By connecting to unmet needs, we can diffuse energy draining resentments. Almost without exception, resentments arise as a result of a unmet needs that are linked to expectations, wants or desires. When we expect someone to satisfy our needs in a certain way, and that doesn’t happen, the immediate result is often resentment. By identifying the need that is unmet, owning both the need and the expectation, and mourning the unmet need, resentments will fade away.
The power of this tool alone can be life changing and transform our relationships with others and ourselves. Often, when a person does something we don’t like, or doesn’t do something we want, our immediate reaction is anger towards that person. While in this angry state our life is often contracted, energy draining and unhappy. Our minds may come up with numerous reasons why it is okay to have the resentment, but if are able to step back and look at the state we are in when we have resentments, we can most likely see we are suffering. If we cannot step back, a resentments go on for years and suck the happiness right out of our lives.
So the question is how to let go of resentments.
In nearly all our resentments, we played a part. Resentments do not happen in a vacuum. Most of the time, the source of the resentment is an expectation, thought or belief that we, not someone else has. Once we learn to accept this fact, resentments start to diminish. Once we take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and needs, we stop resenting others.
Since much of our thinking comes from past conditioning and is often deeply entrenched, is often difficult to accept a counter reality. So we should start with the possibility that our thinking may be the cause of the resentment. Just being open to the idea that our thinking–especially our expectations–can cause resentments can have transformative benefits.
I see this extensively in AA. Resentments play such a prominent role in an alcoholic’s life the founders of AA devoted two of the 12 steps solely to resentments. The alcoholic thinking is if I can blame someone else for my problems, it is easier to justify excessive drinking. “My boss is a jerk.” “My spouse doesn’t talk to me.” “The government is ruining the country.”
When we let go of blaming others and own our expectations, feelings and needs, resentments drift away. This also means not blaming ourselves. If we just shift the blame from others to blaming our ego or some other part of ourselves, then we will merely shift the resentment towards ourselves. Owning our expectation, feelings and needs is not the same as blaming ourselves for having them. It’s about seeing things as they really are and accepting them: taking responsibility, not blaming. There is a difference.