I never thought about resentments before addiction came into my life. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have painful feelings about a variety of family issues over the years. But resentment, as the driving motivation for emotional nuclear war, was not on my radar.
Now, like all families on the recovery journey I understand how resentments can become the major catalyst for a broken heart. Why is dealing with resentments so important in recovery? Because addiction makes everybody really mad. Nobody is immune to the passions of feeling wronged by something or somebody. And often it’s the people we love the most who make us the maddest. And often they are the ones we believe have hurt us the most. Who did what to whom? Maybe everyone did. It’s almost impossible to tease out the truth when resentments take over.
The rallying cries of resentment are statements like:
- How could you do that to me?
- How could you hurt me so?
- How could you talk to me that way?
- How could you be so insensitive to (fill in the blank)?
- If you loved me you’d stop (whatever behavior I don’t like).
- If you really loved me, you’d be a whole lot nicer in absolutely every way.
Components of resentment include anger, bitterness, dislike, hatred, antipathy, offense, umbrage and bile. It’s excruciating to obsess about all the ways someone has done you wrong, and just as painful when resentments come at you like knives in a magic show. But real resentment knives leave real wounds. Harboring resentments is one of the worst poisons on earth. It can literally kill you and the ones you love.
“Nothing on earth consumes a man more completely than the passion of resentment.” Nietzsche
Giving up your resentments is the ultimate cure for family relations. It would be ideal to be able to say to someone you love: You hurt me, but I forgive you. Or I hurt you, and I’m really sorry. And have those apologies stick so that you can move on. But that can’t always happen. Resentment can be a hydra headed syndrome that rears its ugly head over and over, creating havoc each time it surfaces.
Part of the human condition is that people hurt each other, whether they intend to or not. Hurt happens. A lot. But healthy living is being resilient about the barbs of life and moving on. You can control what you do when hurt happens. Here are some things we’ve heard work when negative emotions get out of hand. Remember if you’re in danger, get help right away. And the only changes you can make are in yourself.
What To Do About Resentment
1. Create A Safe Place For Yourself
If you’re super mad or someone is super mad at you. Take a serious break. Separate from whoever or whatever is bugging you. Literally, get away if you can. Make a no fly zone where the dance of hate can’t go. Stop the phone calls, angry texts, or whatever bombs are coming in.
2. Be Grateful
The very best antidote for resentment is the continual practice of gratitude. When somebody is giving you trouble, see the incident in relation to the rest of your life, especially the part that is good and for which you could be grateful.
3. Break The Hamster Wheel Habit
It can be very hard to stop reliving every detail of perceived wrongs and the misery that goes along with it. But you can choose not to clutter your thoughts with resentments that can definitely become a habit, even your primary way of thinking about the world. Remember the hamster wheel of obsessing absolutely never does any good, and is likely to bring a lot of harm in the end.
4. Stop Taking Offense
It’s only by taking offense that you can be afflicted with resentments. Only you can decide not to be made uneasy by what others do, whether they intend to hurt you or not.
5. Be The Decider of Your Own Fate
No one ever wants to say goodbye. But if you have been permanently pegged as the scapegoat, and offending agent, in a relationship. If the pileup of resentments against you gets too painful to bear, leaving may be the only path to your emotional safety. But don’t leave without first trying Author Julian Germain’s advice, “I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.”
Another axiom we like is: If you are brave enough to say goodbye to a behavior that isn’t working anymore, life will reward you with a new hello.