by Dr. Bill Austin
'Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.'
- Malachy McCourt
We may be storing our hurts by not confronting our partner or someone else when they offend us or wound our spirit. We store our hurts when our partner doesn't acknowledge or make changes, but keeps on hurting or disregarding our needs. Stored hurts become resentments, stored anger and bitterness. After a while these resentments can numb our feelings, especially, for our partner or friend. Then one day we come to the realization that we are not 'in love' with our partner anymore because of the numbness. It is as though we have no feelings for our partner - not even anger.
The word 'resent' means to 're-sense,' or 're-feel.' We re-experience or re-feel the victimization by replaying a scene or a conversation over and over in our mind, dredging up the hurt and anger again and again. Some of us re-live the hurt by creating our imaginary grievance ledger book. In this book we record all the offenses that we have experienced from our partner and others. We carry this book around with us and may even read through the list of grievances to our partner. We not only read the grievances to ourselves, but will be more than happy to share them with others. 'Isn't it awful how my partner treats me? I would never treat him or her that way.' Somehow we even think that our resentments are hurting our partner but in truth, we are the ones who will suffer mentally, physically and spiritually.
We make ourselves a victim over and over again by reciting the list of grievances. Being a victim we experience feelings of anger, fear, guilt, inadequacy, betrayal or taken advantage of by others. Holding onto our grievance ledger book is a way of justifying our actions.
By reciting our list of grievances, the message we give our partner is, 'You change and everything will be okay. I don't need to change because I'm the victim.' We need to ask ourselves, 'What do we hope will happen by our reciting our partner's infractions? Do we think that will make a partner want to change? By how I am treating my partner, does he or she feel attacked and will this way of relating bring us closer, solve our relationship problems or meet my needs?'
Our relationship will improve only when we stop blaming the other person and take responsibility for our own actions. Our relationship has a chance of improving when we realize we cannot change the other person; we can only change our ways of relating. A positive step is asking ourselves, 'What part do I own of the problem and what can I do to change what I am doing?'
Next month we will explore ways to handle resentments.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700