Jane’s husband had an affair and despite her forgiving him and trying to rebuild their marriage, he eventually left her for the other women. Two years later Jane has rebuilt her life but is still filled with resentment about her husband leaving and losing the future that they had planned.
When Jane came to see me she was struggling to feel fulfilled and content with her current life as she was stuck in negative emotions about the past that drained and disempowered her. Jane couldn’t understand why she still hadn’t let go of her anger and resentment even though she’d tried. I explained that when we have negative emotions and habits that we can’t change it can be because there are some benefits or advantages to keeping them that we may not be aware of.
That may sound unlikely to you, but imagine a time when you’ve held onto resentment or pain, could you have reasons for not letting them go?
- You get to keep the moral high ground. Feeling that you are in the right and the other person is wrong can give a boost to your self-esteem in the short term,
- You get comfort and attention from others. This is referred to as a ‘victim mentality’ and is the enjoyment of feeling important to others and having their support
- You don’t have to step out of your comfort zone. Focusing on the past rather than the future can feel safe and familiar rather than the scary unknown.
Once Jane had understood what she gained from holding onto the pain of her marriage breakdown she was ready to take steps to finally let go.
- Look into the future. Ask yourself what will the be the long term affects on my life if I hold onto these feelings? How will it affect my relationships and my happiness?
- Don’t feed the memories. Ruminating on the situation just reinforces the memory rather than letting it go
- Forgive the person or the action. This doesn’t mean you condone them or their behaviour it just allows you to let go of the pain
- Focus on the things you can control. The past is outside your circle of influence so instead find positive things you can control
- Be grateful. There is always something to be grateful for and it maybe that the difficult experience itself could have led to some positives in your life
Following these steps doesn’t mean that you will lose all your negative feelings straight away. However practicing them regularly will reduce how often they pop up and their power to affect you.
As for Jane; she is no longer my client as she has learnt to control and let go of her resentment by focusing on these actions herself. Her life hasn’t dramatically changed but she now feels enjoyment, satisfaction and purpose in living it.
5 Steps To Letting Go Of Pain And Resentment