How Clearing Resentments Can Benefit the Appraisal of Our Health

By Jennifer Battisti

We’ve all heard the slogans—how holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We’ve all been mentally terrorized by letting others take up real estate in our minds. Spinning scenarios about imagined outcomes, recycling arguments, gossiping about past slights, all of this attributes not only to mental exhaustion, but also, chronic inflammation, which is the prerequisite for illness, disease, aging, and even insomnia and belly fat. Makes you want to start the eviction process immediately, right? But why is it so difficult to let go? Why is it so tough to implement the floorplan for empathy and forgiveness?

I think we have to first understand the payoff of resentments before we can choose not to take the bait. There is something so chemically delicious about feeling victimized. There, I said it. Truth is, we behave in unhealthy ways because the ego likes it. The ego likes to make something wrong, so that it can be right. It is the nature of the ego; to separate. The last thing the ego wants is an open house, where everyone meets others with compassion and freshly baked cookies.

Fortunately, pain is motivating, and after I spend enough time punishing someone in my mind for being human, I hurt too. It does not feel good in my body to keep that fire smoldering. We can outwit the ego with wisdom. The ego only exists in the past (where all of your grudges are) or the future (where all of your fears live). The ego cannot survive in the present. The present moment is like homeowners insurance for your whole being. Try it out. Next time you are reliving a heated fight from that morning, or imagining a future conflict in your mind, focus on your breath. Where are your feet? What is the weather like? This is essentially a trick, but the ego is sneaky and cunning. This is not to suggest that we stuff or repress our feelings. That would be a little like never changing the air filters and expecting clean air.
First, we welcome our emotions; we validate them, in the moment: Wow, I am angry, scared/feeling undervalued/so totally frustrated! Second, we give our feelings space; paper is my favorite place. I can really get honest about the nature of the hurt: I am mad at ______________ because he/she violated my _________ (usually trust, confidence, our friendship, my boundaries, time). The story I am telling myself about this incident holds the keys to my peace of mind. The real, vulnerable, gut-wrenching honest truth. Which is usually something about my not feeling worthy, not being seen or heard. Then I become generous with my thinking. I realize that causing harm is rarely intentional. It is rarely even about me at all. I imagine how it might be to be the person I am angry at. I consider that they might be struggling in ways I am not aware of. Once I arrive here, the resentment loses steam and it becomes less about the other person and more about me and about my relationship with myself. This is the only relationship we have any power over.

I can begin to see how all of us are tender egos trying to feel seen and suddenly, humanity sets in and just like that all the windows have been opened and the sun is let in. This is not to say we don’t speak our heart’s truth when we are hurt. Many grievances can be traced back to unrealistic or unspoken expectations on our part. The key is to communicate clearly and directly about your expectations from the start. This is not always easy for women because society can still label it as “bossy,” or “harsh.” In reality, I admire women who own their truth and speak it respectfully. It shows they value the relationship if they have taken the time to set appropriate boundaries. This honesty works like the homeowners association for all of your relationships. Then you can get back to enjoying your community, back to planning that block party, just be clear who’s in charge of the chips and dip!