You’ve been wronged, the pain feels so real that every time you think about it, you feel as if it just happened. You hold this pain close to you as if it were a close friend, and you nurture it and feed it, by recalling how it happened, and how you will never forgive the person who wronged you. You feel justified with your anger. However, this grudge keeps you stuck and retriggers feelings of anger, sadness, and abandonment every time you think about it.
What would your life be like if you could let go of the anger and resentment? It may be hard to imagine yourself without this pain, you may wear it like a badge of honor, however, these negative feelings are holding you back from living a more authentic, happy life. Resentment also causes health problems, increasing your blood pressure and cortisol levels (over time elevated cortisol levels can lead to increased belly fat, diabetes, depression, and anxiety), so holding onto to it only makes us feel worse, not better, both emotionally and physically. The old adage, “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,’ is exactly what resentment does to us.
Overcoming resentment and anger after being wronged, can only happen when we allow ourselves to forgive two people. First, we must forgive the person who wronged us. Secondly, and often more difficult, we must be open to forgiving ourselves. These tips help us move towards forgiveness and untethering the heavy burden of resentment.
Forgiveness is not about accepting bad behavior or condoning what happened. It doesn’t mean that there is no blame in the situation, but rather deciding you no longer want to carry around the bad feelings and the toxic thoughts that accompany resentment.
Accept the feelings. Before you can release it, you must look at what happened and accept the feelings that came along with it. Identifying the key feelings helps to lower the anxiety you feel, and allows you to move forward and process the events, paving the way for you to forgive others and yourself.
Shift your focus and perspective on the situation. Consider the situation from the other person’s perspective or what may have led them to act in such a harmful way? Sometimes by looking at things from another person’s perspective, it can bring on compassion and an understanding of why someone may have acted in a hurtful way.
Find meaning and strength in what happened to you. In every life situation, there is pain, as well as learning. Take the opportunity to grow and learn from the situation. Recognize your pain and suffering, but don’t let it consume you. Even in the most difficult situations, we can create meaning in our life.
Stop playing the blame game: Blaming gives us a false sense of control, but ultimately keeps the negativity recirculating in our minds, and increases our stress.
Take small steps towards forgiveness: You can write a letter to the person who hurt you. Sometimes, without even sending the letter to the person, you can clarify your thoughts and feelings by writing down how you feel. You can practice mindfulness every day or try yoga, you can join a support group, or even seek therapy. These small steps will help you process your feelings and let go of the anger and resentment.
Monica Ramunda is a solution-focused online therapist located in Louisville, Colorado for in-office visits. With a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and more than 18 years experience in therapy and counseling, Monica works as both a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT) with adults and children respectively. Much of Monica’s success is based on her eclectic orientation and drawing on a wide range of different approaches and techniques all while remaining strongly grounded in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT).