I have a family member who did something to me years ago. It was not child abuse or anything like that, but I really resent this person. I know it causes me to be uneasy and hurt, but I am having trouble letting it go. I just can’t accept what she did to me. It actually makes me depressed, and I know it. How does someone get rid of this feeling?
Resentment and holding on to past wrongs is definitely bad for mental health.
We humans are social animals, and we need connection with others, good and caring ones. This is especially true in our families where we should be safe and trusting.
But, make no mistake about it, families and individuals have faults, sometimes hurtful, distressing ones. Let me make a couple of suggestions that have often worked for me and for those I have counseled.
First, think differently about forgiveness. There is a big difference between forgiving and accepting. There are people I know, for example, who have very big faults, but I still treasure their friendship. I also have large faults, but they also accept mine. At least one such arrangement goes by the name of “marriage.”
The person who hurt you should be forgiven. In your mind literally say “I forgive you.” Say it again and again if necessary. That releases you from getting even, making the person pay, or holding a lasting grudge.
That does not mean you accept bad behavior. Thoughtlessness is still real, whatever you forgive.
Second, have you spoken with your relative about the hurtful time? Letting her know how you understood what was said or done might well be healed by a different interpretation. She may well not know what she did. Families can breed misunderstandings.
Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can email Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.