Resentful – How can I stop this feeling?

resentfulI suppose it is natural for us to feel resentful when others demean us, frustrate us or do us harm. I feel resentful about how Sharon spoke to me. Not what she said, but how she said it – shouting and slamming the phone down. It’s not as if this were a one-off: there have been several angry outbursts lately. I keep thinking about how unfair she is being.

Yet people say how wonderful she is. It seems as if no-one but myself knows what she is really like. I have started to imagine her making a fool of herself and showing herself up – then others will see her poor self-control and feel about her the same way as I do. Perhaps she’ll get the boot. Part of me thinks ‘Let’s hope so, I don’t want to see her again.’

At the same time another part of me seem to dimly realize that it is unhealthy to allow my hurt feelings to smart for too long.

Do you recognise this kind of resentful feeling in yourself? Do you ever find yourself occasionally imagining getting your own back on someone who has offended you? Such feelings can fester for a long time and start to eat away at a relaxed and composed state of mind.

It all starts when you feel upset about what someone says or does. Maybe you are uncomfortable about directly complaining to that individual or perhaps you have had little chance to do so. From a spiritual perspective, I would suggest that if you open yourself to an unforgiving spirit then you will entertain resentful blaming thoughts which stew and spoil future communication.

You may find yourself engaging in private resentful thoughts that even end up turning into vindictive fantasy. And before you know it, you are feeling so tense and irritated with someone that your relationship goes from bad to worse.

The question arises how can you stop feeling so resentful?

Feeling less resentful by not retaliating

Surely if you start to retaliate this will damage your chances of putting aside resentful feeling?

The film Tit for Tat featuring Laurel and Hardy comes to mind. The two heroes open an electrical goods shop next door to Charlie’ grocery store. The comedy develops in the way the characters involved respond to each other. Charlie mistakenly thinks that Ollie is making advances towards his wife and damages a few items in Stan and Ollie’s shop. Resentfully, Stan and Ollie respond by destroying Charlie’s things and the confrontations continue eventually wreaking havoc in both stores.

This comic picture sadly mirrors the tragic events of history where reconciliation is prevented by the violence of retaliation.

At the time of writing we are in the middle of another nightmarish escalation of bloodshed in the Middle East with rockets sent into Israel aiming at indiscriminate killing of civilians and Israeli forces bombing buildings packed with civilians thought to harbour Hamas fighters. These are disproportionate responses to what preceded. Neither side seem interested in working towards a permanent peace. Israel wants security but is creating more enemies. We can only feel great sorrow for the despairing people in each community led by those who want to vent their resentful fury with no spirit of forgiveness in their hearts.

Finding a way out of this kind of mess is of course easier said than done. Stopping the retaliation can only be part of the answer.

Feeling less resentful by noticing anything that is good about the enemy

It is very difficult not to allow anger to rule one’s thoughts when you have been hurt. But I wonder whether another part of the answer is for those involved in conflict to take a step back from their resentful thoughts and search for new ways of thinking. Ways that don’t involve jumping to conclusions and seeing things in black and white.

I strongly believe that if you turn yourself towards a spirit of forgiveness then you can discover fairer and calmer ways of seeing a situation: a spirit that helps you try to see things from the point of view of those who have caused offence to you and that focuses on their good points and well-being as well as your own.

Feeling less resentful by considering one’s own faults

Don’t we all do something wrong at some time or another in our lives? I would suggest that it is easier to see the misdeeds of others, than face up to your own failings.

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ (Jesus Christ)

Isn’t getting irritated about someone else’s behaviour a way of turning a blind eye to one’s own faults?

It is uncomfortable examining one’s own weaknesses and mistakes – probably because we play the blame game; easier to accuse someone else than point the finger at oneself. But why look for blame anywhere? Why be judgmental about anyone including yourself?

When we see the need for forgiveness for our own blunders then I would suggest it is easier for us to accept that the enemy also needs forgiveness. If we ask for our own misconduct to be set aside and forgotten then does it not become possible to have a forgiving attitude towards others?

If you cannot pardon your our own wrongdoing then what chance have you of believing it is possible for you to excuse your foe?

From a religious angle, in holding a grudge we are cut off from sensing the divine spirit of compassion. As the Christian prayer says

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Getting angry isn’t the problem. Holding the anger and acting on it are the problems. When we start to consider the well-being of those who have angered us then our resentful feeling has no room within our hearts. I believe then we can swallow our injured pride and can ‘forgive and forget’.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Build trust — How to help my organisation.

Do you trust senior members of your organisation to get it right or to be a credible source of information? Do you trust the constant stream of commercial messages and political spin to which you are exposed.  What can be done to help to build trust?

Benefits of trust within an organisation and community

Organisational and community life is not risk-free and depends on an appropriate degree of trust. Trust makes social life predictable, it creates a sense of community, and it makes it easier for people to work together.

“Trust makes the world go ’round,”

Where there is an element of distrust between neighbours over social nuisance issues or between local tradesmen and customers, then there is damage to community cohesion. Whatever the type of organisation you are associated with, you will probably know that to try to build trust among its members, stakeholders and users is crucial for things to go well. Significant distrust much increases the time it takes to get things done.

Help to build trust by being trustworthy

Trying to build trust can help the general quality of life so that people can thrive. Be trustworthy by doing what you say you will do and doing it well and on time.  Keep secret what people confide in you and don’t betray the organisation’s confidential information. At the same time talk straight and don’t spin facts, telling the truth even if this is not always comfortable or pleasant. For example own up to mistakes and if caught in a lie admit it explaining why you were less than honest.

Help to build trust by trusting others

Show trust with neither gullibility nor cynicism (see here ) For example getting recommendations before engaging a plumber or electrician but then trusting them to do a good job and not overcharge beyond their estimate. In the last analysis life is not risk-free.

Being a little open speaking your feelings means being a little vulnerable. You can be truthful about how you define a boundary around what you are keeping secret. Honesty helps to create rapport and rapport builds trust. Likewise volunteering information you didn’t have to give. In other words demonstrate your trust in others and they will trust you.

Help to build trust by being generous

Trust grows when mutual commitments are delivered without concern for personal advantage or attempted manipulation or control. So be willing to share your knowledge, your contacts, and your sympathy — without expecting anything in return. The more you take the initiative to give, the more it builds trust.

Help to build trust by making positive contact across social lines

Build trustSince its legal inception in 1921 Northern Ireland has been plagued with violence and dispute. The central problem of mistrust there has been probably caused by a mixture of perceived imperial action by Great Britain,  an entrenchment of the past, cultural clashes and a severe identity crisis.

Research by social psychologists has established that positive contact across social lines when it is frequent non-threatening, non-anxiety provoking, tends to reduce prejudice. This was true in the results of study of students in Northern Ireland who identify themselves as belonging to either the Protestant or Catholic community Friendships across a group divide such as the religious divide, can powerfully reduce prejudice and suspicion. Simply knowing other ingroup members who have friendships with outgroup members can also lead to reduction in prejudice.

Help to build trust by looking for the good in others

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg there are limits of trust in this world because we are not all in a heavenly state. There are people who increase mistrust due to selfish greed and dishonesty. However he says that people with a charitable heart try to look for the good in others.

I would interpret this to mean, when challenging someone, first speak to what is good about someone rather than overplaying the negative — in other words showing respect even when you are inclined to be critical.

Help to build trust in diversity

Swedenborg says that heaven hangs together as a unified whole in harmony although it shows a huge variety of individual differences between its inhabitants. No two people are ever entirely alike as to their memories, perceptions and thoughts, or to their feelings, inclinations and intentions.  Despite this, because of their heavenly character, they live in complete unanimity and harmony.

Being open

He also describes the heavenly afterlife in terms of openness. In heaven this is said  be as a state of being where one’s inner state is seen by others. So he maintains that the wise ideas and intentions of one individual are directly shared with another.

“Heaven is where everyone shares everything of value. This is because the very nature of heavenly love is to want what is one’s own to belong to another.” (Swedenborg Heaven & Hell section 268)

For him, this love is the basis of heavens trust and happiness.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems