The pithy saying I’ll be dealing with today is “resentment is like drinking the poison and hoping the other person dies”. And yes, I have had this quoted back at me when I’ve tried to set a boundary or express hurt at a past wrong in my Family of Origin. I say whether that pithy saying is true or not depends on the cause of the resentment and the way we handle it.
Yes, I do have some resentment over being emotionally and occasionally physically abused, as well as being treated unfairly. As well as the impact it’s had on my life. In cases like that, I’d say resentment is more like puking after someone else has poisoned you. You don’t want to splatter anyone else with vomit. And you want to figure out what makde you puke so you don’t get sick again. And yes, if the poisoning is bad enough, you’re going to feel some old feelings of resentment when you see that person or reminders of him or her.
Abuse is poison. When we are around people who continue to abuse us, even into adulthood, we’re going to feel the urge to “puke” (i.e. feel resentment). It’s normal and healthy to do so. It’s our defense against digesting/absorbing the poison into our body and letting it kill us.
Also, it can take multiple experiences with memories to work the feelings they recall through. While I was discussing that I felt like I was rehashing the past & just going over the same stuff again, my therapist pointed out that since I was either just starting to feel the feelings associated with these past events and/or start feeling anger/outrage where before I’d felt guilt/responsibility, it wasn’t really rehashing them. It was more like experiencing them.
I think the simile of vomiting works well here too. When we get food poisoning or a stomach bug, we generally don’t just throw up only once. It tends to be several times because the body usually can’t purge itself of the toxin/poison in just one instance of vomiting. Our bodies protect us from the poison/toxin by puking multiple times to get it out of our system and protect it from hurting us. It may take more than one time revisiting a past incident of abuse to purge it from our minds/souls.
While I was looking to see what other people had said about this saying, I came across a forgiveness type post. One of the things the person said was that no one ever wished when they were dying that they’d stayed angry longer. I’m not posting the link/exact quote here out of respect for that person’s space, but I call bs on that. I gave my mother a 2nd chance after our first estrangement when she stopped drinking and started going to AA. I wanted to be supportive of her sobriety. She used that 2nd chance and forgiveness to treat me like crap yet again, just more subtly. That set me back years in my healing and opened me up to more emotional abuse from her. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have forgiven. I do, in fact, regret not staying angry longer. That anger would have been protection against being emotionally abused again.
Forgiving someone who is still abusing you is not a good or healthy idea, unless there are ways to protect/insulate yourself against them. And even then, it’s up to you and optional. It should be on your timetable, not anyone else’s. Forgiving someone who is still abusing you without that protection basically means the abuser will spit on your forgiveness, throw it on the floor and stomp on it.
That is why I’m so opposed to what I like to call the Kumbaya Forgiveness Police. Those are people who fall into one of the following categories and decide they can dictate to people who have been abused when we should forgive, etc:
- abusers themselves
- abuser enablers
- abuser apologists
- third parties
The only person who gets to determine if forgiveness should be given, to what degree and at what pace is the person who was wronged. And the person who was wronged can forgive without reconciling if the abuser is going to continue to abuse. Reconciliation is NOT a mandatory part of forgiveness.