Your Resentment Is a Message. Are You Listening?
Every so often I’ll have the following kind of conversation with a client:They’ll be talking about how someone is messing them around, wasting their time, or disrespecting their boundaries. I’ll ask them about their experience and, after a few diplomatic and politically correct responses they’ll come out and say:“I actually feel a little… resentful about it.”Ah, resentment. One of the “forbidden” feelings. Resentment falls into the same category as experiences like envy and jealousy. Many people are quick to say we shouldn’t feel those feelings (because, obviously, if we do we’re not meditating enough...).I call bullshitzu on that.Resentment is a feeling, and like all feelings, it has a root purpose. That root purpose isn’t to show you are an irredeemably unenlightened person. The purpose of resentment is to cast a big bold spotlight on boundary issues. When we dig around underneath feelings of resentment, we usually find vestiges of anger. This is a little flame burning bright, reminding us during the times we feel lost and confused that we still have needs, still have limits, and can still define them.I used to believe that if I felt something like resentment, it was because there was something wrong with me. Not only did this do nothing to resolve my feelings of resentment, but it also meant I was less likely to be honest with myself about the fact I was feeling it.But becoming who we are isn’t about becoming a bright, shiny pollyanna-ish robot. We don’t get to pick emotions from a menu, taking only the comfortable experiences and leaving the rest. When we push away the less comfortable experiences, we have to numb all our experiences and so we also push away those experiences we crave.When I accepted the times I felt resentful, I stopped complaining about them and started doing something about them. Rather than feeling like a helpless victim, beholden to the whims of other people and situations (not an exciting prospect), embracing my resentment helped me take charge of my boundaries and shape my environment.I stopped saying yes to people when my real answer was no. I set up specific policies in my business to honour my time and energy. Whenever I noticed resentment, I asked: where is this coming from? How am I responsible for creating this situation?And, you know what? Some of these changes were scary. I worried about disappointing people. I wasn’t able to give certain people what they wanted. I came up against all kinds of internal beliefs that nice people say yes and if I assert my boundaries, no one will like me. I also learned that my feelings of resentment are never anyone else’s fault.Part of the reason resentment gets a bad rap is we react to it by concluding “… and therefore they need to change.” Which brings us right back to being the victim, waiting around for other people to change to get a resolution. When we feel resentment, it’s because we haven’t honoured our own boundaries. When we accept our resentment, we can get back to being the gatekeeper of those boundaries.We teach people how to treat us through what we accept from them.And that’s the choice we have. We can carry on feeling resentful. Or we can accept our resentment, listen to the message it’s trying to share with us, and adjust our behaviour accordingly.I know which route I want to choose, what about you?Further reading: The 4 most common types of people-pleasing (and how to stop) & creating healthy boundaries with Amy E. Smith