It’s been said that holding on to resentment is like stabbing yourself with a knife and expecting the other person to feel the pain.
And that is so true! Resentment hurts you a lot more than the person you resent.
That’s because the person who’s the target of your resentment may not be bothered at all by your feelings. They may be doing just fine and continue enjoying their life, untroubled, while you’re eaten up by bitterness and anger.
Though, what if you just can’t seem to let go of resentment? What if you simply can’t forget the bad things this person has said or done?
The fact is, resentment doesn’t just hurt you, it’s also your choice.
‘But my ex made me resentful,’ you may think.
You see, the problem with that kind of thinking is that you’re putting too much importance on something you can’t control—the actions of someone else!
However, what you can control is how you react to the situation. And resentment is neither your only option nor the best one.
Why not change your approach and adopt some new strategies to help you let go of resentment and be able to live a happier life?
Consider six ways:
1. Remember, a thought is just a thought
When you recycle events over and over in your mind, you give them more power than they should have. Thoughts are simply thoughts. They don’t have to ruin your life by reminding you of the things that irritated you about your past relationship. You can take away their power by using the practice of mindfulness.
Take a deep breath, stay present, and let your thoughts and emotions simply pass by. Ask yourself: Why do I keep hanging on to those feelings? What purpose does that serve? Remind yourself that you can have negative thoughts and emotions, but they need a limit. You need to leave them in the past, so you don’t waste your energies in the present on things you can’t change.
2. Imagine yourself in a happier place
Once you allow yourself to stop dwelling on the pain and the what-ifs, give yourself permission to go to a happier place in your mind. Look at matters from a different perspective. Instead of being upset that your ex moved on so quickly, call to mind that you’ll get to start over with someone who treats you with the love and respect you deserve, someone who truly values you.
Manage your thoughts and emotions by accepting what they truly are—relics from the past that stand in the way of a happier future. True, you may never completely get over some negative feelings. But by focusing on the freedom you now have to pursue a happier life, you can greatly decrease the intensity of those thoughts and feelings.
3. Dwell on what makes you smile
If you’re not ready to conjure up images of a brighter future just yet, remind yourself of what makes you smile right now. Spend time with people that love you and care about you. Reflect on all the things in your life that you can be grateful for. It’s not that your whole life ended just because your relationship with one person didn’t work out. Continue to set goals for yourself and replace the hurt with enjoyable things.
4. Determine what’s truly important
Having the last say, getting back at your ex, making them understand just how much pain they’ve caused you—is that truly important? The fact is, not every offense has to be beaten into the ground. You’ll most often find that if it didn’t matter to them when you were still in a relationship, it matters even less now.
What’s important now is your happiness. And if children are involved, their happiness certainly must be the most important focus. For their sake, let go of resentment and invest in raising them together as co-parents in a peaceful way. That includes setting boundaries, sticking to higher standards, and adhering to agreements, no matter how you feel about your ex.
5. Uncover the lesson
As mentioned at the outset, you have no control over anybody but yourself. Remember, your past shaped the way you are today, so will the end of your relationship. In which manner it will shape you, well, that’s up to you. But consider, if you want to have a healthy relationship with someone else in the future, you’ll have to let go of the bad memories connected with this one. Holding on to bitterness isn’t worth sacrificing your joy!
6. Understand the meaning of forgiveness
Forgiveness is key. To forgive means to pardon, to set free, to cancel a debt, to let go of something. To truly forgive your ex, you have to let go of resentment. That doesn’t mean you should minimize the offense as if it never happened. No. It means you let go of the lingering pain, bitterness, and anger so that the offense no longer holds power over your emotions.
What you will find is peace of mind and a sense of freedom. You’re no longer shackled by your wounds. That’s the beautiful thing about forgiveness. It’s not just something you extend to someone else, it liberates you, too!