I think most of us have felt the sting of resentment. In fact, I would venture to say every human being who has ever, is now, or will ever live will agree, we all have. However, when you are dealing with the horrific truths that come after diagnosis when you realize what happened to cause you to have dissociative identity disorder, the resentment is devastating.
Resentment can be more devastating than the trauma that caused it.
That’s why I thought feeling resentful would be a great topic. I mentioned it recently in a brief video I posted on YouTube, but I didn’t get into the meat of the discussion like I am tonight.
Anger, Resentment, What’s the Difference?
The twelve-step group, Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying, “Anger is normal; resentment is a killer. I must agree, that is the fundamental difference between the two emotions.
On the website, Powerfully Recovered, a site promoting the realities of living without the limiting beliefs that addicts face, they give the following explanation. “Anger is defined as ‘a strong feeling of displeasure and, usually, of antagonism where resentment, on the other hand, is ‘persistent ill will’”
In other words, anger is something that happens when we are slighted, treated rudely, or wronged. We have an outburst of anger, we may yell, or even throw things, but it has a limited lifetime and when it’s over, it’s over.
Resentment, on the other hand, does not dissipate and end. It turns inside you and is like a haunting or better yet, a possession. It seethes beneath the surface and boils over again many times driving the people you feel resentful towards away and making you look like an asshole.
Worse yet, resentment has the power to cause us to not thrive in our lives. It holds us back and feeds us the lie that because what happened to us as children weren’t our fault, we can feel resentful all we want and never face the consequences.
Fantasies of Revenge
We’ve all had yelling arguments with a friend or loved one and afterward continued the argument in our minds saying all the things you wish you had said. However, what happens when that seemingly harmless exercise gets out of hand.
I faced the consequences of holding deep resentment toward my abusers over two decades ago. I had lost my therapist, the only one who has ever helped me and was struggling to stay sane. I began to allow the deep resentments I held toward those who harmed me, and those fantasies began to overcome my sense of reason.
I even had a plan to do great harm by stealing a weapon and visiting them all while they slept. One night, I was determined to follow through and make my fantasy reality but was, thankfully, stopped by my having a breakdown that landed me in the state hospital for a few months.
Normally, I’m a quiet, jolly, loving, and caring human being so for me to plan the deaths of so many people and then my own was far beyond the pale.
Now, I’m not saying resentment will drive you that far when it comes to others, but what about what it does to you inside. Can fantasizing about revenge of any kind truly help you?
I have come to firmly believe that many of the physical problems adults who were so badly injured in childhood as to become a multiple are caused by unrequited resentment towards those who harmed them.
You might be thinking, “I have a right to feel resentful, look what they did!”
More later on that subject.
The Menace Behind the Emotion
I learned from the website I mentioned above (you should go check it out), that the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says on page 64 makes two amazing discoveries;
“A resentment is always about what someone or something has done to us” and “a resentment keeps us feeling like a victim.”
Let us tackle the first sentence first.
“A Resentment is Always About What Someone or Something Has Done to Us.” There can be no doubt but that you were NOT responsible for what happened to you so many years ago. But what about now? Does a childhood full of horrific events make you so special that you carry the thought of “I was not responsible” into the present with “I am not responsible?”
No, hell, no, you were in no way responsible for what happened to you, but the ball is in your court now. You can either learn to take responsibility for your own actions or never have any power to become who you wish to be.
“A Resentment Keeps Us Feeling Like a Victim. “You want some real power to change the course of your life? Give up the victim actions, beliefs, and behaviors. There is a time and a place to feel sorry for yourself because after all your childhood sucked, but YOU MUST CHOOSE to give it up or remain that helpless person forever.
There is no glory in being a lifelong victim. I know this. I have felt that way too. Fortunately, I had a therapist who refused to leave me there and worked her butt off to help me realize what I am telling you now. Life is MORE, MUCH MORE, than being a victim.
There is true power in taking responsibility for who you are today and taking the reigns and forcing your way through life. There it also no sin or loss to be just like everyone else. It is okay to not be a victim, and it is okay not to be special. Being like everyone else and choosing to not be a victim any longer, now that is POWER!
The Benefits of Letting Go
While it may seem easier to hold a grudge and be resentful, it isn’t. It takes enormously more energy to be resentful than to forgive.
Oh my, there’s the other “F” word, forgive. Honestly, saying this “F” word can get you in a hell of a lot hotter water than F__K.
Letting go of resentment isn’t an easy thing to do, but forgiveness must be part of that process. I’m not talking about going to you ex-abusers home weeping and forgiving them in some dramatic way. That would not be wise as it would set you up for, well, circumstances that may take longer to overcome than resentment.
It’s true, you owe those bastards nothing, especially your forgiveness.
However, if you give up your resentment you will reap enormous rewards of which these are only a small sampling:
- Peace of mind
- Healthier relationships
- Lower blood pressure
- Freedom to heal
- Improved self-esteem
- An enormous sense of accomplishment
- Less depression
- Less anxiety
“Crap,” you might think, “I can get that from forgiving someone?”
However, you will need to make this decision in your own time. No one can rush you into it, and you cannot rush you into it either. Forgiveness isn’t something you do one time and forget it either, you will find you must do it over and again.
How Do You Forgive Someone Who is Unreachable or Dead?
Forgiveness is a process, not something you can follow “ten simple steps” and accomplish. It is also one of the hardest decisions you will ever need to make. My mother adamantly denied ever harming me and claimed she was a “great mother” even to my therapist’s face. Perhaps in her mind, she had been, I don’t know. Even had she not been an abuser herself, she did not protect me preferring to ignore my pain instead of stopping it.
After the free-for-all in my therapist’s office where I had hoped to open a dialogue with her about our past together, I refused to approach her again. However, I have since learned from my brother that she did feel some sense of responsibility but would never admit it to me. Now she is dead, and the time for allowing my resentments to pour out of me into her ears is long gone.
Sometimes the culprits who hurt you were dead long before you discovered just how deeply they had harmed you.
So, what are we to do when we feel resentful but cannot vent it?
First, let me say that the resentment I harbor toward my mother is still not completely resolved, and I believe it never will be. However, I have come a long way since those early days in the 1990s when I would have given anything to tell her off and have her admit her wrongs towards me.
One thing I have come to understand is that I need to allow myself to feel the resentment and say it aloud to myself, but I limit the time I do so. I may set aside a quiet Saturday to feel and express my resentments to allow them to vent. At the end of the day, I forgive those who hurt me by remembering they were only human too. Yes, they did horrific things, but something had to be very wrong in their minds to want to harm something as small and innocent as a one, two or even three-year-old child.
Once I have the giant monsters from my past shrunk to life-size, it becomes easier to realize they made some horrific wrong turns and I was paying the price for them. But, haven’t I done things to harm others? Does being treated badly as a kid give me the right to behave badly towards others or myself? Doesn’t that make me just as bad as they?
Have A Ceremony
Having some ceremony to allow you resentment to pass is one way to overcome resentment. I once burned a giant dildo in a grill in my yard as a ceremony. Don’t laugh, it felt great to burn something that had hurt me. I couldn’t get forgiveness for the monster from my past without burning the thing I most associated with him. That was the first time I ever dealt with my resentment, and it took the pressure off for a while and allowed more healing to happen before it returned.
By the way, I’ve never admitted to anyone what I did that warm summer evening in the early 1990s, but I trust you.
You can do anything you wish in your ceremony as long as you do no harm to yourself or others. You can hold your ceremony alone or allow someone to do it with you. I heard one person say they took a picture of their abuser, blew it up, paste it to a dartboard and he with his friend threw darts and yelled insults at him.
Hey, in a child’s world, you would be justified to do it to the real person instead of dildo’s and dart boards. But that would make you as bad as them and I know you do not want to do that.
Some Closing Thoughts
Life is too short and the world too big to spend your life bogged down by resentment and living as a forever victim. Once I began to understand this deep down where it counts, I began walking away from my thoughts of revenge toward the light of freedom.
If you want to see your life change, if you want to see the power in your life, if you want a life you can be proud of, then continue to let that resentment go. If you don’t, you will miss out on the pleasure of being free like a caterpillar who has overcome its animosity and spread its wings to fly.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
~ Carrie Fisher
“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.” ~ Shannon Alder
“Holding a grudge & harboring anger/resentment is poison to the soul. Get even with people…but not those who have hurt us, forget them, instead get even with those who have helped us.” ~ Steve Maraboli
“Living well is the best revenge.” ~ George Herbert