In-Between Thoughts 5.21.19: Resentment beliefs

It has been a hot minute since I’ve lifted. Almost a whole month. I’ve been running and working out at home (occasionally….), so at least my body isn’t TOO shocked. I’m definitely not looking forward to the DOMS over the next few days and on the plane, though…

Oh yeah, we’re going on a plane! Going on “vacation,” to a wedding and then to see a bazillion family and friends in two states. TWO WHOLE STATES. I’m pretty excited and also tired already. But if I know my MIL, and I definitely do, she’ll have some plenty of wine and snacks ready to soothe my travel- and people-weary soul.

After recording an AOV podcast episode on resentment, I can’t stop thinking about that emotion, mostly because I can be a very resentful person. I hold onto hurts that haven’t been resolved and have to watch that I don’t try to punish people for those hurts, beyond whatever consequences are appropriate. Right now, I’m definitely struggling with a big emphasis of resentment and realizing I finally want to let this resentment go. I’m ready to get this particular negative, painful, anxious monkey off my back.

So I was thinking about how I do that, and why I have a hard time doing it. After all the talk we did over Martha Nussbaum’s grounding of emotions in our underlying beliefs and values, I decided to look at what beliefs I hold that give rise to my resentment, and what beliefs I can give up to give up resentment while staying true to what I believe is true about the situation. Aka, trying to figure out what beliefs might be grounding my resistance to giving up resentment.

I came up with the following beliefs that seem to, as a collective, give rise to resentment:

A harm was done to me. (The harm hurt me as a person and I feel bad for me as a result.)

The harm was significant. (It was more than a paper cut or being cut off in traffic.)

The harm was done wrongfully or unfairly. (I didn’t deserve it, or I suffered more than others.)

The harm was done without regard for my wellbeing. (The cause — person or act of nature — of my harm acted without consideration for how I would be affected. My wellbeing didn’t register as significant, for whatever reason.)

I think for years I’ve thought that to give up resentment requires giving up the belief that what was done was harmful and wrong. But that’s not something we can ask of people when suggesting they give up resentment, even for their own wellbeing. All people who have suffered unjustly need to be able to proclaim that unjustness. It is unjust to ask them to pretend otherwise.

There has to be a way for us to foster more positive emotions for our own wellbeing while also being able to hold to the truths of the harms and injustices done in our lives.

In fact, all the beliefs, if accurate, are justified and important for the victim to acknowledge. I don’t see one up there that should be rejected, even for the emotional betterment of the victim.

So I think the belief that I need to adjust is one not even up there. Resentment is hard to separate from anger, but one way of defining it is as a kind of emotional package of anger, disappointment, and fear. So perhaps beliefs related to fear or disappointment are the ones we should target.

I think the belief I need to let go of in order to be able to give up resentment is the belief that The harm done to me still affects me. I think there’s a way to acknowledge that the act is passed and that it no longer affects my life in the same immediate way. We will never be able to get completely beyond all the effects (this is true for everything in our lives, good or bad), but we can admit that the biggest impacts have passed and that we/I have been able to move forward and — maybe — make something good out of it.

Giving up the belief that the harm still affects me and choosing the belief that I am no longer affected by this harm will free us from disappointment and fear. It instills a sense of empowerment over the act and a sense of hope for the future, a future not dictated by the harm.

Overall, I think resentment is an effects-specific emotion. It’s appropriate for a certain frame of time, motivating us to care for ourselves, to seek justice for ourselves and our loved one, but at some point, if our lives are no longer directly impacted by the harm, resentment starts to do more harm to us than good. And I think we hold onto it because we want to maintain our sense that we deserve good treatment, that the harm was wrong and unjust. I don’t want to suggest anyone give up those beliefs (when they are reality-reflecting), so I think looking at the harm as whether or not it affects me now is a good way to maintain our true beliefs about the wrong done to us and also to add the kind of beliefs that allow us to get out from under the suffocating burden of resentment.

Rather intense and absorbed thoughts for the gym, but I was kind of trying to distract myself from lifting heavy after almost a month off. Sigh. The DOMS was not kind to me.

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