By Dr. Bob Beare
Resentful at Gratitude: The late November emphasis on gratitude is a nice idea. Let us have a couple of days to be appreciative and hand out things at shelters. For me, it’s a bit nauseating and has its roots in the same motivation as “cheer up”, “be nice”, “forgive”, and other sermon titles.
Instead, I’m interested in what is actual. The ability to feel the full range of emotion is the gift of quality recovery. What else is more tangible evidence of being alive than emotion? A deeply healthy family may invite the sharing of whatever is true at dinner…resentments, grief, fears…maybe gratitude.
Gratitude cannot be pried out of us. It comes as a natural flow of joy when our underlying pain is allowed some space for expression.
Grateful for Resentments: Dr. Carl Jung wrote, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Another version of this is the cliché’, “If you spot it, you got it”.
The recent years of national “leadership” has given me a great opportunity to be resentful and judgmental. With the help of my army of support in recovery, I’ve been able to see my resentments as doorways to seeing myself. This is called shadow work, or in recovery we call it “taking inventory”. Our resentments are the compass to help us uncover deeper parts of ourselves and transform and integrate the previously trapped energy into our lives.
Whenever I am exceedingly upset or enamored by something outside of me, it is an opportunity to see a part of myself that is needing integration…my shadow. And, for those of you who have been on this path for a while, we know that the shadow is formed by trauma.
This does not mean however that just because it is my shadow, that the person or institution in question is not corrupt or deeply flawed. But if I leave it at that, I do not grow, and I grind away at my resentments.
Let’s allow ourselves and each other to be who we are – grateful or resentful…and keep a mirror handy.