Resentment is poisonous stuff. There’s a point to it: if we didn’t have a way of painfully remembering that we’ve been injured or affronted then we might allow the same kind of thing to happen again and again. Unpleasant memories of injuries and injustices would swill around inside us like a particularly unhealthy brew, leaving us feeling liable to explode at the next bad thing coming our way, our rage erupting uncontrollably … and … ah … doesn’t this sound familiar?
There are, believe it or not, people who don’t feel chewed up with resentment (and at least if you feel chewed up by it you aren’t getting drunk or high to forget you are). These people manage to assert themselves in tricky situations in ways that may not even affect the outcome, but which don’t leave them thinking ‘I should have’, or ‘if only’. They tend to lead far less anxious lives (I wrote about anxiety somewhere else on this site).
So how can you defuse yourself, this grenade-in-the-making?
- What part did you play? Try and find a part you played in whatever’s gone wrong and broadcast it as widely as you can to people you trust.
- Find someone to talk to you can trust. For me, to begin with, this meant paying someone (a psychotherapist), but that changed.
- Say something (see above: this doesn’t have to be to the person who’s been causing you grief. Really: there are a lot of people I wouldn’t say something to – some dangerous and some I’m connected to, but who wouldn’t react well to honesty).
- There’s always somebody I can blame and I can’t remember it ever doing me or anyone else much good. What do you do instead of blame? God knows, I sometimes think. It’s always different, but there’s usually a way, somehow (see point two, again)
- Don’t expect too much or too little. You’ll be disappointed or you’ll never ask for enough. The effect’s the same: horrible resentment. Get some thoughts from people you don’t know too well about what you can expect from life. Books helped me, I think. As a child I got as much help as I could from the library. It wasn’t a particularly big one but it liked children, and not in the way modern ones seem to (I sense a resentment).