I imagine people cling to their hates so stubbornly because they sense that once the hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with the pain.”
—James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son
I remember being told that, to manifest the life I had desired and energetically vibrate at a higher frequency, I would have to “release my resentments.”
My first thought was, “Wait a minute! I don’t have any resentments! I never express anger!”
Little did I realize how many resentments I held throughout my life, even back to 8th grade when the boy I liked called me fat.
Growing up in an alcoholic home, the rules were don’t think, don’t speak, and don’t feel. So, when I did get angry about something, I shoved it down and continued my day. Even though it helped me survive, I didn’t know how much damage it was doing to me.
Resentments are simply unexpressed, unfelt, denied hurt. They’re slow dripping poisons to the soul. All those times I shoved the pain down and held back the tears, or stayed busy so I didn’t need to feel, threw back a couple drinks a night to “take the edge off” — that was me trying to keep the hurt and pain from creeping up to the surface.
If you have ever tried to slow down, be still, and found it painfully impossible, I bet some resentments need to be released. Resentments are like bricks. Over time, they build a wall around our hearts. While the wall may temporarily block the pain, it also blocks our ability to feel and receive love and happiness. Resentment is a low vibrating emotion like shame, because the longer we hold onto it, the more likely we begin to become that vibration. I started closing myself off emotionally and transferred the hate to myself.
The inability to express my hurt didn’t make it go away. Instead, it grew and started to pick up momentum resulting in depression, a suicide attempt, and hospitalization.
With the support of spiritual mentors and guides, I was able to do the work of letting go of these deep-seated resentments. I was able to feel the pain I was so desperately trying to avoid. I have already lived through and survived years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. I felt justified in holding onto the anger. Being a victim of abuse and holding onto resentment had become part of my identity. I wasn’t sure who I’d be without it. The thought of feeling the hurt felt so overwhelming I almost threw my hands up in defeat.
So, how did I release my resentments?
First, I had to accept I was hurt.
When I coach my clients, I always remind them acceptance doesn’t mean approval. While I certainly disapproved of being hurt, I had to acknowledge at least the pain was there, underneath the resentment. I was so resistant because of the necessary vulnerability, which I equated with being weak. It was easier to be angry.
Anger is a powerful emotion, and I felt justified in holding onto it. I re-cycled, re-used, and re-felt that anger repeatedly, laying a resentment brick each time.
But vulnerability meant I was willing to allow myself to see and feel the fullness of my humanity. It is also powerful to be vulnerable because it is the hammer we use to break down the wall of resentment. Holding onto bitterness and being vulnerable or exposed are both hard. Choose your hard. Only one leads to happiness and freedom.
When we become vulnerable, we face the fear that the pain will kill us. I promise you it won’t. I gently encourage my clients to wade into the discomfort of pain, just like you would into cold water, which becomes a temporary experience as you adapt to the emotion, trusting you are not alone.
This is how healing begins. The discomfort we feel is simply part of the human experience to remind us anger and pain are not who we are. And we know this. We feel “off.” That “off” feeling is your inner being letting you know, at your core, you are love and to return to love is to return to you.
The next step — the one we never want to take — is to look in the mirror.
Think back on the relationship, belief system, job, and institution toward which you hold resentment. Look in the mirror and acknowledge the hurt you are causing yourself by not letting go.
Doing this doesn’t justify how you’ve been hurt. It only stops you from throwing away your power. If you have no part in the resentment, you would never be free to let it go! If you are only ever a victim, it’s pretty freaking hopeless and it’s only part of the truth. If we can acknowledge our role without shame, we can accept ourselves both as we were and as we are.
Knowing we did the best we could at that time in our lives, we begin to cultivate compassion. Find compassion for yourself and have your own back.
With that same compassion you’ve given yourself, extend it to the other person by letting go. Let yourself off the hook from holding on so firmly and stop letting them live in your head rent-free. We always have a choice to let go or be dragged.
When we let go, the resentment wall will start to crumble. And when it does, the path to your heart clears for you to receive the Universe’s love, generosity, and abundance.