Resentment – a feeling of anger or displeasure about someone or something unfair (1).
As addicts and alcoholics, nothing can lead us down the road to drinking, using and other forms of self-medication, like a good old-fashioned resentment! You know, those pesky feelings that creep up, day in and day out, as we replay situations over and over again in our heads, until they no longer portray what actually happened. In result, we wind up either feel so pathetically sorry for ourselves or reduce ourselves to such a degree of anger, that we could spit (as my mom would say).
Big or small, these resentments feel so incredibly and utterly real – the boss that imposes an unreasonable deadline, the co-worker not pulling their weight, the bills that seem to never get fully paid, the kids leaving their toys everywhere, the friend that “unfriends” us on Facebook for no apparent reason, or the husband who lacks the ability to put the toilet seat down. Sometimes, the only fathomable possibility to alleviate these feelings of victimhood is to pick up that drink, drug, doughnut or your other favorite form of emotional suppressor to make those feelings go away – to push them down deep inside. The unfortunate snag with self-medicating problems and feelings is this: they always, and when I say always, I mean ALWAYS resurface.
Over the years, I’ve found two ways to deal with the resentment issue – one you can do after the resentment occurs and the second, you can use for what I call resentment prevention.
What to do if the resentment has you in its grips-
It’s best to nip these resentments in the bud ASAP because if we keep replaying them in our resentment machine, our broken record minds, soon whatever the proverbial “they” did, becomes extraordinarily huge and horrible and any kind of accountability we held for our wrongdoings vanishes into thin air.
Here’s the process I use to combat resentments and figure out what part I may have played in the situation:
- I am resentful at: Who or what made you mad or hurt your feelings?
- The cause: What did the person or institution do to cause me anger or hurt?
- This affects: What part of you is affected? For example: your self-esteem, security, ambitions or personal relationships.
- My part in the situation: Put whatever was “done” to you out of your mind and honestly take a look at the situation and determine what you might have done or not done to set the wheels in motion. This could be as simple as you staying in a bad relationship when the person kept hurting you over and over again, or letting something horrible that happened in your childhood affect your actions today, and keep you stuck in the past while not truly living in the present.
- My character defects coming to light: Determine if you had been selfish, self-centered, ungrateful and frightened. Now the action step – figure out what the opposite characteristic is and practice it! For example, when you are in the grips of fear, concentrate on having faith that everything will be OK. Faith is the opposite of fear.
This might look familiar as I touched on it in the post Tips for Coping with Disappointment. It’s a process I use for many issues that come up in my life and it works every single time I use it!
Resentment prevention – the best way to avoid the trap of these debilitating resentments is by either not having or lowering expectations of people, places and things.
Expectation – a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen. A feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc. someone or something will be (2).
Why does this work you might ask now? How could lowering or eliminating our expectations really lead to less resentments? Simply put, if we set the bar too high for people, places and things and they don’t achieve what we think they should, a resentment will usually crop up and bite us on the you-know-what.
An easy example – a fancy restaurant where we’ve decided to splurge on an expensive dinner. We can have high expectations because of the reviews online or a friend’s recommendation but if it doesn’t live up to the hype, instant resentment! We’ve spent our hard earned money on a suboptimal dinner and now we’re mad!
Another example – for those with grown children, maybe you expect the kids to call often and when they don’t, hurt feelings and resentments linger until that next call arrives.
So how do we avoid having unreasonable expectations of others? We practice! We remember that we have no control over people, places or things, nor do we want control. We practice accepting that things will always work out in the end. When one door shuts, an even better door usually opens up down the way. We leave expectations up to our personal higher power to deal with, and work on accepting that things are as they should be in the world.
Could expectations ever be legitimate? Why yes of course, for example, one would expect a husband or wife not to break their agreed upon marriage vows and have an affair. That’s a perfectly acceptable expectation because when a contract (marriage) exists, there is an expectation that both parties will follow through.
In short, the best way to avoid resentments is to both avoid expectations and practice acceptance on a daily basis and when the resentments crop up, get rid of them immediately!
Do you have a juicy, festering, infectious resentment? Are you someone who constantly finds themselves let down by what may be unreasonable expectations? What is it and how do you plan on tackling it? Try out my tips and let me know how they work for you!