
If we embrace a positive perspective or truth, we stay in our power and are much more able to reach a better state. Not to mention the insight we’ll then be better able to access from a vantage point of positivity, which will teach us how to move forward and take action. Much better than the helpless, paralyzed state resentment imprisons us in. Coming away clean from rolling in the deep muck is therefore about changing either how we are thinking or what we are doing—aspects of our functioning we can always control.
The second key to liberating yourself from resentments is to master the art of forgiveness. Forgiveness is an attribute of a person of strength. To consider that a person who has hurt you may have done so due to character shortcomings helps you let go of personalizing their behavior and feeling resentful. It is easier to let go of anger and disappointment if one can hold the perspective of appreciating another’s missteps or wrong-doings as character flaws—an unfortunate element of the human condition. Doing so sometimes makes forgiveness more likely.
Forgiveness, of course, doesn’t in any way have to mean acceptance of a problematic behavior or injustices. Rather, it’s an attitude offered that actually frees the person doing the forgiving from being imprisoned by their anger and upset. Forgiveness, be it a private, internal act of emotionally releasing another, or a directly communicated position, results in a return to personal power and a state of love. Bitterness fades away under the sway of an empathetic perspective.
So if you have by chance rolled in this kind of deep muck lately, do remember you always have a choice. Always. You can continue to rendezvous with the energy of resentment and feel bad, or allow yourself to release those emotions and thoughts and feel good. Embrace the realization that being in resentment means you have given your power away. Then allow yourself to take it back, and to stand in the grand goodness of who you are. This idea is really quite simple, yet at the same time, profoundly empowering.
Resentment is a call to action. You are being called back to yourself. To your power. Back to your own dreams, abilities, strengths and capacity for compassion. Compassion first for yourself and then others. So, why not roll yourself in that?
Maria Sylvester, MSW, CPC is a certified Life Coach in Ann Arbor, MI who loves empowering
adolescents, adults, and couples to live from the HEART of what really matters to them so that
they can bring their fully expressed, vibrant selves into the world. She has a special gift for helping
women reclaim their feminine power, and embrace their radiant, sensual, sexy spirits. Their lives
transform. They soar into their mid-life magnificence!