Resentment and Impact

Resentment breeds in the cracks of unacknowledged impact.

The following article is demonstrating just one aspect of resentment, and one way of dealing with it. The focus here is placing the onus on the 'listener' or the person who isn't feeling resentment in a particular moment, and what this person can do to reduce, and even completely eliminate resentment in the other by the practice of offering empathy and understanding. 

To start with, I want to visit what is almost like one of our mantra's at Triibe, and an essential foundation for healthy and mature relating:

"My thoughts, feelings and actions say more about me than they do about you, and your thoughts, feelings and actions say more about you than they do about me"

What this means is that the way you are thinking, feeling and acting is revealing your values, conditioning, perspectives and meaning making.

If you now do something (words are an action here) and it impacts me... how it impacts me is revealing my own values, conditioning, perspectives and meaning making in response to that action.

As long as you aren't directly breaking an agreement you made with me, or you aren't trying to control and change my thoughts, feelings and actions... then my response to anything you say is actually about me and my inner world.

You can't make me hurt, or angry, or sad, or happy, or anything else. You also can't make me think a certain way, or do anything I don't want to do.

Yet your actions still can have an impact on me, as mine can on you. 

Impact can be when I do something and you do feel hurt by it, perhaps I was not so graceful in my actions. Maybe, for example, we had just recently ended a relationship and I take someone new on a date to an event that I knew you might be at. We didn't have any agreements around whether I can do that or not, so I haven't actually authentically offended you or technically done anything wrong, yet you get hurt, and then angry. I didn't do it to try and hurt you, I am genuinely just trying to move on, yet it happened and now you are hurt and angry.

Your hurt and anger is about you, not me. 

At one level I can just disregard your feelings and use this sentiment to dismiss what you are feeling. This is actually valid in some way, however it's not helpful for creating any kind of safety, connection and intimacy. Also your hurt isn't necessarily going to feel good for me. What has happened is that my actions have had an impact on you, and even though the impact isn't technically my responsibility, I can still create a more beautiful and safer world through how I deal with the impact it has caused. 

It is when these impacts go unacknowledged, and treated as if they don't matter, is when resentment begins to grow.

If we want to be elegant in our relating with others, then knowing this becomes an incredibly powerful tool in having others feel heard and validated, without us collapsing into guilt or shame about our actions.

Sometimes we do fuck up and need to make amends. Or sometimes, like above, I might believe I haven't actually done anything wrong, yet the other person is still feeling hurt or angry by my actions.

If I now try and convince them that their feelings are wrong, because I didn't do anything wrong, or if I ignore them or think they are being dramatic, or I go on the defensive and argue my case, then I am in a place of not acknowledging the impact I have had... and this is extremely detrimental to intimacy and relationship.

This is where the resentment breeds. It takes a lot of work and self-regulation in these places if one is feeling resentment to try and stay out of this feeling, and most people I do not think have the capacity to actually do that.

However if I do acknowledge the impact I had, by validating their feelings or thoughts (even if I don't fully agree with them), their system will have the opportunity to soothe itself. They won't feel disconnected and crazy and the crack in which resentment might grow, will close up and intimacy can flourish again. It is in these moments that we have a choice "do I want to be right, or do I want to connect?"

What do I value more? The relationship I have with this person, or making sure that I'm not seen as doing something wrong?

In order to practice validating the reality of another, I need to first go back to the original statement and realise that their experience says more about them than me. I then don't have to make myself wrong about the impact I had.... yet I can still welcome the impact I had on them and this is done through empathy, which is conveyed by welcoming and then mirroring back the feelings of the person we are with. 

In the example above I might say something like "I hear that seeing me here with someone new has you feeling hurt and angry, is that right?" to which you will likely respond in the affirmative. I might then want to dive a bit deeper and say "I make up that it hurts because it seems like I am moving on faster than you, and that you might think I didn't really value our relationship?" again you might respond in the affirmative, or you might correct me and say it's something different. Either way, the dialogue is open and we are now connecting in an open and authentic way. Can you feel how soothing this kind of engagement is?

Sometimes though I do know something about what I did or said wasn't quite right, then I might feel some healthy shame and clear that by making an admission about that. Maybe I did have a little bit of residual anger towards you, and that's why I brought the woman because I wanted to show that I didn't need you. The most powerful thing I could do here is actually admit that, and apologise, and then hear the impact of that on you.

It's very simple. I don't make them wrong for their feelings, and I don't make myself wrong for my actions. I also at this point DO NOT try to argue my point or give reasons and justifications for my behaviour. That can all come later when they feel heard, then they will be open to hearing my reality. 

By hearing and reflecting the nature of the impact I had on another, the whole charge has an opportunity to soothe and we can then come back into connection, and hopefully explore together in a way that emerges new insights and the possibilities of new choices.

The consequences of not pausing to validate feelings, and provide empathy, is that invariably distance will grow, safety and trust will erode, resentment will breed and intimacy will diminish. 

While this practice is simple, it's also a sign of a functional adult and takes time to practice and develop... especially when heightened emotions and triggers are present.

Our Foundations course is a training ground to practice this skill, and many more, so that our relationships have the opportunity to thrive into incredible, nourishing and satisfying connections. 

 

Damien BohlerComment