Resentments are a combination of rehashed memories and the feelings that are elicited by those memories. Recovering addicts will ﬁnd serenity elusive unless they are willing to let go of resentments. A Chinese proverb says that a leash is a rope with a noose on both ends.
The word resentment literally means “re-feeling.” Though some people think that chemicals from unexpressed feelings stay in the bloodstream, we have seen no evidence to support that. More likely, the anger we refeel must be brand new biochemistry produced by memories, which are stored in the brain. When you hear someone suggest that you are “stufﬁng your feelings” you may be avoiding the painful memory, and blocking the natural neurochemical responses to that memory. They might also mean that you are anesthetizing the feelings by drinking, using, bingeing, or addictive behavior.
Either kind of response requires energy and may block other pleasurable feelings as well. If you have not shared painful memories about your family of origin, you may be wasting emotional energy in repressing these secrets, leaving less energy for joy and spontaneity today. Ironically, you may also be blocking the happy memories from your childhood along with the painful ones.
One interesting image for understanding resentment is to call it frozen anger. While we do not literally believe the anger is stored, the analogy still has a useful message. Why do you put anything in your freezer? Most people will respond, “to save it,” but actually you seldom freeze anything just to save it; usually it is because you want to use it later. Until you are willing to give up what beneﬁt your addiction gets from the resentment, you are unlikely to get rid of it.
Many people recommend praying for the person you resent. Most people can’t do this for more than a week or two without becoming willing to release the resentment. A suggestion of this method appears in the story “Freedom from Bondage” in the Big Book (p. 552).
It is sometimes enough just to become aware that you are the one being hurt by the resentment, and that often the resented person doesn’t even know how you feel. If this situation makes you feel foolish, you may be able to let the resentment go. You may also be able to use the tool of forgiveness to help you let go (see the modules on Amends and Forgiveness).
Steps Six to Nine
Steps Six through Nine are tools that should help with resentments. The Big Book even suggests that resentments are the major offender in the struggle for recovery. For many addicts other feelings play a larger part, but resentments are a major obstacle in recovery for all addicts.
There are a number of barriers that block letting resentments go:
If the resentment is still in use as a weapon, then letting it go amounts to disarmament. You may need to talk to someone about the fear you have of the person or thing you resent.
You may have grown up in an environment where it was common to hear things like, “I don’t get mad — I get even.” You may have to abandon the street-gang idea that honor requires you to make people pay for crossing you.
You might be afraid of letting people get close to you. You may even have developed this fear as a survival skill if your early environment was unsafe. You may now harbor resentments and blame others for your lack of intimacy.
Resentments, according to our deﬁnition, produce neurochemical imbalances that are exciting. You may need to give up this kind of self-medication.
Share your feelings with your friends, your support system (Twelve-Step program or other group), your therapist (if applicable), and your Higher Power (if applicable). If the hurt and fear are expressed directly, you will find less trouble with anger and rage. If you let go of resentments, you will open the door to serenity, love, joy, and spontaneity in your recovery.
Resentments, see also: Abuse, Acceptance, Affirmations, Anger, Assertiveness, Attitudes, Behavior, Character defects, Control, Defenses, Dichotomous thinking, Fear, Feelings, Forgiveness, Grief, Guilt & shame, Humility, Incest, Intimacy, Inventory, Love & caring, Openmindedness, Paradoxes in addiction, Perfectionism, Power, Powerlessness, Responsibility, Self-centeredness, Spirituality, Step Four, Step Six, Step Eight, Surrender, Survival roles, Trust.
Updated 9 Sep 2015
Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.