One of the greatest causes of distress for most people is the replaying of past conflict, insult, avoidance, embarrassment, abandonment, or other hurts inflicted and transgressions committed by another. Note that I’m using the word replaying. If I were to total up the number of minutes that a typical client’s mind was engaged in thinking about these hurts and transgressions, it would be in the hundreds or, in extreme cases, even in the thousands. Actually, if it were merely thinking it would be a lot less harmful than the simmering emotion of resentment that usually accompanies the reliving of past negative experiences, and the meaning that the sufferer attaches to it.
An example: A spouse/partner (or a friend, business colleague, or anyone of any significance in one’s life ) criticizes you, forgets something of importance to you (a birthday or anniversary, for example ) or neglects you in favor of something or someone else. Of course you’ll feel at the least disappointment, or perhaps a much stronger feeling like rage. These feelings are “natural.” BUT the trick is to move past them, not allowing them to unduly rob you of the preciousness of peace of mind.
First, MAKE A DECISION that you want to let go of replaying the hurt. This seems obvious, but too infrequently do people realize that simply deciding to move on is the critical first step. The act of decision brings into focus the fact that you have some power over the emotional state you’re in. In fact, with a lot of practice, you can attain almost complete power over that state.
Once you’ve decided to let go, here are some tips on how to make the decision stick:
+ Look at what happened from a totally different perspective. That perspective could be the trangressor’s (“maybe he misunderstood me,” “maybe she had something urgent she needed to do,” “maybe he was in a bad mood,” “maybe she waas drunk”). Or it could be from a “looking glass” perspective, holding the mirror up to yourself and asking have you ever done something similar that caused emotional pain to another. In most cases an honest answer will be that you in fact have. To err is human.
+ Try to catch the resentment before it attains too much power over you. Resentment towards another often builds over time, but most definitely fluctuates. Allow yourself a brief “hissy fit” or “pity party” over the incident, and then decide to let it go. It will be easier to do so when the resentment is at an ebb. That’s the time to employ the shift in perspective outlined above.
+ Distracting yourself with another line of attention and thought will break the resentment buildup. As is the case with so many problematic states of mind, shift your focus to the present moment. That can take many forms: catching up with the doings of your friends on Facebook, listening to music or watching TV, taking a walk and noticing the many wonders of nature, meditating or praying……anything that will divert your cognitive emphasis on the hurt.
Resentment is a toxic emotion. It can often lead to an even more toxic one, the desire for revenge. Give yourself the gift of inner peace and leave resentment behind!