How to Let Go of Resentment: 5 Ways to Find Peace

September 23rd, 2023

By Aletheia Luna

Guest writer for Wake Up World

What I’m talking about is resentment, and we’ve all experienced it before.

Unlike fairly straightforward emotions like hatred or anger, resentment is a combination of multiple feelings.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resentment as “A feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.”

Others have described resentment as a combination of disappointment, disgust, and anger.

Overall, resentment is a soul-sucking emotion that can easily lead us to feel burdened, exhausted, and fed up.

If you find yourself wanting to learn how to let go of resentment in your life, let me offer you a path forward in this article through some simple soul searching methods.

Our Self-Love Journal can also help you to transmute this energy if you’d like to go a little deeper.

What Causes Resentment?

Picture of two people facing each other experiencing resentment

Resentment is a feeling that rarely happens out of the blue after one isolated situation. Instead, this is an experience that is accumulative and builds up over time.

Here are some experiences that can trigger feelings of resentment if they occur frequently enough:

  • Ongoing marital or relationship issues
  • Discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, identity, religion, etc.
  • Being consistently overlooked and unappreciated
  • Being taken for granted
  • Not being listened to properly
  • Not feeling truly seen or validated
  • Having people consistently break your trust
  • Being taken advantage of or abused
  • Interactions with people who don’t respect your time or energy
  • Feeling patronized or put down
  • Not having your high expectations met

Can you identify with any of these causes of resentment?

Sometimes intense cases of resentment can trigger and existential crisis or even existential depression.

Signs You’re Experiencing Resentment

Image of a mannequin on fire symbolic of the need to learn how to let go of resentment

As I said previously, resentment is a complex emotion with many layers. So, how can you tell whether you’re experiencing it in your life? Here are some common signs:

  • Having ill will toward another (e.g., desire to see them suffer in some way)
  • Frustration
  • Disgust
  • Tension or heat/coldness in your body
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Anger
  • Rumination on the person’s misdeeds and how much you dislike them
  • Uneasiness
  • Feeling empty, constricted or blocked inside

Do you have any other signs to add?

Why Resentment Can Be a Good Thing (3 Reasons)

Image of a spiky cactus symbolic of resentment

I’ve experienced resentment quite a few times in my life (including fairly recently), and I’ve learned a few things about it, for instance:

  1. Resentment is a leech of life force energy.
  2. Resentment is often a defense mechanism in disguise.
  3. Resentment can be a good thing.

Let me explain what I mean by each of these points.

Firstly, it’s pretty clear that resentment is an inner leech of vitality. It takes a lot of life force energy to hold on to tight and constricted feelings of anger, disgust, and frustration.

While it’s normal to feel resentment at times, if we’re in this space for too long, it can feel depleting on every level of our being, leading to emotional burnout and even depression.

Secondly, resentment is often a defense mechanism in disguise because it helps us to avoid certain uncomfortable feelings. In reality, it can feel much easier to resent someone than to process the feelings of abandonment, betrayal, or grief that they trigger within us.

In this way, resentment can protect us from feeling deeper emotions that may be too difficult to process at the time. However, eventually, we’ve got to peel away the resentful feelings and see what’s underneath, especially if we have trouble learning how to let go of resentment. Practicing self-love and shadow work together can help you to explore these buried feelings.

Finallyresentment can be a good thing. I know that might sound crazy, so hear me out!

Resentment can be a good thing because it alerts us to our unmet needs, defines what we do and don’t like, and helps us to set in place boundaries that protect our well-being. Feeling resentful toward someone for a long period of time also alerts us to negative behaviors shown by others, like narcissism, helping us avoid engaging with these toxic types of people in the future.

Ultimately, resentment is two-sided: It can be both a protector and an assaulter within our minds and hearts. And if we don’t learn how to let go of resentment, it can fester away as part of our shadow self, becoming an internal energy vampire that robs us of the ability to heal, move on, and find joy.

How to Let Go of Resentment: 5 Ways to Find Peace

Image of the sun breaking through dark clouds

There are many different ways of going about releasing resentment. Here are some varied approaches that I hope you find helpful:

1. Identify the story of “how things should have gone” and release it

Image of a snake slithering down a person's arm symbolic of how to let go of resentment

In the words of writer and teacher Scott Kiloby,

Resentment occurs when thought approaches a situation with a preconception about how it is supposed to turn out. When it turns out differently, thought then blames the situation and the people involved. But the cause of resentment is never “out there.” Resentment results directly from replaying and identifying with the mental and emotional story surrounding past situations in which your expectations were not met. In this dream of thought, people are supposed to do what you expect them to do. This is not reality. It is a self-centered mental and emotional story which – if repeatedly played – places ‘you and your resentment’ at the center of life.

When we argue against reality, against what has actually happened, and demand that it should have been different, we suffer. We lose the argument 100% of the time because what happened, happened. As the wise expression goes, “It is what it is.”

Getting stuck ruminating on the past only leads to bitterness, disappointment, and grief. Why not identify the story of “how things should have gone” and release it?

Some examples of these “should” stories are, “He should have listened to me more and been more grateful for all that I did for him and the kids,” “She should have given me that promotion and not ignored all that I’ve done for the company,” “They should have raised me in a more healthy and well-adjusted way,” and so on.

Yes, it would have been nice if things were different, but they weren’t. Accept the way things are, let go of the story, and move on – you’ll feel more empowered that way.

2. Understand that people are operating from different levels of awareness

Image of a crocodile's eye

This approach to learning how to let go of resentment has been of great help to me.

At one point in life, before I understood the basics of psychological development, I was under the impression that everyone was essentially the same inside. I believed that those who acted out were 100% “nasty” or “evil people,” and those who were kind were nice and good people. But it’s not that simplistic or black-and-white.

As I expanded my understanding of the mind, I learned that there is such a thing as emotional intelligence, hierarchies of needs, personality types, attachment styles, and stages of psychosocial development. I discovered that some people might appear to be adults on the surface, but deep inside, they are stuck in the mental or emotional landscape of a 10-year-old child.

Why is it, for example, that some 20-year-olds seem mature beyond their years and some 70-year-olds behave like immature children? Why is it that some people seem to be old souls, and others seem to be young souls?

This dawning awareness led me to understand that everything is doing the best they can from their level of awareness.

pain

In fact, this understanding has become a kind of subconscious philosophy of mine, and I hope it can help you as well.

Next time you come across the person who triggers resentment in you, ask yourself, “What level of awareness is this person operating from?” or “What is the inner age of this person I’m talking to right now?” 

These questions aren’t meant to be misused as a way of inflating your ego or promoting a superiority complex. Instead, they’re meant to help you gain a different vantage point.

3. Be mindful of any unrealistic expectations you might have

Image of a solitary person in a dark landscape thinking

If you’ve been wounded in life, which most of us have, it’s normal to have unrealistically high expectations of others at times.

This tendency to hold unrealistic standards comes from the inner perfectionist part that wants everything and everyone to match an inner ideal and thus feel predictable, dependable, and safe.

Some examples of unrealistic expectations are the following:

  • Expecting that someone should 100% be on time
  • Expecting that someone should always answer your messages within one hour
  • Expecting that someone should be mentally or emotionally available to you all the time
  • Expecting that your romantic relationship should always feel easy, fun, and sexy
  • Expecting that your coworker should always greet you
  • Expecting that someone should always make you feel good about yourself

The reality is that life is complex, and so are people. It’s normal, for example, for someone to have a bad day and to not be emotionally available to you. It’s okay if someone is late for an appointment with you – that doesn’t necessarily mean that they disrespect you or your time.

Sometimes, resentment is a knee-jerk reaction that is based on unrealistic expectations. So, have a look at what you expect from others.

Do you carry an inner perfectionist who’s demanding something from others that’s too much pressure for them to uphold?

Do you have high ideals that, if not met, result in you feeling angry and disappointed?

Do you expect to feel one positive way 100% of the time?

If so, you need to reassess your expectations and cut yourself and others some slack.

4. Remember that hurt people hurt people

Drawing of a wounded person reflecting

When someone has clearly mistreated you and done so on an ongoing basis, it’s normal to feel resentful toward them.

At the same time, we have also to ask, “Why does this person behave this way?”

The simple answer is that hurt people hurt people. In other words, people who have unresolved traumas often struggle with self-loathing, have wounded inner children, and a big shadow self, and therefore will be more likely to harm those around them, usually unintentionally or automatically.

But we all have trauma! I have trauma. That doesn’t excuse their behavior?” you might point out. And it’s true; having trauma doesn’t excuse a person’s behavior. But it does help us understand where they’re coming from.

Also, no one shares the exact same kind of trauma. Trauma comes in many different shapes and sizes. Trauma exists on a spectrum. Your trauma might cause you to play the victim, while someone else’s trauma might cause them to play the perpetrator. 

When resentment fills you, shift your focus a little. This approach can help you to move from thinking, “Gee, I hate that person,” to “Gee, that person must have been through some heavy shit to treat me that way.”

In the words of Eckhart Tolle,

Compassion arises when you recognize that all are suffering from the same sickness of the mind, some more acutely than others … The mind-identified state is severely dysfunctional. It is a form of insanity. Almost everyone is suffering from this illness in varying degrees. The moment you realize this, there can be no more resentment. How can you resent someone’s illness? The only appropriate response is compassion.

5. Self-compassion leads to the capacity to forgive

Image of a person with a hand over their heart practicing self-love and compassion

Struggling with chronic resentment can make us feel pretty rotten about ourselves, others, and the world around us. It’s an emotion that triggers pain inside and taints our worldview.

Practicing self-compassion can help you to accept that, yes, you feel resentful, but that’s okay. It doesn’t have to define you. Instead, it’s just a normal reaction to what you’ve experienced. And the more you learn to practice self-love and compassion, the easier you’ll find it to forgive others and let go.

Note that forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what the person has done or letting yourself be hurt again. Instead, forgiveness means letting go of the role of being a victim of someone else’s behavior and any negative emotions associated with it. 

Ultimately, forgiveness is more a practice of self-liberation than anything else; it frees you to move on with your life and not be controlled and entrapped by feelings of resentment and hatred.

Here are some guides that can help you get started with the practice of self-compassion:

***

As the common saying goes, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

While resentment can be helpful in the sense that it initially protects us, if we attach to it too long, we start to slowly self-implode.

I hope the guidance in this article has served you well. Please take a moment to comment and share what about this guide has helped you and whether you have any other tips on how to let go of resentment. You never know who you might help!

About the author:

Aletheia Luna is a prolific psychospiritual writer, author, and spiritual mentor whose work has touched the lives of millions worldwide. As a survivor of fundamentalist religious abuse, her mission is to help others find love, strength, and inner light in even the darkest places. She is the author of hundreds of popular articles, as well as numerous books and journals on the topics of Self-LoveSpiritual Awakening, and more. See more of her work at lonerwolf.com.

This article, How to Let Go of Resentment: 5 Ways to Find Peace, was originally published on lonerwolf.com, reproduced with permission.


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