You are seething… and for good reason. You were unfairly fired from your job. Your spouse ran off with someone else. Or maybe you were accused of something you didn’t do. Your anger is clearly eating you up inside, but if anyone suggests that you let it go, forgive, or move on, you are offended. You can’t imagine letting go of your resentment about the great injustice done to you.
While your feelings are understandable, clinging to them is not helpful. Resentment is by definition focused on the past; and the past is not something you can change. So, this bitter indignation keeps you in an angry, offensive position that often prevents you from taking in any of life’s feel-goods, such as enjoying close connections with others. Though you may put it aside at times, you may also generally remain stuck in this painful feeling.
Letting go of resentment takes a commitment to letting go of the past. This means learning to accept that you were a victim of unfairness or injustice. You don’t have to think it is acceptable, but you do need to stop fighting against the fact that it happened. You can do this by addressing issues with the other person and by focusing on your inner struggles.
When you resent the actions of a person currently in your life, it is essential that you find a way to address it within the relationship. This might mean talking with the person about how they have harmed you. Be sure to talk at a calm time. Also, address your feelings without attacking the other person (my post on how to address difficult topics might help). Sometimes people find it easier to write down their feelings and then follow up with a conversation. Keep in mind that as you examine your relationship with the offending person, you may find that you will be better off reducing or removing them from your life.
Think about what you need to do now to soothe yourself and heal. For instance, connect with people who are positive influences. They can fill different roles for you, such as being a caring support, being fun to spend time with, or providing guidance as a mentor. Also, engage in activities you enjoy, perhaps doing them with like-minded people, such as by joining a hiking or book club. As you turn your focus to nurturing positives in your life, it can be particularly helpful to maintain a healthy lifestyle by staying active, eating healthy, and getting sufficient sleep.
While distraction can provide some relief from resentment, the painful and angry feelings will continue. They might chronically undermine your happiness or repeatedly and angrily intrude in your life at unexpected times. So, it is most helpful to find peace within yourself through forgiveness – a choice to let go of the resentment in favor of healing (to learn more about this, see my three-minute video on the topic).
Resentment includes hostile thinking that is self-perpetuating, so to stop it, you need to relate differently to what has happened. With acceptance, addressing the resentment in your relationship, and choosing to focus on positives in your life, you can let go of resentment and be happier.