We have all been there; someone does something that really gets under your skin, and you can’t seem to let it go.
Whether it’s a co-worker who takes credit for your work or a family member who doesn’t seem to appreciate you, resentment can sneak up and take over before you even realize it.
Resentment is like cancer; without proper treatment, it will eat away at you from the inside.
Not only will these negative emotions clog up your psyche and weigh you down, but they can also lead to other health problems like high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.
So how do you deal with resentment before it takes over?
Here is a guide to help you let go of your bitterness and find peace.
- Why Do We Have Difficulty Letting Go of Resentment?
- How Holding onto Resentment Impacts You
- How to Let Go of Resentment: 15 Ways to Release It and Find Peace
- 1. Acknowledge That You’re Resentful
- 2. Identify the Source of Your Resentment
- 3. Determine Whether the Resentment Is Justified
- 4. Identify Your Emotions
- 5. Talk to the Person You’re Resentful Towards
- 6. Forgive and Forget
- 7. Let Go of the Need for Revenge
- 8. Forgive Yourself
- 9. Don’t Play the Victim
- 10. Don’t Feed Into the Resentment
- 11. Practice Mindfulness
- 12. Seek Help From a Therapist
- 13. Write Down Your Feelings
- 14. Try Forgiveness Therapy
- 15. Practice Gratitude
- Final Thoughts
Why Do We Have Difficulty Letting Go of Resentment?
Holding on to grudges and feelings of anger is detrimental to our health and well-being, and yet it’s so hard to let go of resentment.
In theory, it sounds like a simple task – you just need to let it go. But for some reason, we still find it hard to let go of resentment even when the source of that resentment has long since faded from memory.
Why do we do this? Below are five possible explanations for this problem:
- The resentment provides us with a sense of identity: By clinging to negative emotions, we can define ourselves in opposition to others. We see ourselves as righteous victims who others have wronged, and we maintain our emotional armor by staying angry at those who have failed us.
- Fear of being betrayed in the future: You may find it difficult to let go of resentment because you are scared. You fear if you let go, you will no longer be able to defend yourself against future attacks or betrayals by others. This fear can make you reinforce old grudges to ward off the anxiety and uncertainty of releasing resentment.
- The resentment feels familiar: Sometimes, we may not even realize that we’re holding on to resentment until someone points it out to us. These negative emotions have become so familiar in our lives that we don’t even question them anymore.
- The resentment is justified: If someone has wronged you and they have not made an effort to apologize or make things right, then it is perfectly understandable to hold onto these feelings.
- It feels good: Some people may struggle to let go of resentment because they take pleasure in the indignation or bitterness that these emotions bring them. In other words, there may be an element of self-sabotage involved when it comes to letting go of resentment- you may hold onto your anger simply because it feels good!
How Holding onto Resentment Impacts You
Like all negative emotions, resignation takes a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health.
Focusing on the hurt and pain we’ve experienced prevents us from moving forward in life and causes us to dwell on the past.
This can have many harmful consequences, which include:
- You’ll lose fulfilling and beneficial connections: When negative emotions like resentment consume you, it’s hard to focus on anything else. This can lead to problems in your personal relationships and work. You may find yourself snapping at loved ones or colleagues and start to distance yourself from the people in your life.
- You’ll never get closure: One of the main reasons people have difficulty letting go of resentment is because they’re seeking closure. They want to know why the person hurt them, and they want an apology or some form of recompense. But more often than not, you’ll never get the answers or closure that you’re looking for.
- You can become anxious and depressed: Like a dark cloud, resentment can follow you everywhere you go. And the more you try to fight it, the more it takes over. It can lead to problems with anxiety and depression, as well as a host of other mental health issues.
- You won’t be able to enjoy your present: When you’re caught up in resentment, it’s hard to focus on anything else. You may find yourself constantly reliving the past and dwelling on what could have been. It becomes difficult to enjoy the present moment, preventing you from living a full and meaningful life.
How to Let Go of Resentment: 15 Ways to Release It and Find Peace
Now that you know the harmful effects of resentment on your life, it’s time to learn how to let it go.
1. Acknowledge That You’re Resentful
The first step to letting go of resentment is acknowledging that you’re feeling it. This may seem like a simple task, but it’s actually quite difficult.
We often try to bottle up our negative emotions and pretend they don’t exist. But the truth is, they do exist, and they won’t go away until you deal with them.
Start by admitting that you’re angry, hurt, or disappointed. Once you’ve acknowledged your feelings, you can start to deal with them in a healthy and constructive way.
2. Identify the Source of Your Resentment
Once you’ve acknowledged that you’re resentful, it’s time to identify the source of these negative emotions. What event or person led to you feeling this way?
Was it something that happened in the past, or is it happening in the present?
Did someone do something to hurt you, or did they fail to meet your expectations? Did they do it intentionally, or was it an accident?
Answering these questions will help you pinpoint the source of your resentment, understand it and figure out how to deal with it. And you’ll be one step closer to letting it go.
3. Determine Whether the Resentment Is Justified
You’re angry at Susan for not inviting you to her party, or you hate John’s guts because he got the job you wanted. But is this resentment justified?
Are you really angry because Susan didn’t invite you to her party, or are you angry because she didn’t include you in her plans? Did she actually do something wrong, or are you just feeling left out?
Sometimes we resent things beyond our control, or we hold onto grudges long after they’ve been settled. If you’re unsure whether your resentment is justified, ask yourself if it’s worth holding onto.
Is it worth damaging your relationship with this person? Is it worth ruining your own happiness?
4. Identify Your Emotions
Resentment is actually a secondary emotion, often a mask for other, more primary emotions like fear, disappointment, sadness, or anger.
So it’s essential to identify the emotions that are underlying your resentment.
- Are you feeling scared, helpless, or alone?
- Are you feeling sad, rejected, or hurt?
- Or are you feeling angry, frustrated, or disappointed?
Once you’ve identified your primary emotions, you can start to deal with them in a healthy way.
5. Talk to the Person You’re Resentful Towards
If you’ve harbored resentment towards someone for a long time, talk to them about it.
It can be a difficult and daunting task, especially if the resentment is justified, but it’s often the best way to resolve your differences. It can also help you express your feelings and get closure on the situation.
When talking to the person you’re resentful towards, try to stay calm and level-headed. Don’t try to attack them or make them feel guilty. Just explain how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way.
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6. Forgive and Forget
It may be easier said than done. But forgiveness is essential if you want to let go of resentment.
It doesn’t mean that you have to forget what happened or that you have to continue being friends with the person who hurt you. It just means you’re willing to let go of the anger and pain they caused you even if they don’t deserve it.
But how can you do this? First, try to see things from their perspective. Why did they act the way they did? What were they going through at the time?
Second, focus on the present and let go of the past. Lastly, practice compassion and understanding, even if they don’t deserve it.
7. Let Go of the Need for Revenge
Obsession with revenge often fuels resentment. We become so focused on making the person who hurt us pay that we forget to focus on our own happiness.
You may have fantasies about getting even with the person who wronged you, but these usually make you feel worse.
And even if you get revenge, it’s often not as satisfying as you thought it would be. Instead of dwelling on revenge, focus on releasing resentment and moving on with your life.
8. Forgive Yourself
The first step to letting go of resentment is to investigate your role in the situation.
- What did you do to contribute to the problem?
- Did you blow things out of proportion or react in a way that made the situation worse?
- Are you holding resentment because you feel guilty or ashamed of your actions?
- What could you have done differently?
Forgiving yourself can be difficult, but it’s an essential part of the healing process.
Once you’ve taken responsibility for your role in the situation, you’ll be able to move on from the resentment and start to forgive the other person involved.
9. Don’t Play the Victim
It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a victim when someone has hurt you.
However, playing victim can keep you trapped in a cycle of resentment, hatred, and self-pity, preventing you from moving on.
Victims don’t take responsibility for their own lives; they feel powerless and helpless.
But once you let go of the victim mentality, it will be easier to take control of your life and let go of that resentment.
Taking responsibility for your emotions and reactions to certain situations will also be easy. Remember, you’re not defined by what happened to you but by how you deal with it.
10. Don’t Feed Into the Resentment
One of the reasons resentment can be so hard to let go of is that we tend to feed into it.
We may ruminate on the hurt and pain we’ve experienced, dwelling on what could have been or what the other person did wrong.
We may even seek out people who validate our feelings and reinforce our negative beliefs, avoiding anyone who might challenge us.
But if you want to let go of resentment, it’s important not to feed into it. Instead, focus on the present moment and what you can do to improve things.
Let go of the need to be right or to have the last word. And don’t allow yourself to be pulled into arguments or fights with the person you’re resentful towards.
11. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and accepting things as they are, without judgment.
When you’re resentful, it’s easy to get caught up in your thoughts and emotions, reliving the past and worrying about the future. But if you can focus on the present moment, it will be easier to let go of that resentment.
You can practice mindfulness by meditating and focusing on your breath, noticing the sensations in your body, or listening to the sounds around you.
You can also try a mindfulness meditation app to guide you through the process.
12. Seek Help From a Therapist
If you’re having trouble letting go of resentment on your own, seeking professional help may be helpful.
A therapist can provide the support and guidance you need to work through your emotions. They can also offer tools and techniques to help you deal with difficult situations more constructively to avoid resentment.
13. Write Down Your Feelings
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic. It can help you to process and understand your emotions, and it can also be a way to release them.
Try writing a letter to the person you’re resentful towards. You don’t have to send it; just getting your thoughts and feelings out on paper can be helpful.
You can also write about what happened, how it made you feel, and why you’re still holding on to the resentment. Write the letter by hand to really connect with your emotions.
14. Try Forgiveness Therapy
Forgiveness therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that can help you to let go of resentment and find peace.
The therapist will work with you to identify the thoughts and beliefs fueling your resentment. They’ll then help you to challenge and reframe these thoughts into a more positive perspective.
Forgiveness therapy can be helpful if you’re struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you, even if they haven’t apologized.
It can also be beneficial if you find it difficult to let go of resentment towards yourself.
15. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is the practice of being thankful for what you have, even when things are tough. When you’re resentful, it’s easy to focus on all the negativity in your life.
But if you can take a step back and appreciate the good things, it will be easier to let go of that resentment.
Think about the people in your life who love and support you. Remember the times when things went right, even when they seemed impossible?
And be thankful for the lessons you’ve learned from your mistakes.
Resentment is a normal emotion we all experience at some point in our lives. But if it’s left unchecked, it can harm our mental and emotional well-being.
If you’re struggling to let go of resentment, try some tips above to help you find peace.
Just remember to give yourself some time and space to heal, and be gentle with yourself as you go through the process.