Feb 21 • 8M

All Jammed Up

Resentments and Enemies

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Rediscovering the lost art of integrity
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Do you have enemies? Have you ever had an enemy?

At this point in my life, I don’t feel I have any enemies but I do harbor tremendous resentments, which seems related somehow. I don’t think of the people I harbor resentments towards as my enemies, and yet I’m not inviting them over for tea. Hell, I don’t even want them walking up on my porch. When it comes to these folks, my tendency to eschew schadenfreude falls by the wayside.

We’re not at war. I don’t wish violence upon them, but really? If they’re not enemies, then they are something like the Diet Coke of enemies. Enemy-lite.

And the thing I realize is that they only continue to exist in this position because I continue to set that place for them at my psychic table. Gone are the days of having people actively in my life who treat me poorly— who betray or abuse me, manipulate or humiliate me for sport. So, none of the folks for whom I currently carry resentments are an active part of my daily life. And yet they maintain a treasured place at my right hand, should I ever need them.

What is that about?

Honestly, I think it originated from an understandable place. We talk about gaslighting in popular culture now. It’s a phenomenon that most folks understand the contours of, even if they themselves have never experienced it. But it hasn’t been that way for most of my life. Since childhood, I have had people profess to love me while denying the reality of the violation and pain being inflicted upon me, either by them or others, without the commonly understood vocabulary to name it.

The experience of having someone you love treat you horribly and in the next breath act as if they literally did not do or say the thing they just did or said. The experience of finally, finally speaking aloud the painful, violent truth around which so much of your self and reality have oriented in order to survive and being told it doesn’t matter.

Why are you being so dramatic?

It’s not like he raped you.

I was just angry. I didn’t mean to.

In the face of this chronic crazy-making, I clung to my resentments because they represented a truth about me, of what I have survived and how I have become the one that I am, that others refused to carry. In fact, actively denied even needed carrying because those truths did not exist.

Without those resentments, and the simmering, indignant anger that fueled them, I feared at best I would cease to make any sense at all. At worst, I would disappear, become just a smudge on a page where pencil marks had once been.

My resentments defiantly wrote my truths down in ink, bearing down into the page so that my life had an indelible texture and undeniable weight that would not be erased.

But, as I said, here I am. Fifty years old and, admittedly fairly recently, finally done with allowing the presence of people who treat me horribly in my day-to-day life. What sense do my resentments make within this virgin landscape? Do they define my boundaries, or do they create repetitive psychic paths that trick me into thinking I am moving forward while leading me around and around in fruitless circles?

This episode is for paid subscribers