When you were born, you came into this world pure and beautiful. Your family welcomed you and brought you home to teach you how to navigate life. Those lessons were infused with everything that your family learned in their lives and thought you needed to know, too. Your parents and family imparted their beliefs, ways of being, and values to you, in hopes that you would be prepared and ready to live on your own someday.
If you are like me, you might have discovered that you no longer fit into the mold that was given to you. Your childhood gave you a lot of happy experiences, but may have led to painful memories, too. If you have been carrying the weight of things that you believe are better left locked away, you may also be holding onto feelings that are becoming increasingly heavier and heavier. These heavy feelings do not serve you if they remain in that secret place.
When negative thoughts and emotions are left in the darkness of your mind and heart, you may have resentments deeply rooted in your life. A resentment is caused when you feel you have been treated unfairly, and can show up as anger, bitterness, or even drive a wedge in a relationship. Resentment can happen because of circumstances or from something someone said or did to you. Guess what? You can hold resentments against yourself, too.
Today I want to share with you the ways I have been tackling my resentments before they turn into regrets. Believe it or not, you have the power to release those resentments and free yourself from the heaviness you’ve been carrying with you for a long time. I used to cover up my negative emotions and hide from them. My coping strategies included drinking too much, eating excessive amounts of chocolate, people-pleasing, comparison, over-achieving, working too much, spending money I didn’t have, smoking, yelling, and losing my cool with the people I love. If you can relate to any of those self-sabotaging behaviors, you probably know that those ways of dealing don’t do anything but keep you feeling stuck and in pain.
When I learned how to release myself from my painful resentments, I began experiencing changes in my life. Positive changes. For years, I didn’t know that I could actually find that freedom, but I am, and you can, too. If you are ready to take the first steps to break free, keep reading.
5 Steps to Break Free from Resentments Before They Turn into Regrets
Note – If you need therapeutic support, please seek the expertise of a trained mental health professional who can assist you with specific mental health illnesses.
Step 1 – Exploration
You know that there are hurtful memories and feelings that have kept you from healing and growing. You desperately want to live a life of purpose and joy. In order for you break free, you must begin recognizing and externalizing what has been kept hidden for way too long. For this first step, you’ll need a journal, diary, or lined paper. Grab a pen or pencil that feels good when you write with it. For seven days, you are going to fill a page with writing. What will you write about? Pick one or more of these prompts:
- I’m tired of feeling (insert resentful emotion) because of (insert what happened or what was said).
- I don’t want to feel (insert resentful emotion) anymore. I don’t want to self-sabotage by (insert how you’ve dealt).
- I’ve held onto (insert resentful emotion) because of (insert what happened or what was said). I’ve held onto this for (insert how many years).
- I remember when (insert what happened or what was said) and I have been (insert emotion you’ve felt) ever since it happened.
- Free Write about anything that comes to mind when you reflect about your resentments.
Step 2 – Get Specific
Once you have externalized your resentments, it’s time to get specific. This is the time to put it all out on your paper. Think about all of the times that you spent holding onto situations or interactions that have caused your inner pain. Some of them may have been tucked away since childhood, while others are more recent. It doesn’t matter how big or small, identify them. Take a piece of paper or your journal, and list them.
Here are some from my own list:
- Feeling extreme pressure to achieve academically.
- Watching my mom choose alcohol over me and my siblings.
- Having men live in my childhood home that mistreated my mom, my brother, my sister, and me.
- Finding out a supervisor gossiped about me to other colleagues.
- Flipping out on my husband because I made a mistake cooking a meal.
Step 3 – Say them Aloud
When you have clung to your painful memories like dirty secrets that nobody can ever know, over time, you suffer more and more. Your mental health may decline, you criticize yourself constantly, you self-sabotage, and that inner pain may even manifest physically. So far, you’ve taken some big steps towards releasing all of those bad feelings. Taking time to really think about and then externalize what you have carried with you takes guts. The next step will take that same courage. For this one, you can find a quiet place or stand in front of a mirror. If you have a trusted friend, ask if they will listen to you.
Here’s what to do:
- Hold your resentment list in front of you.
- Read each statement aloud.
- If you want, you can phrase it something like this: I resent (person or circumstances) because of (insert what happened or what was said). It makes/made me feel (insert resentful emotion).
Step 4 – Forgive
Forgiveness can be very difficult, but necessary for healing to take place. It may take time for you to come to this step. Healing comes with its own timeline, so be patient with yourself. Recognizing your resentments and externalizing them may be emotionally challenging, but moving into forgiveness feels even better.
To forgive based on your resentments, you might say something like this: I forgive (insert person) for (insert what happened or what was said). A key part of forgiveness may be having an awareness that the interaction or circumstances could have been a direct reflection of the person who was dealing with his or her own troubling situation. Knowing this does not condone what happened, but may give you a better understanding.
An example of this in my own life comes from my childhood. My mother had not healed from some of her own traumas. She did not have the tools to cope with all of the feelings she experienced from them. Instead of finding ways to process and grow in healthy ways, unfortunately, she used some unhealthy ways to deal with her pain. That trickled into my life. I know now that she did the best she could with what she knew to do.
Here are some of the statements of forgiveness that I used:
- I forgive my mom for using alcohol to cope with stress.
- I forgive my supervisor for saying things about me that were not true.
- I forgive my high school chemistry teacher for telling me that I’d never make a good teacher.
Step 5 – Break Free
Breaking free is the best part of this process. It feels like you have finally found yourself. Before you arrive at this step, I must be honest. You might have to repeat some of the first 4 steps. Some of the stuff you’ve been carrying around is heavy and deeply rooted. Once you begin this process, your mind might trick you into thinking that it is okay to remain in the status quo. Your mind may work overtime to hold onto those resentments because it’s comfortable or safe. It’s what you know, so why let it all go?
What does breaking free look like? Instead of asking that question, focus on the feeling. When you have let go of those resentments, you will know. Thinking about them doesn’t hurt as much. Your body doesn’t feel as tense or heavy. The triggers don’t immediately take you to the inner pain that you’ve experienced for all of those years. This is growth.
I’m here to tell you that going through all of these steps can lead to emotional freedom. I’ve felt it for myself. There are so many resentments that I have held against people in my life for way too long. It is uncomfortable. It is emotional. After going through this process, I have found that I have been holding onto resentments more against myself than the people I originally thought were at fault. We’ll tackle that self-resentment in a future post.
If this article resonated with you, and you would like to talk, I would love to chat with you. Reach out through this website or you can find me at jessica.journeytohere on Instagram. Please share thejourneytohere.net with someone you think might benefit from connecting, too.