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May 27, 2022

Learning to Love Your Resentment

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**At the bottom of this post, you'll find a video of Jim coaching someone through the resentment process**

Many years ago, I attended a Brad Blanton Radical Honesty workshop. Brad’s approach to life is not for the faint of heart. That said, much of what he teaches aligns with our view of candor (Commitment #4 of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership). 

The practices Brad and his team taught impacted me greatly; one, in particular, has made me a more loving, free, and forgiving person even though I resisted greatly at first. If you’re like me and most people I’ve taught this process to, you’ll probably resist it as well. Remember, not for the faint of heart. 

The practice begins by finding your resentment. Or, put another way, finding the part of you who resents. 

I find that most people have an aversion to the word resentment. When I ask them, “Who do you resent,” it’s common for people to say, “I don’t resent anyone.” The word conjures up a certain intensity and force. They might be willing to admit that they don’t like someone or that they feel angry, hurt, aggrieved, disappointed, offended, or just plain over them. But resent, that’s intense. 

It’s actually the intensity and force that we’re looking for. Especially emotional and physical intensity that you feel in your body. It’s the kind of intensity that shows up with words like hate and despise. Most of us have been socialized to believe that it’s not good to hate, despise or resent. The problem with this socialization is that it doesn’t take away these intense feelings; it just makes us deny them and pretend they don’t exist. We want to believe we’re better than this, above it, but most people I’ve worked with can find the resenter in them if they’re willing to know that one and look for it. 

This is true for most of the dark shadowy parts of being human. When we teach people about personas, one of the main principles we offer is that most of us have X-ed out personas – the ones we are unwilling to see and accept. There are some universal human personas that we individually and collectively have denied, or X-ed out. X-ing them out, or locking them in the basement of our consciousness, doesn’t make them go away. They simply go underground and come out sideways by us unconsciously acting them out or by projecting them onto others. Some of us become warriors against what we have not loved and welcomed in ourselves. This is one way activism shows up from below the line.

Resentment, with all of its intensity, is part of being human. Once you open to this, you might actually discover that resentment is delicious. At one level and for a while, it feels good to resent. It feels good because, in order to resent someone, you have to be right and better than the person you resent. It feels good because it is the emotional reaction to being wronged. Resentment is how hurt and powerlessness punches back. 

Step 1: Find the resentment.

Are you willing to know your resentment, to find your resenter? If so, simply think of someone you might resent. Picture them in your mind’s eye and complete the sentence, I resent you for …

The structure of the sentence is important to the process. Notice that it is a simple sentence, not a lot of words. It’s made up of the words “I” and “you” connected by a simple intransitive verb. When you complete the sentence, do so in an equally simple way, with as few words and as directly as possible without interpretation or story.

Here are some examples of how I have heard this phrase completed.
I resent you for …

  • Having sex with Theo.
  • Not buying me a birthday gift.
  • Giving the promotion to someone else.
  • Stealing my ideas and sharing them as though they were your own.
  • Raising your voice with me in anger.
  • Telling me I have too much makeup on.
  • Questioning my judgment on the deal last year. 
  • Asking for another piece of the pie. 

Yes, resentment spans the gamut from things we consider to be big offenses to “asking for another piece of the pie.” One of the things you’ll discover about your resenter is that she is not necessarily logical, rational, or proportional. She just resents. She resents whomever she resents for whatever offense they are guilty of. My suggestion is that you not judge whether the resentment is valid. Begin by just surfacing the resentment. 

Step 2: Express the resentment

Now that you have a person and a resentment, the next step is to express the resentment. 

Before I describe the process, let me suggest that there are three ways to express your resentment depending on your level of comfort with your own resentment, and the level of trust and commitment you have in the relationship where you’re experiencing resentment. 

Level 1 Expression: Place a picture of the person you resent in a chair and stand a few feet away from the chair. 

Level 2 Expression: Ask a trusted friend to sit in the chair and be a stand-in for the person you resent. The trusted friend has one job, and that job is to witness you, see you, hear you, and get you. The only thing they say (and it’s important that they don’t say anything else) is “Thank you” each time you express the resentment. 

Level 3 Expression: If you are in a committed conscious relationship with the person you have resentment toward, then have them sit in the chair. What’s important is that they have enough practice with conscious relationships that they understand that your resentment actually has nothing to do with them. It is about you, not about them. Second, they have to be willing and able to breathe and hold space while you fully reveal your resentment and eventually your appreciation. 

Now, regardless of what level of expression you have chosen, the key to this practice is to go all the way with your resentment. Match your internal experience with your external expression. If your resentment feels like a 7 on a scale of 1-10, it should sound like a 7 when you say it. Don’t hold back. When I do this, my expression can include yelling, screaming, redness on my face, and shaking of my fists. Sometimes it is more quiet, but deadly in its effect. Again, the key is going all the way in matching experience to expression.

The key to Step 2 is that you follow the script and don’t deviate. In other words, you simply repeat the same phrase over and over: “I resent you for having sex with Theo.” 
Don’t add any extra words, e.g., “I resent you for having sex with Theo … last year, while I was watching the kids, at your Uncle’s cabin, how dare you, you piece of shit, or …”
What is happening here is not about the words, the stories, the details. It’s about you fully feeling and expressing your resentment, and the feeling and expression are with the body and voice, not the content. 

Say the phrase 4-5 times, and then pause and ask yourself, “Did I fully express it?” “Did I go all the way?” If the answer is no, then express the same phrase several more times, pausing at the end and asking again, “Did I fully express?” “Did I go all the way?” “Did I match what my body is feeling?”

If you have fully expressed it, you’ll feel it in your body. There will be a release. Trust your body (not your mind). It will know. 

Step 3: Check for willingness to shift from resentment to appreciation

Commitment #7 of the 15 commitments invites us to make a conscious choice between resentment and appreciation. Conscious leaders choose over and over again to shift from resentment into appreciation. It is not that conscious leaders don’t become resentful. They do. They experience being wronged, betrayed, hurt, and discounted. They have a resentful part of themselves, just like unconscious leaders. They’re human, and they have ego identities. 

And, after they fully feel and reveal their resentment, matching experience and expression, they check to see if they’re willing to shift from resentment to appreciation. It’s a choice. 

Sometimes the answer is no, even hell no. Sometimes conscious leaders choose to stay in resentment, but they choose it consciously. They have surfaced their resentment and expressed it, and then they choose to stay in resentment. It’s as simple as, “Today is Tuesday, and I choose to keep resenting my boss for passing me over for promotion.” The key phrase is “I choose.” Resentment isn’t happening To Me. I’m not a victim of my resentment. Rather, I’m choosing it. 

People will consciously choose resentment because they believe they are justified to be resentful. They believe they’re right and that they were wronged. They choose to be right and justified. They often choose it because it gives them a sense of power over a person or situation in which they feel powerless, one down, like a victim. It makes sense that they choose it. They’ll keep choosing it until the cost of staying resentful exceeds the cost of shifting to appreciation. Sometimes they’ll keep it for a lifetime. 

Remember, resentment is connected to entitlement. Some part of us believes we are entitled to something happening that didn’t happen. We believe we’re absolutely right that life should have turned out another way. Where there is entitlement, there is resentment. 

Step 4-B: Choose appreciation 

You’ll notice that this is step 4-B. There is a step 4-A, and some people need 4-A before they can do 4-B, and others don’t. When I learned this practice from Dr. Blanton, there was no 4-A. We went straight to 4-B, and it worked that way for me for years. In my experience, it works IF you’re fully willing to choose to appreciate. 

Begin by remembering that appreciation means “to see with fresh eyes” and “to allow someone or something to grow in value.” When I choose appreciation, I choose to see the person and the circumstance with fresh eyes, and I choose to let the person and the circumstance grow in value. I choose actually to see them, and what they did or didn’t do, as valuable, as a gift, as necessary for me and my growth in consciousness. 

To do this practice, I again say a simple direct phrase. In fact, I say the same phrase I was saying in Step 2, but I substitute appreciate for resent.  So, if I was saying, 

“I resent you for having sex with Theo ” 
I now say, 
“I appreciate you for having sex with Theo.” 

Again, no extra words, stories, or beliefs. And, just like Step 2, Step 4 is done from the body, especially from the heart. I look at the picture of the offender, or the person who is standing in for the offender, or the offender themselves, and I simply say from the heart, “I appreciate you for …….” I say this phrase 3-4 times, and then I pause and check and see if my appreciation is authentic. Do I really, sincerely appreciate them for doing exactly what they did? 

If I don’t feel authentic appreciation, I go back to resenting and say the phrase, “I resent you for …” I do this until I feel complete. Then I check to see if I’m willing to appreciate them. If my answer is a sincere yes, I say, “I appreciate you for …” 

I go back and forth until my heart and body feel appreciation. At that point, I’m free, free from the sludge of resentment. 

Step 4-A: Do The Work

Over the years, I’ve learned that sometimes it helps me and others to do The Work of Byron Katie on the core belief that has been the source of my resentment. If my core belief is “You shouldn’t have had sex with Theo,” I do The Work until I can see how the opposite of my story is just as true or truer than my original story. Once I have done the work (by the way, this can be a process that takes hours and days, not minutes), then I am available to sincerely appreciate the person for what they did or didn’t do. At that point, I can return to Step 4-B. 

One final warning label I’d like to put on this powerful process: it’s possible to use this tool as a spiritual bypass. Spiritual bypass is using a tool, often a consciousness tool, to keep from fully feeling and dealing with reality. What this looks like with this tool is that I shift to appreciation in my head because I should shift. I don’t really fully open my heart to both the hurt and the heartbreak, and because of this, I can’t fully release and be open to coming back to love and appreciation. You’ll know if you used this as a spiritual bypass because you’ll still find yourself resenting the other person, unwilling to be fully open-hearted toward them. 

Finally, just because you have released your resentment and chosen appreciation, it doesn’t mean that you need to be in a relationship with this person. You might choose not to be, but you’ll choose from above the line, from presence, from open-heartedness, and not from resentment, entitlement, and needing to be right.

Jim coaches someone through the resentment process

WARNING: Video contains expletives

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