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Last Updated on December 17, 2019

How to Let Go of Resentment and Anger

How to Let Go of Resentment and Anger

Ask yourself honestly, “When was the last time I truly felt overwhelmed with happiness, freedom, and gratitude?”

If you can’t remember, then you may be holding on to resentments.

When it comes to dealing with other people, many of us find ourselves helplessly oscillating between anger and fear. We constantly try to find quick fixes to soothe moments of blind rage and alleviate anxious thoughts. However, these “solutions” are usually nothing more than temporary fixes, which allow us to white knuckle it through one more day. Meanwhile, the root of the problem continues to fester and get worse until we can’t even bear to look at it anymore.

But what if you found out that there is a permanent, lasting way to feel less angry and fearful and finally regain control of your emotions?

It’s called letting go of resentment.

Here’s how it works: resentment, anger, and fear are all connected. We become trapped in a self-obsessed cycle of being afraid of the future, angry in the present, and filled with resentment over our past. The antidote to fear is faith, the remedy for anger is love, and the solution to resentment is acceptance.

If you’re part of a 12-step program,[1] this may sound familiar, but it can be applied to anyone’s life.

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But first, let’s try to understand what resentment is.

What is Resentment?

The best description of resentment I have ever heard came from listening to Dr. Drew from Loveline:

“Resentments are like swallowing poison and expecting the other people to die.”

He was not the first person to say this, but it’s still an incredibly effective way to understand resentment.

In psychology, resentment is when a person has ongoing upset feelings towards another person or place because of a real or imagined injustice.

One of the reasons resentments are so hard to get rid of is because there is so much bad advice floating around out there on how to deal with them. Exasperated friends may tell you to “Just get over it already.” Therapists might tell us to “let it go.” Other people may say “forget about it” or the even more unhelpful, “the past is the past.”

Excuse me, what does any of that generic advice even mean?

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I can tell you for sure that you shouldn’t do the following with resentments:

  • Ignore them
  • Fight through them
  • “Lock them in a closet”
  • Pretend you don’t feel them
  • Try and forget them

Instead, you should do these things:

  • Face them
  • Feel them
  • Deal with them
  • Heal from them

“Fake it till you make it” doesn’t work when it comes to deep-seated feelings we have about certain people or situations. But dealing with them is certainly easier said than done.

How to Accept What Happened in the Past

Before you begin to overcome resentments, you should know the following things:

  • It’s a process.
  • It may get worse before it gets better.
  • It requires a great deal of willingness and an open mind.

Resentments are negative feelings that you may have been carrying around for years. During this time, they may have done significant damage to your ability to interact with the world.

I know it sounds dramatic, but these are often big, deep-seated issues. Don’t expect to be able to say a chant and—poof! They’re gone. You should know that you are embarking on a long and probably painful journey, but the destination is completely worth it.

4 Steps to Let Go of Resentment

Okay, here it goes the 4 steps to let go of resentment:

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Step 1: Make a list of all the people you have resentments towards

If you do this honestly, then the list should be pretty long.

Include ANYTHING that gives you an automatic negative feeling. You can also include places and institutions (a school you attended, an airport you had a bad experience in) nothing is too trivial or too small.

Step 2: Next to the person’s name, write what they did to cause you to resent them

Again, nothing is too small. If you resent your boss, it may be because that person gives you unreasonable deadlines, or could simply be because you don’t like their hair.

The reason for the resentment doesn’t have to “make sense”—it just has to be honest. This is where it will get hard, and you will feel worse than you did before starting. Try to have faith that the end result will be worth it—because it will be!

Step 3: Now you write what part of your life each resentment affects

If you resent an old teacher who made you feel inferior, you might say that it affects your self-esteem or confidence.

The point is to become acutely aware of the specific ways that the resentment is impacting your identity, and your ability to feel safe, secure, and loved.

Step 4: Next to the reason, or cause for resentment, you are going to write down your part

This is how YOU have contributed to the problem.

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Back to our boss example, at this point you’ve established that you resent your boss, that you resent your boss because of unreasonable deadlines. Your part in this problem could be that you never spoke up and asked for less work.

This is where honesty and willingness come in. You must be honest about your part, and willing to admit it. Otherwise, you may get stuck.

Final Thoughts

Now, read from left to right. You should be able to develop a clear picture of who you resent, why you resent them, the negative ways that it affects your life, and the part you played in all of it.

Understanding your resentments by breaking them down will hopefully start the process of evolving from a person who constantly lives in a generalized cycle of resentment, fear, and anger, and help you transition into someone who can identify the source of their feelings and target specific areas they want to work on.

The purpose of this writing assignment is to experience freedom by letting go of secrets, fears, and lies which we have been holding onto, and getting these issues out of our heads, and onto paper.

What is done with the paper afterwards is up to you. Some people choose to share it with a trusted friend, others burn it as a symbolic gesture of surrendering those feelings.

This is a tried and true method adapted from the 12-step program model, which literally ANYONE can do. Unlike expensive therapy, this will cost you nothing, other than the price of a pen and paper. What do you have to lose?

More to Help You Let Go

Featured photo credit: Artem Beliaikin @belart84 via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Addiction Center: 12-Step Program

More by this author

Jessica Ruane

Jessica is a passionate write who shares lifestyle tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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