When I recently facilitated a group workshop, a common theme that many of the participants were working through, was in releasing the feelings of resentment that had built up for them over time.

For some it was linked to their former spouse or current partner, for others their children or their parents whom they cared for, and for others it was connected to their place of work.

The feeling of resentment often flares up seemingly out of nowhere. When I say seemingly, I should really use air quotes and say “seemingly”, because many of us can be so disconnected from our emotions, that our sense of alignment can become off kilter.

This leads to us missing the vital cues along the way until we’re left with the aftermath of an extreme emotion with no clue as to how to navigate our way out of it. It’s like when clients tell me that they’re feeling uncharacteristically angry, and more times than not, it’s because they didn’t notice, or address the little “irrits” along the way, before those feelings accumulated to a more explosive emotion like anger.

Resentment is similar. In a same-same, but different kinda way. Kind of like they may not be from the same family of origin, but they might just be first cousins from their mothers side of the family.

As spiritual beings that interact with fellow humans who are just as busy and overwhelmed, in a world that is replete with extremes and expectations, it’s inevitable that we become tired and complacently start to function on autopilot.

It seems that we need constant reminding, that much like our yearly assessments prepared us for our big end of year exam at school, life does not stop doing the same for us, in order to help us heal and expand.

We need those tests to see whether we are still attracting the same kind of destructive archetype, or to be made aware of the areas in our life where there is still room for improvement or up levelling.

Many friendships are formed when people meet within the same clusters, whether they be a mutual social group or a shared place of employment. I know this because as a celebrant, I have officiated ceremonies for many couples who either met at work, or because they decided to learn tango at the same dance school at the same time.

As sentient beings, we are much more likely to connect with people who we have something in common with, right?

But when your connection to that person is through the mutual pain that you may have experienced, or because you pity them because of the pain they’re going through, it’s important to remember that the energy circuits that tether your reciprocal connection, will eventually need to be reconfigured.

I quote the wise words (with her generous permission of course), from one of my participants regarding her take away from the workshop I mentioned earlier.

“I’m so grateful that I now understand the difference between pity & compassion. For years my sister made me feel guilty about my successes, so I pitied her, and this meant that she got away with so much within the family, because she was very good at manipulating all of us to feel sorry for her.

She’d be excused for being late, or we’d justify why she couldn’t contribute with a meal at a family gathering, or with money to pitch in for a present. My mum even gave up her income source to look after her children – and guess what? She doesn’t even work!!

I now understand that pity leads to guilt and then ultimately resentment, but now I have empathy towards my sister, with clear boundaries (actions and words that match!!) about what I find acceptable – regardless of whether my family agree with me or not.”

Taking pity on someone is not about showing compassion. If anything it’s showing that you feel sorry for them, and this often leads to us making allowances for that person, that we would not ordinarily allow for anybody else in our life.

And while that can be well meaning and even virtuous at times, it’s still a “get out of jail free” card that can only be used with integrity a handful of times.

When my dear friend’s baby passed away, I remember wanting to make allowances for her during her period of harrowing grief. What she went through was unimaginable to me and while I certainly didn’t pity her, my empathy for her pain was felt very deeply.

It helped me put the dynamics of another relationship into perspective with someone who often used pity to incite help or sympathy from others. He would do this by constantly referencing an event from his childhood as an excuse for his bad behaviour and his wife noticed that their son started mirroring his own version of similar excuses.

In an ideal world where we are aligned and connected to our sense of purpose and boundaries, we are just as united to our sense of timing, so we’d say something like “Honey, I know you’re grieving your mum / dog, but it’s been 9 months. I think you can go back to cleaning up after yourself, because I’m too tired to pick up the slack anymore.”

Rebecca Campbell sums it up beautifully when she talks about the importance of boundaries in order to avoid your energy depleting and then subsequently feeling resentful.

“Saying YES when you really mean NO leads to resentment, which is the biggest energy drain ever. At first it might only be a little bit and not feel like a big deal, but before you know it, your energy field becomes porous and you are left feeling depleted, resentful, or taken advantage of.”

Saying NO and having clear boundaries is actually a spiritual act. The most giving, loving, compassionate people are those with the clearest boundaries. For when they say YES, they are able to give in a way where they are completely present..

When your boundaries are clear, others know where they stand and you are able to give freely. If you are not clear where your boundaries lie, this causes confusion, resentment, and energetic cords to be planted.

And until we cross paths again, I send love to you and your journey of unfurling,

Patty Kikos