A Coaching Power Tool Created by Gail Mohammed
(Life/ Transitions Coach, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO)
Three quotations have really resonated with me in the development of this power tool Resentment vs Forgiveness. They are as follows:
To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee. William H Walton
Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. Nelson Mandela
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. Lewis Swedes
When I look at the world, its organisations, institutions, families, relationships, I can see them affected negatively by this issue of resentment and people’s inability to manage or come to terms with it. On a personal level I myself have been through the experience of holding a deep seated resentment for a co worker whom I perceived had betrayed me. I suffered for months until I was coached through stages of forgiveness and was able to let+ go of the past hurts. I was literally the prisoner that was set free. So too are many persons who are or have chosen to remain prisoners of resentment. Others have a desire to move to a different feeling but are unable to do so without the support of a coach or other support professional.
What is Resentment?
Resentment is described as a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult or injury.
Resentment is manifested in indignation, anger, hate wanting revenge, mistrust, blame, feeling powerless, depression, anxiety, lack of meaning/ purpose, disharmony with spiritual beliefs, low connection with others.
Resentment includes the mental process of repetitively replaying a feeling, and the events leading up to it, that goads or angers us. The inability to overcome resentment probably constitutes the single most devastating impediment to repairing a disintegrating intimate connection, family rift, or severed friendship. When you hold on to resentment a major part of you is lost and you lose the ability to enjoy life. You are afraid to trust others for fear of getting hurt again. Holding on to resentment justifies to yourself that you have been hurt or wronged in some way and that the other party should really be on the receiving end of your ill thoughts and blaming that we send out to them. You set yourself up as the helpless victim of “wicked cruel persons”
Anger and resentment, which tend to follow the inability to forgive, can lead to physical, emotional or mental problems- insomnia, anxiety, hypertension, heart troubles, strokes, lowered immunity, headaches, loss of appetite or compensatory overeating and obesity-related illnesses, even cancers. Your emotional fragility, depression or anger may also adversely affect your friends, family and co workers. The following advice was given by one author in treating with your resentment.
10 Steps to Letting Go of Resentment
- Approach resentment as the addictive state of mind it is.
- Realize that you are using resentment to replicate old dramas and acknowledge that you cannot change the past.
- Examine how your resentment may come from mentally confusing people in your present life with people from your past.
- Acknowledge that you cannot control those who have rejected you.
- Recognize that your resentment gives you only illusions of strength. Instead, highlight and validate your realstrength and power.
- Learn to identify signals that provoke resentment. Apply the acronym HALT, widely used in 12-step programs: Hungry, Angry, Lonely,and Tired.
- Practice cognitive behavioural techniques to stop indulging in resentment. Put a thought between your feelings of resentment and indulging in ruminating about them.
- Acknowledge your part in allowing the abuse to occur, forgive yourself for that, and make a decision to not let it occur again.
- Declare an amnesty with the person you resent and with yourself.
- Forgive when you can, and practice willful and deliberate forgetfulness when you cannot, keeping in mind that these acts are gifts to yourself rather than capitulation to the people you resent.
What is Forgiveness?
Resentments are burdens we don’t need to carry “Anonymous”
The dictionary definition says forgiveness is giving up any thought of revenge or harm even when it might be justified. Dr. Frederick Luskin, Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project says his definition of forgiveness, is that it’s learning to make peace when you didn’t get something that you wanted in life. Another definition, which he uses to teach people, is that there are other ways of dealing with life when it turns out different than you wanted, rather than staying bitter.
Also, forgiveness is not reconciliation. You don’t have to rejoin a relationship. It’s not the same as justice. For example, you can sue your ex-husband for child support, but you don’t have to hate him. It also doesn’t mean that you condone what somebody did because forgiveness means you don’t think they did something right; you just don’t have to have a hostile reaction to it.
Dr. Luskin’s research has shown that forgiveness reduces anger, hurt, depression, and stress and adds to greater feelings of optimism, hope, compassion and self-confidence.
Author Wayne Dyer in his book Real Magic says forgiveness is an act of the heart. “If you fill your inner invisible self with bitterness and revenge towards others you will leave no room for the harmony and love that are necessary to experience real magic in your life”
The way out of bonding to your wounds is through forgiveness. Forgiveness is the most powerful thing that you can do for your physiology and your spirituality and it remains one of the least attractive things to us largely because of our egos. To forgive is somehow associated with saying that it is all right that we accept the evil deed. But this is not forgiveness. Forgiveness means that you fill yourself with love and you radiate that love outward and refuse to hang on to the venom or hatred what was engendered by the behaviours that caused the wounds. Forgiving is a decision you are free to make. Some make it early, some late some not at all, but it is a gift available to each of us.
Applications to Coaching:
How can the power tool Resentment vs. Forgiveness be applied to coaching?
We must handle each of our experiences according to its unique nature and approach the question of forgiveness with sensitivity, self awareness and responsibility for ourselves and others. The power tool Resentment Vs Forgiveness can be utilised in the coaching scenario to support a client in switching their perspective from a place of darkness and resentment to a place of enlightenment and freedom.
A coach can explore with the client their feelings of resentment and the option of forgiveness, using the following well established coaching tools and using the ICA power tools as banners under which to apply the resentment versus forgiveness power tool.
The obstacles to forgiveness:
Some of our emotions block forgiveness such as sorrow, grief, wanting revenge, blame, feeling the victim, lack of compassion, lack of practice in forgiving, not forgiving yourself, not acknowledging the pain and loss. A coach will need to explore with the client where they are on the readiness to forgive.
You have to learn to appreciate the things in your life because you have something to compare it to. You have to remember the good things that have happened in your life and the only life that you could ever be happy in is the one you actually have. Gratitude and being positive is very important to move to a state of forgiveness. Instead of feeling hate and bitterness try to imagine yourself sending them love. Try to grasp the idea that they came into your life to help you learn a lesson and no matter how painful the lesson, they showed up in your life for a purpose. When you are able to send them love instead of hate, you will be on your way to becoming a spiritual person.
The underlying beliefs that block forgiveness.
Some of these beliefs are that “forgiveness means I no longer disagree with the person, the person doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, forgiveness happens after justice.” The client can be supported in replacing these beliefs about forgiveness with awareness that “Forgiveness is a spiritual act of love for yourself” that you are an object of love and that that is what you are going to impart, learning the process of unbonding from those wounds and no longer hanging on to them as prized possessions.
Responsibility vs. blame:
It means letting go of the language of blame and self pity and no longer leading with one’s wounds and injuries from the past. It means privately forgiving and not asking anyone else to understand. It means leaving behind the eye-for-an –eye attitude that only makes more pain and the need for more revenge and replacing it with an attitude of love and forgiveness”. The client can be asked to look at some inner exploration about how they handled things and can ask themselves if they could have handled it better. In order to make progress the client has to divorce the story that they are/were a helpless victim, which is the story of blaming someone else for anything that happens in their life.
Lightness vs. Significance:
A grievance is created when we take a normal life event that is painful, make it very personal as opposed to something that just happened, and then exaggerate how personal it is. Then we practice the pattern over and over and forget that there are other ways of looking at the same situation. You can change your grievance at any time but people practice one way of looking at the situation thinking that is the only way and they then get stuck.
Responding vs. Reacting:
He who seeks revenge should dig two graves. Chinese proverb
When you feel that someone has deeply hurt you can get trapped into thinking of revenge, resentfulness, blame, grief, powerlessness, and sorrow. These feelings are described by one author as analogous to a snake bite. When you are bitten by a snake there are two sources of pain. One is the bite itself which hurts. The second source of pain is the venom that is circulating through you. It is the aftershock of the venom circulating in the body that is fatal. So it is with hatred and forgiveness. The killer is the hatred and anger that continue to circulate in your system like venom long after the bite wound has healed and disappeared. You and you alone have the power to send that killer venom out of you. That it is still present within you is your choice. The Buddha says
You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.
Self Awareness is the first step to letting go of situations and disempowering feelings. The choice of forgiveness allows us to forgo anger or grief. The freedom in a simple act of forgiveness saves the expense of anger and the high cost of hatred. Forgiveness can buy peace of mind.
Your higher self knows that you should forgive yourself, learn from mistakes and release feelings of fear and anxiety. But ego hands you guilt so that it will thrive. Guilt is the inner fear that you should pay a price for any and all mistakes you have committed in your life. Thus the ego convinces you that you must feel guilty, and it keeps you removed from your true spirit.
When you feel anger and hatred for another, it is often a projection of the anger and hatred you have for yourself. You find the faults in others that you know you exhibit and become irritated by having them brought to your notice. When you have compassion for your own failings, you may find yourself more tolerant of the failings of others. You cannot forgive in another what you cannot forgive in yourself.
I have found the application of the following steps to forgiveness by Dr. Frederick Luskin very helpful in my own journey towards making the decision to let the burden of resentment go.
Nine Steps to Forgiveness
by Frederick Luskin, Ph.D.
- Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
- Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
- Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
- Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years -ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
- At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
- Give up expecting things from other people, or your life,that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
- Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
- Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
- Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.
All we can hope for is continuous self improvement. It may take time to forgive someone who has wronged you. Most of us have to work at it, to reason our way to a more comfortable attitude that can genuinely accommodate forgiveness. In any case taking a risk and forgiving has to be less damaging than holding on to pain or guilt. The chances are that the person who wronged you will not have suffered for as long as you have. Heightened awareness will erase your judgemental tendencies. You will learn lessons for which you will be thankful. You will know that those misperceived “wrongs’ that you experienced were somehow in divine order. The absence of judgement and the ability to forgive will bring a new serenity to your life. You will also begin to forgive yourself. You will see mistakes as lessons for you to transcend. This will free you from the tyranny of self recrimination. You have made the decision to be free.
Case Study on the Application of Resentment vs. Forgiveness Tool
In June 2016 I retired from the organisation I had served for 26 years. During the last two years of my tenure, the person who I reported to and had an excellent relationship with left the organisation and another person was promoted from within. I had a longstanding difficult relationship with this person who was now my new boss. I now found that none of my programmes were being supported for implementation, my budgets cut, and my new boss very distant and cold towards me. One year before my retirement date my new boss decided that I should give up my position of HR Director to my understudy and he put me on “special projects”. I was hurt bitter and angry. I rallied out the time to my official retirement date, but left the organisation very hurt and angry. Many months were spent since then playing the incidents which occurred, over and over in my mind, with me become angry each time I recalled what happened. I cut ties with former work colleagues, refused to attend a retirement function and generally tried to put the past behind me. However it was not to be. I could not forget as I still carried around the hurt and bitterness of “what was done to me”, even though I had been a very loyal employee.
As months passed by, I hibernated at home listless and demotivated, I was fearful to even apply for another jobs as I was afraid to go to back to organisational life. I decided to explore these feelings with my peer coach. In our discussions I became aware that I was stuck with deep seated hate, anger and resentment of my former boss and that this was holding me back from enjoying my retirement. I came to recognise that I must let this resentment go or else I would be stuck in this place for a long time. I eventually, through the support of my coach was able to shift my perspective, by trying to understand what insecurities my then boss had, placing myself in his shoes, wondering if I could have responded differently instead of reacting negatively to the situation with displays of temper, causing further breakdown in the relationship. I was able with empathy and compassion to look at the situation differently and look at the person with all their human failings, as a human being making mistakes. I was able to forgive myself for allowing such a breakdown to occur with this human being. Finally I made the decision to forgive this person. I felt liberated and was able to set to work to plan my own future as a retiree, enjoying many new activities and working toward my vision for the next 20 years of my life. In November 2016, I was invited by my former boss to a retirement function for another colleague. I contemplated not attending but challenged myself to test my level of forgiveness and how far I had progressed.
It was a wonderful evening; I spoke to my former boss, even gave him a hug and felt that I had returned to my spirit of love, kindness and joyous living. I had moved on!