Resentment plagues many people, coming between them and their ability to be in the moment, not to mention often depriving them of a good night’s sleep. Worse, a resentment, if you focus on it continuously, can go on for years, even decades.
I was interested to see, many years ago, that in gestalt therapy resentment is seen as a demand that the other person should feel guilty. And resentment, I think, is worse when you suspect that the other person does not feel guilty. Indeed that might be the very thing that keeps resentment going,.
One very beneficial aspect of mindfulness, when you return again and again to the reality of the present moment outside your head, is that it leaves little room for resentment. Often, making that switch from the drama inside your head to whatever you’re physically doing, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, is the best way to deal with certain resentments.
The alternative, arguing about the original offence all over again in your mind, as if doing so can get you somewhere will, as we all know from all experience, get us nowhere except deeper into pain, sadness or anger.
And if there is something we can do about whatever we resent, something that will leave us better off than before with did it, then resentment can distract us from making plan to deal with it. Indeed, I think resentment is often a substitute for taking reasonable action.
If I resent the fact that you walked past me in the corridor on Friday afternoon without acknowledging my presence, I could spend a huge amount of time during the weekend going through scenarios in my mind in which I confront you about it. But when I get to work on Monday morning I may actually nothing at all. If, instead of going through all these resentment scenarios I could have sat down and made a plan to ask you on Monday morning why you ignored me on Friday afternoon, maybe even if I wrote down what exactly to say as a reminder to myself, I could go through my weekend without having to think continuously about something which may not of been meant offensively at all.
Sometimes resentment is towards an institution you will never be able to reach and in such a case I think it is very important for our peace of mind to be able to return to the present moment to stop us from spending years thinking about what the institution, a bank perhaps, did. In other cases it is possible to do something about it and again I think it is far more beneficial to figure out what that might be and whether it will serve you well rather than stewing in anger and rumination.
Very often, the real enemy is not the person who offended us but the resentment itself with all the emotional pain it entails. So you need to ‘know your enemy’ in other words know that most of your pain may be coming from thinking about a past event rather than the event itself.
Apart from mindfully returning to the moment, you can also combat resentment whenever it comes into your mind in this way: Take a moment to picture yourself and say silently the words be happy, be safe, be well.
That’s far more healthy than thinking on and on about your enemy.
Mindfulness makes it easier to spot resentment and to step out of it into a healthier place and you can learn more about all aspects of mindfulness in my 15 lesson online course Easy Mindfulness (pay by donation, so it’s affordable to all). Find out more here.
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