“Hey, what about me?!?”
You’ve muttered this if you’ve felt left out. You’ve grumbled this if someone else got something you really wanted. You screamed this if you’ve wanted a promotion, a raise, or an assignment to a high-profile project at work that didn’t come through.
And then the pangs of resentment arise. Or you feel the sting of jealousy. Maybe you take on the air of entitlement.
Alas, the world can feel grossly unfair.
If you’re feeling the pain of resentment, especially towards another person, I have some hard-won guidance to share with you.
It comes by way of a story.
This past Sunday, I was running late for my beloved moving meditation practice. It’s a freeform dance practice, called Open Floor. It starts at 8:30 in the morning every Sunday in Marin. I’m more of a night owl, but I’m willing to leave the house by 7:45 am on Sundays because this high-energy dance, with 150 open-hearted crazy movers feels absolutely dreamy to me.
Sunday started off in a still-sleepy state, as I’d stayed up late Saturday night. So I was running at least 15 minutes late when I pulled up to the entrance. I spotted another woman walking to get her ticket at the same time as me. What? She was late, too? Somehow, I felt really determined to arrive at the ticket table before her. I was wondering if the dance was sold out, which occasionally happens, and was not going to let her keep me out of dance.
I felt competitive. That woman has longer legs than me. She smiled at me as she arrived, first, at the ticket table, and warmly said to me, “at least we’re being tardy together.”
As she pulled out her wallet to pay for her ticket, Michael, who was dealing with payments told her with a gigantic smile, “It’s your lucky day! Someone has paid it forward. Your ticket is free.”
I looked up and asked, “Oh, is my ticket free, too?”
“No. Only one person’s ticket was paid forward.”
I must have frowned, because Michael immediately jumped in with, “Sorry about that, Susan.”
I quickly found myself feeling angry and upset. In my mind, the thoughts flew by:
“Why not me? Why did she get the free admission? Didn’t I deserve it?”
I practically threw my credit card at poor Michael, as I allowed anger and resentment to fill me. Not pretty, I know.
After the ticket table, I slammed down my backpack and water bottle, still full of steam and fury. I stomped towards the dance floor. A friend, Jennifer, came up and tucked in the tag on the shirt I was wearing, which had been inadvertently sticking out. I muttered, “people always want to f**king fix that tag for me.” Fortunately, she laughed.
And very fortunately, I was able to dance immediately.
I sashayed my way onto the dance floor and did what my Open Floor teachers have always advised. “Move and include.”
That means to include my feelings, instead of stuffing them. So I did my angry dance. Sharp. Staccato. Angular. Angry. Lots of elbow and knee action. Quick breathing.
I didn’t hit anybody, I simply moved my own free-form way, the way I truly felt in my body. It didn’t matter that my mood didn’t match the music. I moved the movement of my genuine emotions.
Within five minutes, I felt light, happy, relaxed. I had a very conscious thought arise, “How fortunate I am to have a healthy, fluid, flexible body. How wonderful it is to be able to move, and give non-verbal expression to what I’m feeling.
And then I thought about what to do when you feel resentment.
Resentment is “re-sent” — you’re resending energy that’s angry — to yourself.
The woman who received the free class had no idea I was resentful. And why should she?
Instead of allowing that angry energy make me all tense and tight, I moved it. So gave myself full permission to express my emotions, by sensing the energy in my body and how it wants to move.
The next time you feel resentment, or anger, avoid telling yourself “I am angry.”
Because you are not your anger.
Make a switch in your language, and tell yourself, “Angry energy is moving through me,” or “I am feeling anger right now.”
Once you accept that anger is moving through you, you have a choice to move the energy. Set the energy of anger into motion. Move intuitively. Does the anger feel like stomping? Or taking gigantic steps? Or gyrating at the hips? No need to think about it.
Just move, the way a little toddler moves when he feels something. He doesn’t think it through. He just lets his body be free to ride the energy.
If you will take the energy and move it, you will find the nature of the energy changes. So your mood can shift.
I shifted from feeling resentful and angry to feeling peaceful and happy. That transformation happened pretty quickly.
When you move you change. You kind of can’t help it. Because movement literally helps you to see from a new perspective. When you move your body, you naturally focus your eyes on new things. Movement also gets the blood going. So things shift in your body. So you start to feel better — lighter, more relaxed, more at ease.
What can you do when you feel resentment or anger at work?
You might not be able to dance.
But you can…
- Go into a restroom stall and shake your body
- Wiggle your toes in your shoes, and visualize releasing any difficult emotions
- Go for a fast walk, and imagine stomping out your feelings
I’ve got another strategy for shifting resentment…
Send good energy!
I really wanted to take the high road with the ticket situation. So I thought about a higher ideal. I recalled a teaching from the yoga I practice daily, Kundalini yoga. Yogi Bhajan said, “Recognize that the other person is you.”
You might be scratching your head, wondering if this is some kind of case of mistaken identity. I am pretty sure I’m still 4’10” with shoulder length brown hair and this other woman is probably 5’8” with blonde hair halfway down to her waist.”
The concept of “recognize the other person is you” has a lot to do with the idea of Oneness. That’s the notion that everyone and everything in the Universe is all interconnected. Research into consciousness shows that we all came out of the Big Bang. So the idea of our separation from one another — it’s merely an illusion.
I know, I know…that that can be hard to believe. But even if you just believe that we are all in someway interconnected, that we somehow influence each other, then it’s much kinder to treat each other with compassion.
So I chose to be compassionate with myself that I didn’t get the free ticket. And I chose to send good wishes to the woman who did get the ticket.
In my heart, I sent her good energy and blessings. In my mind, I saw that I could be be happy for this woman’s happiness, as if it were my own happiness. Because, honestly if I had received the ticket, I would have wanted her to be happy for me, instead of resentful.
During the dance, I decided to imagine that from my heart, I was sending her rays of happiness. By doing that, I had an intuitive sense of how sweet it must have been for the woman to receive the ticket. As I danced, I kept feeling happier and happier for her.
Later, on the dance floor, I saw the woman crying. I don’t know why she was crying, but it didn’t look like happy tears. I hope that my sending universal love and blessings could be some form of even a teeny tiny healing for her. And I imagined that she needed the boost to her day much more than I did.
It really does not serve us to be resentful towards other people. This is a lesson I am learning quite gradually. Honestly, it is very difficult lesson for me. I’ve experienced a lot of jealousy and feelings of not getting what I believed I deserved.
But holding on to those feelings has not served me. I sense now how carrying jealousy and resentment is not a very thoughtful way of going about in the world. So I am actively working to shift these difficult emotions.
I see a lot of the instances in the business world where people go around being upset with each other, feeling like other people got what they deserved, and feeling bitter, vindictive, and resentful for it. If that’s you, you have the opportunity to move your emotions, and to choose the radical act of blessing the person who received, really with an aim to feel better in yourself.
I believe that we get exactly the lessons we need, even if they’re not comfortable ones. We get strengthened through adversity and discomfort, including the loss of jobs we feel we deserved, promotions we feel we earned, and projects we really wanted.
If you are feeling resentful towards somebody or some situation, especially at work, how will you:
- move those emotions in your body, until you feel them shift?
- send good energy, or blessings, to the person who received what you wanted (even if it doesn’t, at first, feel good)?
Hi! I’m Dr. Susan Bernstein. I’m a career and leadership coach who loves to awaken the working world to a higher level of consciousness. I support smart, highly accomplished professionals — who are also emotionally sensitive — to build the resilience and results they desire in their work. Been thinking about hiring a coach to help you achieve your business goals? Visit the coaching page to learn how I can support you.