I learned something new about myself last week in therapy.
I had been nervous and anxious about going to my session this particular week. I really only get this way when I try to bring up something that I’m ashamed of, or that I’m already secretly judging myself for doing. See, if there was one thing that I’ve learned being in therapy for the past 5 and a half months, it’s that it’s better if I’m being completely honest to myself, about myself, and with myself. I have to remind myself on these days that therapy isn’t a place of judgment, it’s a safe space to talk out these thoughts without feeling like I’m the stupidest person in the world.
In this particular session, I told my therapist about some behavior I found myself doing during certain moments of my day; many of them were when I felt a lack of control of my own life and the situations surrounding it that may not be in my control. I was glad she didn’t stare at me like I had 15 heads but bringing this certain thing up (which I will like to keep private for now) caused me having to bring up other things that I honestly haven’t thought about in a while.
It’s no stranger that I had a very dark past a couple of years ago. I share that part of my life to not just help other people overcome similar struggles, but for me to overcome it myself. A lot of the issues I carry on in my everyday life stem from various places within that time: I avoid confrontation like the goddamn plague, I am afraid of being assertive, and I easily dissociate whenever things get bad between me and people in general. While it’s not hard for me to talk about that part of my life because I took responsibility in playing bad parts of it, I still find it hard to forgive myself for my actions to this very day. It’s painful to reflect and it’s extremely hard not to be full of regret. Half of that reason was that I’m just naturally extremely hard on myself, the other half is because I never got proper closure, and probably never will.
I guess you can say that I hold onto grudges against everyone that was involved in that time of my life.
In general, I always thought I held onto grudges. I seemed to be the person that never ended things in a good way. When things got messy and rough and too much for me to handle, I vanish. I leave people behind without explanation and act like they never existed. I lived my life like this because I always thought I was forgettable; I was nothing special to remember. But doing that never left me feeling good; it just leaves me with painful memories and regrets and shame that I quickly have to get over before I dive into the “I fucking hate myself” part of my brain.
I reminded my therapist that the grudge I keep currently reminds me a lot about the one I kept since my dark past: Both dealt with people who were narcissistic, selfish, toxic, and manipulative. Both people left me in a state of loneliness and sadness, yet didn’t recognize the damage they have caused. The person from the past never apologized for putting me in a state so far in depression I was ready to kill myself. The person in my life currently never apologized for their behavior and hurting my family and myself. Because of that, I cannot “forgive and forget”. I cannot excuse the behavior and manipulation for pure “sickness and immaturity”. I cannot see them as good, changeable people anymore.
“Well, that’s not holding a grudge, Liz. That’s feeling resentment towards these people.”
What the fuck was the difference? Wasn’t being resentful just as equally bad as holding grudges? I didn’t know if my therapist was just trying to comfort me or spit out some true facts at me, but I was left confused. I asked her how are they different? Aren’t they both just as bad? Aren’t they both negative things I don’t wanna have to keep feeling?
“Holding a grudge and being resentful are two different effects that can come from a similar background. From a psychological standpoint, holding a grudge typically occurs when a person has owned up to their wrongdoings and took responsibilities for their actions in treating you unfairly, and perhaps you’ve forgiven them, but you never really will forgive them for what they did, no matter how much they’ve proven to be better people now. Being resentful is when the person who treated you unfairly never apologized or took into consideration that their actions affected you in any way, even if they changed for the better or don’t reflect the type of person they were during the time they treated you poorly.
You’re resentful, which isn’t such a bad thing to be. You may not completely see it now, but you’re acknowledging your self-worth and showcasing assertiveness by being resentful. You demand an apology when someone has disrespected you or has done something to negatively affect you in some way because you know you deserve it. Because many people are not willing to swallow their pride in order to take on such big responsibilities like that, you don’t wait long for that apology. Hence, you feel resentment towards the people who treated you unfairly.”
I was in complete shock. It explained so many things about my life and myself that I was never able to answer. Why did I allow people to hurt me to the point of no return? Why wasn’t I ever able to talk things out with people in my past and move past those wrongdoings in our lives? Was it really me running away to avoid confrontation or did I always knew how much I really deserved out of people and out of life in general? I thought I was always the bad person for “holding grudges”. I thought I was petty or spiteful if I still felt negative things about a person way after things changed or after I moved on. Why would these random people, who I do not miss having in my life whatsoever, bring me some sort of post-trauma? Why would those things that happened to me all those years ago influence how I resolve issues with people in general? Am I now a bad person for constantly running away from people, and pretend they never existed? Am I only hurting myself in the end?
I’ve realized that I had no control in “holding my grudges”, which is why I always thought I was this horrible person. I couldn’t see past all the harassment, manipulation, and threats. I couldn’t see past the catalyst for my major depression and suicidal thoughts. I simply couldn’t forgive.
But what is there to forgive if nothing was ever apologized for?
And that’s where it clicked.
I left my therapy session feeling a lot better than how I entered it. It had felt like I lifted six years of weight off of my shoulders and I was finally able to breathe again. In a sense, I was also able to lift my current resentment towards family off of my shoulders as well. I was able to be okay to feel the way I felt about these two separate situations, and it was okay for me to move on without feeling like I’m this “petty” person for not forgiving people who never apologized for hurting me or abusing me verbally and mentally. People who never took responsibility for their actions and never apologized for heir behavior is not worthy for you to just drop it and act like nothing happened. At the end of the day, you are not wrong for still being resentful towards a person who has hurt you and never cared about/acknowledged the fact that you were mistreated.
We tend to forget that people are actual fucking human beings; we forget that we all have real human, complex emotions that have opinions and thoughts about everything in life. When we unintentionally hurt people, we have to know how it feels to be in their shoes. You have to see things their way and ask yourself what was it that made them upset or mad at you in the first place. We then get a sense of the idea of what made them feel this way, and we apologize for unintentionally hurting them. No one is ever not going to apologize for unintentionally hurting someone unless you don’t plan on seeing things through the other person’s eyes. If you can’t sit back and reflect on your actions toward that person and think how it made them felt, you aren’t going to feel like there’s a reason to apologize. And that’s when resentment builds. If you would like someone to apologize to you when you are hurt, apologize to the people that you’ve hurt.
Just how being selfish with yourself doesn’t make you an asshole, feeling resentful because you know you’re worthy for apologies isn’t selfish. It’s wanting what you give back. It’s about getting respect. It’s about being honest and truthful and doing the right thing in situations.
I know the people in my life who I resent will never offer me any type of an apology, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay knowing that there are people who will acknowledge and apologize, and others will ignore and move on. I’m a resentful person, and as of now, I am happy that I am. I am still learning how to pick all the weeds and keep the flowers like Kelly Clarkson once said! I am allowed to hold resentment towards people who’ve hurt me the most, but I also know when to move on and start prioritizing my needs and my self-worth. Maybe part of my process right now is being resentful.
Be kind, but be assertive for your respect. You deserve it just as much as the next person, Y’all.