Resentment is anger that got stuck.
The purpose of anger is to make something change, to protect a boundary, or to bring something into alignment quickly.
Long-term resentment in relationships happens when anger didn’t get expressed or, for one reason or another, did not bring the desired result.
Moving through resentment means revisiting the anger that got stuck. Is it current? Does it want or need something now? Is there a change that still needs to happen? Is there a boundary that still needs protecting?
If there is change that still needs to happen, attend to it. If there is a boundary being breached, protect it.
If your resentment is old news, if it has no current needs, then it might be time to grieve whatever was lost. That’s an important part of moving past resentment; grieving. This is the part that so often gets missed, and one of the reasons that resentment persists.
If your old anger was ineffective at protecting your boundaries or making a needed change, you probably ended up losing something. Maybe it was a feeling of safety that was lost. Maybe it was dignity. Or feeling understood. Or maybe you lost a relationship, or an aspect of a relationship. Maybe you lost a part of yourself. Maybe you don’t even know exactly what was lost.
To recap, resentment lingers for two main reasons –
- The change or protection functions of anger did not accomplish their desired result.
- Consciously or unconsciously, we would rather remain angry at what remains undone than grieve what was lost.
This presents us with two possible paths –
- Attend to whatever your anger asked and is continuing to ask of you. Deal with what is current.
Grieving is hard for many people, for so many reasons. It can also be completely unknown, a mystery. You might need to learn how to grieve. Consider this possibility, and in the meantime I’ll work on putting together a basic grief “practice” that you can try.
[Update – You can read the follow-up here.]
All my best,
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