Resentment is a bitch

I have some resentments. Some are old ones I take out and air periodically and some are new, a result of day to day living. I don’t like having them. Resenting things makes me feel small and petty and with the old ones, vindictive; when I revisit them, I often wish ill upon the targets of my ire.

I don’t like having bad feelings. Their emergence, however, is an inevitable consequence of life. How we deal with them is where the work needs to happen.

Resentments usually relate to things outside of our control.

Other people’s behaviours, other people’s thoughts, and other’s people’s opinions have very little to do with us; unfortunately, I’ve worked hard and pointlessly to affect them. How does the saying go? “Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.”

The happiest people with the least resentments are the ones who accept that truth. They know they control very little; what they do and think and that’s pretty much it.

If the proposition about control is true, and it seems logical to me, then my resentments are pointless, because they’re based on things other people did or did to me, which was never in my power to change or prevent.

Resenting choices I’ve made in the past is also pointless. I might wish I had chosen to do things differently, but undoing what’s done is not in my control.

For instance, I resent the fact that people feel the need to tell me what I should do. This mostly relates to family members. They think they know best. They always have. They very rarely listen to what I have to say; they mostly wait until I’m done talking to tell me what I mean.

When I was eighteen, I wanted to leave home and go to acting school. The one I chose was far from home, in a different country. The money was there, at least for the first year, in student bonds that had been bought for me when I was a child.

I shared my desire with my parents and was immediately shot down. Go to university here instead, they said. Get a skill. Then, if you still want to, go for that dream.

In retrospect, acting school was a horrible idea. I was already very sick with my eating disorder, though hiding it well. My desire was less about being an actress and more about running away to a new life where I’d finally feel well. Where I’d feel like not-me and would, therefore, be accepted, popular, and above all, thin and beautiful. That’s what I wanted from moving away.

If geography could fix those problems, going away to university would have had the same effect. Instead, I decompensated rapidly.

Although their decision to keep me close to home was perhaps right, I resent it. I often indulge in ridiculous and far-fetched fantasies about what might have been. And we’re decades on now. I wish they’d let me make the decision for myself. I wish they didn’t feel the need to still try and influence my choices. It’s a function of my mental illness, I suspect. If I suffer depression, I must need someone to make choices for me. Part of this is on me. I give elements of control away to others to keep the peace, to keep people happy, to keep everything calm.

I then resent them for taking advantage of the control I gave them. It’s not unironic.

I guess that means the person I really resent is myself.

I hate insight.

I wish I’d known I was in control. I wish I’d known I could stand up for myself without fearing ostracism. I wish I had learned to say no.

I resent not being taught those things, too.

Resentment rises up when you believe something is unfair. You’re correct or you’re not in your assessment, but both are irrelevant. How other people treat you is beyond your control. You can act in mitigating ways – enforcing boundaries, saying “no”, leading by example – but how people choose to treat you is up to them. Luckily, you get to control your response.

I am in charge of my responses. With respect to the school decision, I could’ve fought. I could’ve argued. I could’ve gone without the money and worked if I was really dedicated to the idea of becoming a great actress. Evidence suggests I wasn’t. I just wanted to be not-me.

If I’m in charge, then I’m responsible for my choices and what came from them. Sometimes conditions put us into situations in which there are no good choices, and that sucks, but even then, we’re in control.

If I’m in control, then resentment is illogical and a waste of energy. The aspects of my life that piss me off, historically and in the now, are in my power to change. If I don’t do so, then the resulting situation is, in effect, my choice. Why waste time resenting something I’m choosing? That’s definitely shooting oneself in the foot.

I may not like the situation but resentment adds insult to injury. Resentment causes me harm. It’s the emotional equivalent to an own goal.

But if I’m in control of my thoughts and actions, then I’m in control of my resentment. I can choose to embrace it or I can choose to let it go. Letting things go isn’t easy; it’s not a “one and done” kind of thing. The issues pop back up over and over; however, each time you let go, it gets easier.

Time really does win out over almost everything.

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