Anyone who has dealt with resentment knows what it does to the human psyche and overall health. It is an incredibly complex emotion that causes feelings of disappointment, anger, disgust, bitterness, and even fear. But all those feelings are natural, right? So why is it important to learn how to let go of resentment?
Psychologists believe that resentment can cause serious mental health issues, especially if it lingers over a long period of time. In such cases, it is typical that feelings of resentment gradually increase and become deeper and deeper. That, in turn, leads to irritability, unhappiness, and even excessive anxiety and depression.
What Causes Resentment?
Nearly everyone can harbor some level of resentment, and it’s usually caused by some sort of injustice or mistreatment.
It can be something momentary, such as gossip or a divorce, but it can also be something continuous, such as abuse, racism, bad relationships, or stressful work conditions.
Whatever the cause, feelings of resentment are often a result of an inadequate expression of emotions. A person may feel victimized but, at the same time, too angry or ashamed to discuss what happened. Instead, they keep piling up negative emotions, thus becoming more bitter and angry by the day.
Signs That You Are Resentful
Although resentment can take numerous forms, certain signs are typical for all cases.
The most frequent ones are:
• Recurring strong negative emotions when thinking about a specific experience
• Feeling weak, invisible, inadequate
• Inability to stop thinking about the experience that was the trigger of resentment
• Tense relationships
• Fear and avoidance of conflict
None of these issues are easy to overcome, and resentment starts taking a toll on you. There are quite a few negative, long-term effects of resentment that everyone needs to be aware of.
Consequences of Resentment
In most cases, resentment is a persistent emotion, and dealing with it isn’t exactly easy.
Some weaker negative results of resentment are edginess, touchiness, easy anger arousal, and denial. Another, more serious result is the development of a cynical, hostile attitude that radiates negativity and becomes a risk to other, healthy relationships. Other consequences include loss of self-confidence and trouble trusting people.
Unfortunately, resentment can have much worse effects if it continues over a long period of time, such as:
• Chronic muscle and back pain (due to constriction of nerve endings)
• Weakened immune system
• Hypertension (increases the risk of stroke and heart attack)
• Shortened life span
Resentment and Forgiveness
The biggest problem a resentful person can face is the inability to forgive. In order for them to move on and start feeling like themselves again, they have to learn how to let go of resentment.
An important aspect of overcoming resentment is learning how to forgive. A person needs to be able to acknowledge their own feelings and face them one at a time. As PsychologyToday reports, forgiving and letting go of resentment proved to benefit a person’s physical health.
Resentment is the strongest when it’s felt toward close people, be it a family member, a friend, or a partner. Nobody wants conflicts with their loved ones, so many people wrongly assume it’s easy to forgive a family member. However, it’s not in human nature to expect being hurt by someone so close. In that sense, this type of forgiveness may be the hardest one for people to reach.
How to Let Go of Resentment
There are many strategies to help you learn how to let go of resentment, but the best thing to do is to try and take it one step at a time. Learning how to forgive is a difficult and challenging process, so don’t be afraid to take your time.
There are 5 major steps:
1. Acknowledge the hurt
2. Identify your emotions
3. Find compassion for the person who hurt you
4. Make a commitment to forgive
5. Set boundaries
#1. Acknowledge the Hurt
The first step in learning how to let go of resentment is acknowledging that you’ve been hurt. Don’t be afraid, scared, or shy to tell yourself (and everyone else) how you feel.
You need to pinpoint the exact source of your hurt and analyze all the circumstances of the event. Don’t be afraid to dig deep — after all, your goal is to get to the root of the problem.
Some people tend to minimize the harm that has been done to them or make excuses for the person who hurt them, especially if it’s a romantic partner. It’s crucial that you break down this barrier.
#2. Identify Your Emotions
Don’t run away from your emotions, because you have every right to feel the way you do. It’s important to remember how the event made you feel. Then, you need to embrace the emotions you’ve been feeling since, and then express those emotions openly.
Identifying and expressing your emotions might even help the person who hurt you understand your pain better. What is it that you feel? Anger, sadness, grief, loneliness? Hate, disgust, depression? Make sure your emotions are clear to everyone involved.
#3. Find Compassion for the Person Who Hurt You
Most people looking to learn how to let go of resentment usually don’t expect this step. Nevertheless, it might be a crucial one.
Obviously, finding compassion for the person who hurt you and caused you pain is the hardest thing in the process. You need to put yourself in that person’s shoes and try to view the situation from a different angle. Their perspective might show the person’s emotions, motivation, and circumstances, and you need to try to empathize with that.
#4. Make a Commitment to Forgive
Resentment is an awful thing to live with, and you have every reason to want to get over it. But unless you actually want to forgive the person that hurt you, none of this will matter much.
So make a commitment to forgive, but also commit to being fair. Don’t use what the person has done to you as a weapon at a later time.
Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. If you ever have doubts about whether you actually forgave someone, you need to remind yourself of this commitment. Motivate yourself towards reaching true forgiveness.
#5. Set Boundaries
Now you know how to let go of resentment, but this final step will help prevent such negative events from happening again.
You should acknowledge what your weak points are, and then protect yourself from being hurt again. You need to set boundaries for the people who hurt you and make it clear that some things won’t fly with you anymore.
For example, if you are sensitive to insults, make it clear that you aren’t going to associate with them if they verbally attack you. Or, if you are sensitive to loud noises, screaming and yelling, make it clear that you will only speak to them if they speak in a normal, kind manner.
As you can see, figuring out how to let go of resentment isn’t easy, but actually doing it is even harder. These techniques can truly help you forgive and finally feel free of negativity.