By Melissa Skinner, M.A., LCPC
Anger is a normal human emotion, as normal as happiness, sadness and fear. Although a basic, usually healthy emotion, it can at times become pretty toxic, leading to a lot of relationship problems and draining our emotional energy, leaving us bitter and resentful. Resentment can prevent us from being happy, from being spiritually healthy and from moving forward in our lives. Learning how to work through anger and resentment is key to leading a happier and healthier life.
Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”. When we are carrying around resentment, no one else is hurting except for ourselves. Resentment is incredibly self-destructive and very counterproductive. When we feel angry or resentful it’s a sign that we’ve perceived some event as a threat to our own well being. We feel hurt, offended, afraid, violated or maybe just an overall sense of injustice. Most often we are blaming someone else for not meeting our needs in some way and when we continue to harbor these resentments, they eat away at our emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.
Ultimately it is forgiveness and compassion that help us to let go of resentment. When we embrace forgiveness, our resentment ceases to exist. How do we get to forgiveness though? Remember that forgiveness is not the same as “what you did to me or how you behaved is acceptable”. Instead forgiveness is more along the lines of, “I am ready to move on and to live a happier life now”. This understanding alone can help us move in the right direction. In addition, being willing to walk in someone else’s shoes and attempting to understand their experience of the world, will help us develop compassion and ultimately lead us to a place of forgiveness.
Here are a few tips that can help guide you along your way:
- Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and express them
- Acknowledge that you cannot change the past.
- Become aware of how your resentment may be triggered by people and events from the past
- Acknowledge that you cannot control other people
- Recognize that your resentment gives you only a false feeling of control
- Turn to your own personal source of spiritual guidance and faith
- Acknowledge your part in the problem and forgive yourself
- Put yourself in the other persons shoes
- Practice compassion
- Practice forgiveness