Some resentments appear to be justified or it’s the holding onto them that causes the trouble.
In any group of people, when the question is asked, “Do you have any resentments?” most will hold up their hands. Like anger, it is there. Feeding it is detrimental to one’s overall health and wellbeing.
In her book, Each Day a New Beginning, which is the first daily affirmations book for women, Karen Casey writes, “IF YOU HOLD RESENTMENT TO A PERSON YOU ARE BOUND TO THAT PERSON WITH BANDS OF STEEL.” Go on, read it again. It is the truth.
In most cases the person to whom the resentment is targeted doesn’t give the person holding resentment the time of day. It is rare they spend any time worrying about whether the resentment is toward them, or even thinks about it. It is the person who holds the resentment who suffers, who becomes drained of any positive actions and instead almost drowns in that poisoned venom. Resentments are acetic medically. They can cause not only emotional stress but physical too. It is a well known fact that stress is the number one killer in the world. So why keep it.
When I was first divorced I had many resentments. He had a lot of money, three cars and had mine repossessed – on and on and on. I suppose that lasted for about a year and then when I read the Karen Casey statement, I wrote it on a large sheet of paper and posted it on my bedroom wall. I usually sleep on my left side so there it was – the first thing I saw when I awoke.
Within a few months, the resentments disappeared as I decided to take control of my life and look to the possibilities. In addition to working full time and raising my children, I went back to University to get my education. My credits were not recognised when I went to the States, so I had to start all over again with my Bachelor’s.
This isn’t a sermon on how to combat resentments. It is merely a statement of fact that when a person is at a low ebb and doesn’t want to stay there, they consider what it best for them, so in turn it can benefit those they love. Yourself first, as you can’t give what you don’t have. That applies to love, respect, acceptance and so on. Once I dealt with the resentments, I was free to grow up, develop independence and come to terms with being entirely responsible for what I did with my life. I kept that paper on the wall for two years.
During this time, many changes occurred in my life – good ones. I decided where my energy was to be directed – family, work, studies and NO DATING. Not for eight years. I concentrated on what worked for me and wanted no diversions. Best decision I ever made. I began using this resentment aspect of life with my patients who really struggled with it as much as they did with anger. The challenge they had with anger, in addition to resentments, was that so many people told them they SHOULDN’T be angry. Why not?
Anger is an emotion like any other and needs to be examined and then released. It is a cleansing and when is it projected as such, cleans! Holding onto it is unhealthy. Learning to utilise it to one’s benefit is growing up. One of the major reasons people are incarcerated is they don’t know how to direct their anger, and disappointment in life so that anger, if left to ferment, becomes rage and if that isn’t recognised, it becomes violence.
That’s how we have it – ANGER > RAGE > VIOLENCE. Of course, the basis for all of this is, guess what. RESENTMENTS. Yes, we are back to that again.
Both personally and professionally resentments have been on my mind for quite a time and then as recently as yesterday I came up with another word. Regrets.
I pondered on this for some time and then understood the difference between resentment and regret. Simply put, resentments are toward someone else. Regrets are subjective. It means:
- what steps were not taken that would have eased the situation?
- why were they not taken and what was my part in all this mess?
Regrets can be helped when understood even though they might be something one wishes they had done and never did. They are personal, which is very positive. According to one of my inspirational personalities, Dr. Viktor Frankl, in his remarkable book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “PEOPLE MAKE CONSCIOUS DECISIONS ON THE WAY THEY FEEL.” At the time I read the book in the late sixties, when it had been written in the 1940s, I thought, that‘s nice. It just doesn’t apply to me and my challenges. Then I realised he wrote those words in a concentration camp, the fourth he had been sent to whilst his mother, father, brother and pregnant wife were sent to others where they perished.
How could a person write about making conscious decisions when they were in an environment where they had no control over anything? The next chapter answered that. He wrote, “They can do anything to my body, but they cannot touch my thoughts.” In Auschwitz. That book became my bible. It is still in the top ten of all time. I carry it in my briefcase and it is falling apart. I am never without it. I have two other copies, one of which is autographed by him.
He also taught me to use my imagination when in pain. No, it isn’t escapism; it’s imagination. For example, when I was having my arm tattooed, my mind took me to a cottage in Ireland and I felt nothing, or very little. Same thing at the dentist! As they say, your mind is a terrible thing to waste.
One story he told was when he was laying railroad lines in the concentration camp. It was freezing cold; his feet were frostbitten because his shoes were broken. He had no gloves. At one time he was feeling very sad when a little bird flew down and perched on the line he was setting. It looked right into his eyes with its own bright brown ones and Viktor knew it was the soul of his wife. That sustained him for a while until it happened again. In our culture we would hear – well, how do you know? It doesn’t matter. It’s the relief at the time that matters.
We think and analyse too much. In fact we overdo it because we want proof. A bereaved mother would say, “I saw my son in the Mall today.” If so, then he was there. These things don’t require an explanation and in fact, I teach a lot of women how not to explain. Why investigate something that brings momentary pleasure. So try this. The rubber band therapy.
I use it all the time. It is an old concept and it works. If you are caught up in a negative habit, like being wrongly influenced by a person or situation, snap that band every time you think about it. It is miraculous. I’ve been doing it for years. I tell my recovering community when they think of picking up, snap the band. I know, for our intellectual brilliance, nothing that simple could make a difference. Try it.
The rubber band therapy is essential for those dealing with resentments. It’s a way of reminding that person they are giving their power over to someone else, as that is what resentments are. You are empowering those who you want to punish in order to stop the pain. It won’t. It will continue to punish you, taking away your freedom to laugh, be happy, make healthy choices – you know the list. A rubber band. If you don’t have one, go the salad bar in any supermarket – they have tons of them! Normally they are green which is even better. Make sure you get one, or better still get two, one for each wrist, that fit. Don’t strangle your blood flow! I was in a group tonight and a young man in early recovery with one hell of a history of relapse, overdoses etc., now has one on each wrist. It helps him deal with the evil twin.
More about regrets.
They are real. I have quite a lot of them. They are far gentler than resentments in this way. Those who have them are responsible for them. There is no interference from anyone else. The beauty of it is that upon recognizing them and accepting them, one comprehends that possibly nothing can be done about that particular regret. What it does do is to open possibilities of doing other things that dwelling on them would never allow. It is freedom. Not holding onto regrets that are impossible to fulfill provides opportunities to discover other interests that are pleasurable.
People who have resentments are victims. They don’t like that description – that is what they are. A victim to their own possible codependency or low self esteem. When working with resentments, the first that has to be done is to work on self worth. Victims don’t have any. When I was a ‘victim’ many many years ago, I was astonished when in recovery how much time and energy I had wasted when I could have been doing something positive to fulfill my life in the way I wanted it to be. It is so refreshing.
Sadly I still see people wearing masks. Painful. They are filled with angst yet seem to be searching for something that is out of reach…………..for the moment. It is where one puts one’s energy that counts. True, there are people who are addicted to misery. Step away.
If none of this works, then we have to take extreme measures. I was working with a group of women recovering or dealing with the plague………cancer. They either had it or someone they loved had died from it. When I walked into the room, I looked at the women and decided it was playtime. I carry a bag of tricks including Angel Cards, Rune Stones and some other fun things. Once we all settled down, I pulled out one of my favourite books – Words of Wisdom for Women, by Rachel Snyder. I love it. I ask them to open the book randomly.
There are two pages with different headings and I tell them to pick one and read it out loud. It astonishes me how it is usually right on target. When it hits them, they laugh and agree the reading was something they needed at that moment. Once we had accomplished that, I asked if anything had really hit home and one of the women said she was having a hard time with forgiveness.
Caring or Controlling
Of course, I changed hard to challenging – it makes all the difference which words one is feeding into one’s soul. She and another woman were both having challenges with people in their life and one in particular, with her sister. To cut to the chase, the main interference was that when these women were diagnosed with cancer, the annoying ones thought they would take over. Now there is caring and there is controlling. The first is acceptable and the second is not. These were highly intelligent women, so courageous in my opinion and they found this behaviour arrogant and infiltrating into their recovery. Really – the last person anyone who is undergoing treatment wants is an interfering busybody. Yes, I know – they mean well. If they meant that well they would acknowledge their helplessness and just give love. In other words, cotton out of ears and put in mouth! An old AA adage and very true.
I know when people are afraid they tend to go over the top in ‘caring’. This is my suggestion. Ask those you love what they want. There are times they don’t know so patience is crucial. John had three cancers. After awhile, he refused anymore treatment. His choice, his decision and above all, his body. I understand that it is heartbreaking to let this happen as of course, second, third, fourth, nineteenth opinions were available. He didn’t want any of them. Don’t you think I wanted him to stay? That’s another story.
I realised these wonderful women were waiting for some kind of direction and from out of the blue, something I had used over thirty years ago suddenly leapt into my mind and out of my mouth, without hesitation (which isn’t unusual for the foot in mouth personality I have). I said……….shrink them. They looked at me in astonishment. Shrink them????? Of course, I said. You look at them and get the fact that you can’t stop them without a lot of time commitment so, you shrink them. Still querying. Look at these people who are aggravating you beyond words and make them very, very little. Then pop them in your pocket or handbag. Whilst they are shrinking, their voices get tinier and tinier until they are barely a squeak.
I was asked, suppose I don’t want them in my pocket, there are too many of them. Put them on the floor and step on them. If you don’t want to do that, get a broom.
By this time, they had lost it. One of them got up and started stamping around the room. Absolutely glorious. It’s all metaphorical – it works. They left laughing and when the irritators start their crap, all you can hear are tiny little voices and tiny running feet. I believe in the power of speech. With such stress reduction life gets a little easier. If I were to tell you what came out of their mouths after this, even Kim, as much as she loves me, would have to edit it!