6 Rs to Work Through Resentment
Resentment is sneaky. It can soak into your bones and then slowly build up and up. Growing like mould with sharp teeth. Not only does it eat away at you, it is hell bent on making all dealings with your ex like walking over jagged sharp stones with no shoes on.
A dear teacher of mine, Kate Shela, talks about resentment being the by-product of anger that is not expressed. I think that it can be extended to the anger that is now expressed in a way that is not heard. If you think about the relationship with your ex, how much anger didn’t get expressed? How much did, but it didn’t really get heard? For most of us, we are carrying a fair bit of resentment post separation.
And it is a time bomb. So that anger you felt but didn’t express, as not to rock the boat, or it’s not the right time now, is still with you, pushed down, locked in. So that big thing about money for example that you were raging about but didn’t express, that you pushed down, told yourself it didn’t matter. It ferments and bubbles away inside then can sneak out the edges as rage over a coffee bill or a new pair of gumboots.
So to heal and to be able to create a new way forward with your co-parent you need to sort this out. I think it boils down to 6 Rs – Realise, Reality, Responsibility, Respond, Reflect and Release.
This is the part where you build an understanding of what is going on. Look at what happened, where this resentment is active in your life. Pondering these questions may help you realise what is at play here:
How do you feel about anger?
What are your experiences of both acting in anger and having anger directed at you?
What was the original trigger?
What didn’t you say?
What was stopping you from speaking?
What happened when you did express your anger?
How is the resentment affecting your life now?
What triggers it now?
What does it feel like in your body?
What is real? Resentment has the power to bend our perception to see things in a pretty dark way. Join dots that, maybe didn’t need to be joined. Conclusions that are dipped in the sea of resentment can be a little unhinged from reality.
“He didn’t call back” then “I saw him in the travel agent, how can he book something when he says he has no money” then “I had to buy the kids new school bags and he said he can’t pay his share” and so on. Things are spiralling out of control. Assumptions are joining together and truth can get a little lost in the mix.
Is it true?
What is happening in this moment?
Is your reaction about this moment or about a moment in the past?
How honest are you being with yourself?
The nature of anger and resentment is that it has an element of judgement. I am not saying that is good or bad (no judgement on the judgement).
Lines like this often accompany resentment:
“He makes me so mad!’
“It is all her fault that my life is ruined”
“It’s not fair, he doesn’t do as much as me”
All this may be true and justified. And you can keep going along those lines. Yet it does kinda set you up as the victim and makes it hard to move forward without making that other person the villain, a position that most are not willing to accept.
The alternative is to take full responsibility for your side of it.
“When he says that, I feel mad!”
“I am feeling upset about how my life is right now”
“I am perceiving that I am doing a lot and that he isn’t doing very much and I feel resentment about that.”
Take care not to turn this resentment inwards. When resentment is flying out by way of blaming others “Oh he is such a nasty person, it is his fault I have no money” and then we start to take responsibility for our part, the blame can turn against you “oh my gosh, I am so stupid and weak. I didn’t stand up for myself at all.”
Now you get to a place where you can see what is really at play here and how you have been part of it all. Now what? What do you do with all that? I see it as there are three parts to this – Reflect, Release and Respond. They don’t have any order, they can all happen together or one at a time.
So this big melting pot of both resentment, and now a whole heap of self-awareness and understanding is burning for you to respond, to move through it. And for many that is felt as a need to communicate it. It may not be with your ex. You may talk it through with a friend, a counsellor or a coach. Speaking it, being heard, being seen is huge in working through this.
Can you talk about it without blame? Blame to them, blame to you?
What do you want to say?
Reflecting is an art. Not only does it help your understanding but it also shows another that you are hearing them. And this is powerful. If you are talking this through with your ex, talking through this heavy feeling stuff, I would be guessing that they are going to have big feelings about it too. And a lot of reaction to your resentment. If you want to be heard, you will probably need to hear them too. This can be a hard bit, maybe even the part that you were afraid of that lead you to keeping everything in.
Listening is really important. The big challenge after hearing them is to reflect and not override them. (Little tip – try not to start any sentence with but). Try to hear their pain and their feeling and not the blame if they are throwing it at you. Reflecting can really help.
Them: “You make me so mad!” You: “So you are feeling mad?”
Them “It is all your fault that my life is ruined” You: “You are feeling like your life is ruined?”
Them “It’s not fair, you don’t do as much as me” You: “You are feeling like it isn’t fair and you want me to do more?”
You can give it a go. Having the mindset of trying, I mean really trying, to understand them can help this process.
What are they feeling?
What is their experience?
This is the part where you get to let go of parts of it. And I know, you can’t just tell yourself to let it go and it will be gone, it is deeper than thinking. It is where you can really understand, really accept.
What can you accept?
What can you let go of now that you have seen it in a new light?
What can you accept about them?
There are times when we all walk bare foot on jagged rocks. We all have a life lived with pain and regret. And resentment. Seeing it and working with it, gosh I really do believe that it has got to be better than sitting in it and poisoning your co-parenting relationship with it. Would love to hear how you go with the 6 Rs.
Image by NeveInMyMind under a creative commons license