Now that’s a challenging statement! I had a great Aunt once who used to say to me that it’s not other people who get me angry…it’s me who lets them get me angry. I COULDN’T STAND IT when she’d say that, but it was true, and it remains true even to this very day. Heck, there are even times now that I don’t like to believe it, but I can’t avoid it. My feelings are my responsibility. Period.
But They Did it to Me!!!
No. No they didn’t. YOU started it. They’re ignoring you and not returning your calls, and they’re your best friend! How could they? Well maybe it was your continued negativity and complaining that turned them off wanting to connect with you? Or maybe you’ve been so busy with work that you’ve been ignoring them, and they’re feeling slighted?
In many cases, if we’re honest about it, we discover that WE are the authors of our own resentments. We start the ball rolling. We step on their toes first, they retaliate, and we end up angry. Now, does that really make sense?
What makes more sense is to own up to our mistake – what we did wrong to start the whole thing off – and then move beyond it by making amends for our portion of it. Forget about their portion…that’s their business. Let’s clean up our side of the street, and see how we feel afterwards.
No, Really, THEY DID IT TO ME!!!
Well, ok. You may actually be right. But holding on to it as a resentment still affects only you, not them. I’ve heard it said that resentment is like drinking a poison that I hope will kill the other person. Not a very effective strategy, huh? No, not at all.
There are those of us who have been legitimately wronged, without ever having asked for it in the first place. I’ll be the first to admit it. Many are victims of childhood sexual abuse, rape, incest, you name it, and we’re very affected by it even today. For many of us, it has shaped who we are today, some for the better, and unfortunately, some of us for the worse. What do we do with this?
Well, first we recognize this as a special case. WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG HERE. We don’t allow anyone to tell us otherwise. Instead we recognize that our ongoing anger/resentment is the result of that little kid inside us that, to this very day, still doesn’t feel safe.
How do we help him/her feel safe? We learn how to set boundaries. Boundaries are key, because when I have appropriate boundaries in my life, nobody is going to “get away with” hurting me any longer. This is so because my boundaries will ensure that they don’t get the opportunity.
Boundary Setting Is Simple…But Not Always Easy
“So Mike, I get what you’re saying. I can see that some of my resentments are because of my own actions or inaction. I can also see that I let people “get away with” stuff that I shouldn’t. I can own up to my own stuff, but how do you suggest I set boundaries?”
First, we have to have a formula in place. Those of you who have taken my program know that I like to use “W.I.N.” statements to communicate my needs and expectations for the future. Here’s an example I actually used with someone who would offer their opinion on things without my actually having requested it.
“XXXXXX (name of person), WHEN you give me advice without having asked if I would like to hear it, I feel disrespected, and treated like a child. In the future I NEED you to please ask me first if I would like to hear your feedback before offering it. Can I get your commitment to do that, please?”
I’ve underlined the “W” in “when”, the “I” in “I” and the “N” in “need”. That spells “WIN,” and it really is a “win” for us when we can speak our truth and insist that our needs be respected.
It can be challenging, however, because some people will not agree to what we say we need. We then have to be willing to name to them the consequences for disregarding our needs, and we have to be willing to follow through on them. In some cases, this might mean ending a relationship, either temporarily or permanently.
But I’m Not Ready to Do This, Mike!!!
That’s ok. But before you conclude this definitively, please do me a favour and fill out a “Pro and Con” list. The “pros” are the reasons why you should set the boundary, and the “cons” are the reasons you shouldn’t.
When you’re done, rank each reason as to it’s validity on a scale of 1-10. 1 means its not a really good reason, and 10 means it’s an excellent reason. Add the numbers up. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Then that says you’d be better off setting the boundary. Do the cons outweigh the pros? Then for now, you’re not ready, so don’t worry about it.
We don’t change until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change. Not doing anything may just be the thing you need to increase the pain to a high enough level to warrant action.
Ok Mike, I’m Ready, But I’m Scared!!!
Well, who wouldn’t be? We’re about to confront “THE BOOGEYMAN”!!! We’re about to challenge someone in a way we’ve never been able to before, and we’re scared. This is natural. I read a book many years ago called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” Enough said, right? At some point we just have to do it.
Just know this: most of what we fear never comes to pass, and that which does, usually is never anywhere near as bad as we expected it to be. True story.
Regardless of where the anger or resentment came from, it’s always and everywhere true that “When I am disturbed, there’s something wrong with me.” It’s up to me to change my thinking so that I’m no longer disturbed, because most likely nobody else is going to do it for me. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” By choosing to either own up to my mistakes, or to set boundaries, I’m taking positive action towards being happier.
That’s a good thing. I try to be willing, on a daily basis. How about you?