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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Resentment vs.Forgiveness

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 14th 2011

Resentment vs.ForgivenessAs a therapist, I worked with many people who remained preoccupied with the abuses and injustices committed by parents during their childhood and adolescence. Among other negatives, this preoccupation resulted in feelings of extreme stress and depression. It is a well established fact that stress and depression have a negative impact on physical health.

On the other hand, forgiveness can result in a release from a past filled with unhappiness. Remaining focused on parents who caused harm the means never escaping from their clutches. The purpose of forgiveness, as envisioned in this blog, is to be able to move on with one's life wile no longer being hobbled by what happened long ago. It really has to do with achieving real individuation and autonomy.

One patient told me that she was leaving her grocery bag of resentments in my office so that she no longer had to carry it around. In her words, "that bad was to darned heavy."
The nature of holding grudges and resentments is such that  it can result in the in a self perception of victim. It is all too easy to take the next step of becoming a collector of resentments. This is what makes "grocery bag" so heavy.
This entire attitude is so addictive that it is difficult to give up that bag.
There is a tendency to think that,  if we can convince the other they did wrong and get them to apologize, life  will feel better. However, this is not a successful or strategy. In my experience, parents rarely admit to wrong doing, much less apologizing for the past. In any case, it really makes no difference because these things happened in a long ago past and cannot be undone. That is why it's more important to let go of these things and move on with life. Forgiving goes a long way towards being able to move on. By the way, forgiveness has more to do with a way of thinking than actively forgiving someone who does not believe they have done anything they for which they need forgiveness.
Giving up resentment is not easy and takes time to work on. However, there is a stress reducing exercise that is very helpful. This exercise is done with eyes closed while sitting comfortably. All of the resentments and traumas from the past,  are visualized as aches  pains.  Next, these aches and pains are seen pouring into some part of the body. Most often, people select the body part where they feel a lot of discomfort, such as the neck or back. Then, the pain is seen filling a large balloon. The balloon fills until all of the aches and pains are drained out of the body. The final step is to let go of the balloon so that it drifts away into the sky forever.

This, along with meditation, exercise and relaxation, gradually releases all of the tensions connected with the resentment until it all vanishes.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Tired advice that is circulated and doesn't help. - Bipolar Bear - Dec 16th 2011

Getting around to healthy release does not have to including forgiving people who don't deserve it. Dealing with your own perception and acceptance of who you are and where you are is very different from forgiveness. I am tired of seeing people bandy about the word forgiveness like it's a salve for the soul. It isn't to everyone. 

I can see past my own situation. I am not encumbered by my navel. I can see what goes on in the wide wide world. The fact that people are abused is more common than people know or think. The fact that people cover it up and live in denial about it is even more common involving the guilty parties, the witnesses, the victims and others who may have known or should have known or who were close to it but never saw it. Anger at all of these people can be experienced. And I do not claim the "guilt" that I am doing myself harm because I will not forgive. 

I don't forgive because I am actively recovering from years of covering up, protecting and being afraid of the repercussions of other people knowing my "shame". I don't forgive so that I can give myself that impetus to keep trying harder to be honest and open about what the abuse has done to me and does to other survivors. Forgiving is not an option for me. Maybe one day that will change. I don't think so. Kudos to those who benefit from forgiveness. But we do not all fit in one box. Recovery is not in any manual there are no tried and true steps or time line in which every person benefits from. I get tired of reading bogus rebukes about what I should do about my own recovery. How about you collect and sort suggestions from people who are actively seeking to understand themselves instead of giving out the same old tired advice. That would be refreshing.

Don't be a Victim anymore - Tammi B. - Dec 14th 2011

You can only be a victim if you continue to act like one. I am a survivor of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. What I did is become the change I wanted see in others. I have taken alot of sh*t but I also have over come alot of sh*t. I can't say just get over it because we all who have been severly abused know that is just a small minded bigots answer, but I say lift up your head and watch where you are going now. Never let someone drive your bus again strenghten your mind and break the cycle. You are grown up now and what happens now is up to you

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