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.

14 thoughts on “Resentment/Poison

  1. Great rant! I couldn’t agree more.

    Like many pithy, shaming recovery sayings I think this one has its origin in AA. “Pity party” is another and there are many more. In AA sayings like these or “your Higher Power never gives you more than you can handle” help people who are newly sober to avoid thoughts and feelings that they aren’t yet equipped to deal with. These sayings may be toxic to you and me, but they literally save lives when used correctly.

    It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but sadly it is: Spewing shaming messages at people who are perfectly capable of experiencing emotions like anger and resentment without dieing is not OK. Anger and resentment are valuable messengers that tell us where are boundaries need to be.

    When these toxic black/white sayings are trotted out to to prevent people like you from doing grief work around childhood trauma or learning boundary skills, it’s nothing short of abuse. That’s my rant!

    1. I’m glad you liked it. I completely agree with what you say. My mother and brother were in (and my brother still is as far as I know), 12 step programs to deal with their addictions. I think parts of it can be very useful. But some people, such as my family, will turn it portions of it around and twist it to evade responsibility for their own actions/words. One therapist who was involved in 12 step programs told me it was considered “taking someone else’s inventory” which is frowned upon because the person is really supposed to be working on their own stuff vs. telling others what to do.

  2. PS I’m thinking of starting a feature called recovery cliche killer, but I’m not sure if that would come across as too insulting to the sayings/people who believe in them. I think they can be valid, but not when they’re twisted into weapons. Maybe cliche clarifier would be a better term.

  3. Or maybe Pithy Platitude Parser or Recovery Jargon Reclamation 🙂 Also, does anyone have any particular sayings they would like addressed, either by my writing about it or writing yourself as a guest contributor to the blog?

  4. Really enjoying your blog and post. I am 35 and just starting the journey toward understanding my mother’s NPD, and I am so grateful for your stories and rants. Like you, I could probably come up with a list of favorite quotes I heard over and over and OVER again, growing up. One of my mom’s favorites after she would take us to inappropriate meetings with her friends was “children are meant to be seen and not heard.” Always, it would be followed by a lecture that lasted as long as the car ride home. And then of course there was always _my_ favorite, “stop crying before I come over there and give you something to cry about.”

    1. I heard those often as well. Along with snide references to crocodile tears. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen her manipulate with tears, etc. Talk about projection!

  5. I’m trying to find the source of this variation: “Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.” I need the author to complete the solution to a cryptogram. The author is either Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, or Mahandas Gandi. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Patty, I took a quick Google, there are a lot of slight variations which are attributed to various people. I would suggest calling or emailing or IMing the reference desk at your local library or at your school/college/university library if you’re a student. Librarians have access to various resources such as Bartletts Familar Quotations which may be able to help with your question. Good luck with it 🙂

  6. Yeah – I agree – what’s up with this forgiveness s**t? I don’t stay angry for anger’s sake. It’s a healthy method to place blame to abusers. Otherwise you are perpetuating a system you are endeavoring to escape. I think Alice Miller talked about this in Drama of Gifted Child. She is not cool with this forgiveness B.s – sorry Oprah

  7. Have you ever notice that forgiveness is only required of people whose anger is invalidated? Women and children are not allowed to be angry in our culture, and we are the ones who are always supposed to forgive, The real purpose of our denying our right to be angry, I mean “forgiving,” is to make everyone else feel better. That way be are not asking anybody to change or to =deal with any discomfort. If we just “forgive” WE are the ones who feel all the sadness and anger, and once again accept all the bad feelings so everyone else doesn’t have to.
    How ironic, since they don’t actually care how we feel anyway. They only care how THEY feel.

    1. That’s a good point. And forgiveness is rarely enough for these people any way. They want people to worship them, not just forgive them. At least that was the case with my narcissistic mother.

      She carried abusive behavior (verbal) into my adulthood. By 40, I realized I was never going to have the kind of mom I wanted and needed and that being close to her and confiding in her meant hurt for me. I didn’t make the choice to go no contact. Instead, I detached. I would call and send gifts on holidays, but I stopped subjecting myself to the weekly torture of phone calls with her. I stopped telling her anything important in my life. Even the local sports teams weren’t safe, that started an argument once!

      But that wasn’t good enough for her and her flying monkeys. Any visits (she lived a 3 hour plane ride away), she wanted me to stay with her and without a rental car. All the better to corner me with her vicious verbal abuse. She wanted to go on a cruise, sharing a cabin. I didn’t say it, but that was pretty much my idea of hell.

      I was the evil daughter with the mother who “just wants to be clooooossser to youuuu!”

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