Dr. Ken Larsen
Our word “resentment” comes from the Latin (re) “sentire” which means “to feel”. Therefore, the meaning of resentment is to feel it again.
Our experiences are filed in memory. Many of those experiences in memory are accessible and we can retrieve them at will. What we do with that memory is going to have an impact on our mental health and happiness.
I’ve been fascinated by findings that have come out of the Adult Attachment Interview pioneered by Dr. Mary Main. It seems that if a person with some difficult experiences early in life can formulate a coherent narrative of those experiences, and use that narrative in self-talk as well as in conversations with others, the difficult memory can be “tamed” and denied power over the person’s present life.
What I get from this insight is that when I choose to go into the filing cabinet of my memories and retrieve an experience that was painful when it happened, I have a choice about feeling the pain again. I can play that old tape and feel it again, or I can step back and reframe the experience so that I understand what happened and can talk about it to myself and others in a coherent manner.
I remember an incident from when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I had done something wrong and my father became angry with me. He said something very unkind that was very hurtful to me. As I grew up and left home I came to understand my father. I was able to recognize the early childhood experiences that he had that made it difficult for him to give me what I needed from him. He couldn’t give me what he didn’t have. Once I understood, I could look at that memory more objectively and avoid the negative emotional baggage that used to come from reliving that moment.