Resentment is a destructive feeling. We get it from being forced to do things we don’t want to do. It comes from feeling powerless. But we can clear away resentment.
We’re all born with the disease to please. We learn thorough our parents’ behavior, and a set of “rewards” and “punishments”. This pressure to do what’s expected of us to avoid negative consequences develops a dependency on the approval of others. Later, when we go to school, we take this need to please others to the next level and eventually dedicate our lives to it.
The problem with pleasing others is that every second we spend trying to please someone else, we step further away from ourselves. We can’t find out who we are and express ourselves authentically. Many people find it very difficult to hear that it damages our self-image.
Does it mean we should never do things to make others happy?
It just means that if we do something to please another person, and we don’t feel good about it, it comes at our expense.
Race vs. Chace
The desire to please others (at our expense) comes out of fear of their disapproval. When we do things out of fear, we’re not really going anywhere. We’re running away from something.
If you use the sailing model, then pleasing yourself is a race and pleasing others is a chase.
In a race, you come to your crew members and say, “Hey, how about we participate in a race to a specific destination”. Everyone get excited and does what needs to be done to get there as fast as possible. Everyone is motivated and having fun.
When it’s a chase, you go to your crew members and say “Hey, we’re in danger”. Everyone panics. They don’t have a destination. They don’t check what resources are available and they can’t plan anything. They shut down all non-essential functions and run!
When we are sailing in the oceans of life, we must check if we’re in a race or a chase. If you’re excited about doing something, you’re in a race. And if you’re doing something to please someone else, you’re being chased.
A race is a hopeful, optimistic and goal-oriented state of being, while a chase is fear based. Everything we do in life is in order to achieve something.
We all have a mechanism that calculates and weighs options. When faced with several options, we always choose the one that seems the best for us now. This calculator has one rule in mind: pick the option that will benefit us most.
In this calculation, there’s “give and take”. When you gain something, you also have to give something up. For example, by pleasing others, we may gain something, but we often pay for it by building resentment.
When we do something to please ourselves, as well as others, we feel good and gain motivation to do it again. No resentment there.
Take sex, for an example. In sex, there is a component of pleasing others. If sex is done without pleasing yourself, it leaves a bad taste. But if there’s mutual enjoyment, it’s great, and we want more of it.
Every relationship requires win-win transactions. This doesn’t have to be 100% balanced every time, but it needs to be close enough for each of the parties to consider the exchange a win.
Every relationship requires us to compromise, because no two people can always agree or want the same thing. But if the compromise is too “expensive”, we pay with resentment.
The birth of resentment
Resentment is often born in the teen years. After many years of living with the disease to please, children start developing critical thinking. And suddenly, doing things to please Mom and Dad (or teachers), without pleasing me, no longer feels right.
Some parents can go through this period with humility and grace. They allow their children to develop their own opinions about life, society, culture, fashion, desires, and dreams.
Sadly, most parents only make things worse by “punishing” their kids with more and more disapproval when they express different views from their own. Disapproval can take many forms. It can be expressed as anger, disappointment, name calling, punishment, bribes, mockery, threats, and even physical force.
The kids may eventually do what the parents expect of them. But the price parents pay is very high, because resentment forms the foundation of their relationships with their kids.
Any relationship based on resentment is unhealthy. With enough pressure and/or time, it will break eventually. When one or more people harbors resentment, it complicates the relationship and changes from a attractive force to a repelling one.
Start with awareness
My first suggestion is to avoid blaming and understand that our parents only did what they experienced with their own parents. This need to please is a natural reaction to the way most of us are raised.
Blaming will never change the situation. It will only increase the resentment we have towards those people we associate it with (parents, teachers, authority figures, partners, friends, etc.).
The answer is awareness. Catch yourself when you’re doing things to please others out of fear. Remind yourself that “what other’s think about you is none of your business”.
When we have an internal agreement, our conscious mind and our subconscious mind are in sync. When we think we do things that we’re not 100% happy about, but we recognize the benefit in them, we will be OK with that choice! Internal agreement is when we do things out of love or kindness, as opposed to fear.
The way to recognize a chase is to pay attention to the body. You usually experience a strong, uncomfortable sensation. Although not everyone feels it in the same place in the body, the feeling is unmistakable.
An exceptionally good strategy to learn where you store resentment in your body is to run a body scan.
Imagine yourself sitting inside a scanner. A ray of laser light goes over your body from top to bottom. When you have a strong sensation of any kind, stop there, notice the feeling and recognize its shape, size and temperature.
100 things you resent
In this activity, you will find 100 things you have done in the past, or still do, that you don’t feel good about. These are all the things you hate doing, but feel “pressured” to do.
Examples can be chores, going to work, going to school, having to meet someone, saying things you don’t want to say, or having to say nothing.
Finding 100 things is not an easy task. It requires courage, awareness and honesty with yourself.
Here are some ideas to consider, which might help you make that list:
- Go over your childhood. Many of our resentments were born there. Think of things you did as a child, but hated doing.
- Look for “must”, “have to” or “had to” statements. They are the enemies of motivation. They mean you’re afraid or feel forced. These phrases upset your subconscious mind (your “crew”). They indicate you can’t find internal motivation to do something, and you do it out of fear and pressure.
- Think of tedious chores you do and hate.
- Think of your work life. What part of it you would you rather not do?
- We all want our parents, children, and spouses to think highly of us, so we tend to confuse trying to please them with compromise. Think of instances where you did something to please a loved one, but didn’t want to, and write the circumstances of that event.
- Divide the list to things that were “hard” to do, and things that you did and felt bad about it. Hard is natural. It’s part of life. It builds character and helps us think of ourselves as capable. Things we do that build resentment are things that damage our confidence and make us think of ourselves as “weak”.
The purpose of this post is to help you find those events in your life that have built your resentment.
Again, it’s not anyone’s fault. Not yours and not those you wanted to please. It’s natural to want to please others. But sometimes, it goes too far, and the more we do it, the harder it is for us to remember what it is that pleases us.
You can’t change the past. You can only control how you move forward and what you learn from it. The effort is conscious at first, but with awareness and focus on internal agreement, there is a way to move forward.
How I got rid of my resentment
I can give a personal example of something that happened in my childhood that made me very resentful. In our family, the kids took turns washing the dishes. It was fair for us to wash the dishes, because both my parents worked long hours at difficult job. But they managed it with so much force and pain that my siblings and I used to joke that we’d kill each other over it.
When I moved out and started my own family, I resented washing the dishes. Gal and I took turns washing the dishes. When he developed a skin allergy, we compromised and decided that he would do something else, so I wouldn’t feel like a sucker.
When Eden was born, I realized I would never have the internal motivation to wash dishes. But as I became more aware of my resentment towards it, I started giving myself reasons why it was important.
Every time I washed the dishes, I’d say, “I’m setting an example. I’m kind to my family. I live in a cleaner home. When the sink is clean and empty, it makes me feel good”. And, most importantly, “I think better things about myself”.
Do I still think my parents handled it badly?
Yes, I do!
But I’m no longer resentful about it!
Because I started washing dishes to please me! Pleasing me is a race, and my mind was happy to participate. Now, I live in much more peace with myself.
Remember, resentment is a bomb about to explode at any minute.
If you want to clear resentment out of your life, make a list of your resentments and reflect on how they make you feel. Then, take ownership of your choices.
Start doing things because you choose to, not because you “have to”. With that choice, comes lots of happiness.