Resentment Can Kill You or Make You Stronger

Resentment Can Kill You or Make You Stronger

Something changed when I started learning how to be present IN my body instead of just my mind when I was full of resentment. My thinking mind wanted to keep my focus out there on the other person’s behavior. But my body had something else in mind. It was beckoning me back home…

I grew up with alcoholism in my family. The active drinking stopped when I was 10-years-old.  But you know what? That didn’t stop the effects of alcoholism from influencing some of the ways that I learned to navigate life moving forward. And over the years I discovered that these ways didn’t always serve me well!

For example, let’s talk about resentment. Ooooh baby, was I good at becoming silent, but fuming with resentment!

I’ll bet some of you know what I’m talking about. Resentment can begin to consume your mind, right?  And the more you think about it, the more proof you find that you’re justified in feeling how you do.  It’s certainly harder to feel close to the person you’re resenting, which sometimes leads to wondering why you’re even in a relationship with them.

The more resentful you feel, the less you use your words to directly say what you’re feeling, let alone needing, right?  Instead, it comes out sideways. You sigh with frustration when you’re around the other person. You clench your jaw and look annoyed with the hopes they’ll respond in some way. Perhaps you cry, trying to get them to notice how you’re feeling. Maybe you blow up at them about some other small issue that has nothing to do with the original resentment.  You may slam the pots and pans into the cabinet a little too hard as you’re putting them away.

Do you notice how wordless AND powerless you feel throughout this? Yeah, I’ve noticed, too.   

In the first few years of my marriage, this resentful part of me showed up rather regularly.  You see, I was born with an innate feeling that I always needed to be busy doing, fixing, or solving things till I got everything just right. I was convinced that once I got it all perfect, I could finally relax. But when you hold this perspective, you NEVER stop finding more things that need to be done, fixed, or solved, which means the rest never comes!!

My wife, on the other hand, has a natural ability to rest when she’s tired or under the weather. She even rests simply to rest!  When I first encountered this alien behavior of hers, I was so confused by it!

And then I started to resent it. Why could she take time out to rest when I was still working so hard on things? And before I knew it, I’d find even more to work on, which only further fuelled my resentment. 

I know NOW that her ability to rest is a true gift and her once alien behavior now inspires me. But I sure didn’t see it that way in our early days together! 

But here’s the thing. Something changed when I started learning how to be present IN my body instead of just my mind when I was feeling resentful. My thinking mind wanted to keep my focus out there on my wife and her behavior. But my body had something else to say. It was asking me to slow down and take a break. It was beckoning me back home.

Coming back into my body WHILE feeling resentful allowed me to see parts of the equation that I’d never noticed before: no one was forcing me to keep working so hard without a break! No one except for ME!

I learned that I could use my words to directly tell my wife that I was feeling resentful. It didn’t mean she had to fix it.  I even started saying, “Honey, I’m feeling so resentful right now.  I want to blame you, but I know I need time to sit with it so I can figure out what I’m needing. I don’t need you to fix it. I just want you to know why I’m acting this way and that I’m working on figuring it out.”

The strangest thing happened when I started doing this.  It made me feel less victimy (an Emily word you’re welcome to borrow:-). It made me curious to understand what I was needing. It made me understand that I could give myself what I needed in a way that I believed only my wife could give me when I was swimming in the resentment.  

Directly using my words, even to express my resentment, softened the very experience of it! Isn’t that wild? 

I bet you’ll never guess why this topic has been on my mind a lot lately! Everywhere we go right now, people are in masks because of COVID. And you know what I notice? Unless we use words while we’re masked up, it’s pretty darn hard to guess what someone is feeling let alone whether they’re smiling, scowling, friendly, etc.  The phrase, “Use your words!” repeatedly pops into my mind while I’m gallivanting around in my mask. Instead of this phrase being reserved for my 5-year-old daughter, it’s now apropos for COVIDtime, too!

THIS is what has the topic of resentment on my mind lately.  When we’re swimming in resentment, that’s another wordless and uncomfortable time, just like when we’re masked during COVIDtime.

I work with so many clients whose lives have been affected by alcoholism, addiction, or dysfunction. And resentment is a common experience they regularly navigate. I have other clients whose lives have never been touched by addiction, yet resentment can come to own them, too! It’s a human experience. What I repeatedly notice is that resentment presents with masked expressions and no words. Yup, just like our current COVID experience!

A different experience becomes possible when we invite words into the mix, whether it’s about our resentments or in our COVIDtime interactions. When we also take a little time to settle into our bodies and become present enough to notice what we’re needing, the chance of making room for those needs to be met goes up exponentially. Why?  Because contrary to what our thinking brains often try to convince us, WE are often the ones who have the power to give ourselves what we’ve been needing all along.

If you’re intimately familiar with this dance of resentment yourself, but it currently feels like it owns you, I want you to know that there’s a way out! It’s not a magic pill that gets you there but incorporating simple tools can change your experience with it entirely. Click the chat button if you’re ready to learn how!      

So here’s to another unexpected COVID gift as we’re invited to slow down, become more present in our bodies and lives, and use our words to create human connection that allows needs to be met with more ease and less stress. ❤️

P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, friend me on Facebook (Emily Colwell) or follow me on Instagram (dr.emily_colwell).  I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!

Warmly,

Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND

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