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"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Resentments (originally posted August 11, 2009)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, June 22, 2012

There is an old Zen story about two monks who meet up with a woman in their travels, and one of the monks helps her across a river, even though they are not supposed to touch females. Later that night, one of the two monks suddenly bursts into anger at the other one, exclaiming that he should not have carried the woman across the river. The monk replied: “Perhaps I shouldn’t have….but you are still carrying her.” (click here or on picture to the right to see the page that I copied this from. I've heard this story before and I've always liked it.)

We've talked about how to minimize resentments in teenagers. Let's talk about the resentments that a parent hold towards the teenager. The best thing about it is to first realize that you've got them. Just admit it. Some things hurt and it is very hard to let go of them especially when your teenager may not have made the big change yet. Even if he has made a turn-around in his life, resentments can linger. What to do about them...

As I just mentioned, first, admit that you have resentments. You need not admit it to your teenager right away but admit it to your spouse, your best friend, your therapist, your clergy and it goes without saying that in order to admit it to any of those people, you have admitted it to yourself.

Second: recognize it as your problem. It's actually not your teenager's problem. As long as you see your resentments as your teenagers problem you miss the boat. The resentments that you carry, especially over long periods of time, are your problem. You have to decide what to do with them.

This is not to say that you have not been injured. If your child has stolen the family heirlooms, which are irreplaceable, and especially if this teenager is probably the one who would have inherited the same family jewels or whatever, then, yes, you have been robbed of the pleasure to give them to the person who stole them. That really hurts and if we have not had that done to us, we don't know how much it hurts.

Having said that, even families that do not have a chemically dependent or otherwise drug abusive or delinquent teenager have resentments to deal with. It seems to be the human condition.

Still, each of us will ultimately decide whether to carry these resentments for long periods or to get over it. Life is not fair. We are all dealt bad hands in different ways and in different periods of our lives. Therefore, it follows that every one of us could choose to carry deep resentments, or not.

While getting rid of resentments is easier said than done, the important thing is to get the process started by admitting that you have them and take personal responsibility for still carrying them.

While your teenager may not be the first one you admit this to, it is sometimes appropriate to express resentments to your teenager that clearly indicates that you take responsibility for it. At the same time, you are modeling for your teenager what to do with resentments. If what you show is how long you can hold onto a resentment, then don't be surprised when your teenager grows up into someone who can also hold on tight to resentments. And we all know that teenager resentments can often be targeted at parents.

Dad: Son, we need to talk. Is this a bad time for you?

Son: No, Dad this is OK, what's up?

Dad: Well, Son, it's like this - you know all that stuff you did during your active addiction? The stuff I keep bringin up and it feels to you like I'm just stuck in the past?

Son: Yeah, of course. You need to let that stuff go Dad.

Dad: Exactly, I need to do that. I'm working on it. But Son, I'm struggling with that.

Son: What do you mean?

Dad: I guess I have a difficult time letting go of resentments.

Son: Oh. Yeah. I know you do. We'll i'm trying to do what I can to change now and it's not fair to keep bringing that stuff up.

Dad: I agree.

Son: You do?

Dad: Right, I do and I need to do a better job with that.

Dad: So listen, I'm working on not bringing it up...

Son: [interrupting] You mean not bringing it up or not bringing it up three times a day, cause that's what you do you know!

Dad: Ooooo, OK, that's a zinger! Maybe I deserved that. Anyway, I just wanted to clue you in that sometimes, when it looks like I've got no big reason to be upset, I'm struggling with resentments and even though I may not bring the old stuff up, I'm feeling a loss or I'm remembering something that hurt.

Son: Like what do you mean?

Dad: Well, you know how you studied Triggers in rehab? Things that could set you off and make you feel an urge to use drugs?

Son: Yes, Dad I know what triggers are, [rolling eyes] please you don't have to explain that to me!

Dad: Well, Duh! I guess you do know about Triggers! I have seem to have triggers that bring out my bad feelings. Like for example, that argument we had last night when you didn't want to be home by curfew and how you told us that you didn't care what we said, that you would come home when you damn well pleased!

Son: Yeah, but I came home! Geeesh, I was just mad! Didn't I make it home on time!

Dad: Well yes you did. And I think that is the important thing. Not the hurtful things you said to us on the phone - the big thing is thought it over and you came home on time!

Son: Right!

Dad: But that whole conversation acted like a trigger for me and sudenly I wasn't just dealing with your disrespectful attitude on the phone last night, but I was remembering so many of the disrespectful things you used to do and all the hurtful things you used to say to your mother and I- the name calling, the swearing, the slamming of doors, and even the way you used to steal from us- like my radio that you sold for drugs and stuff like that.


Dad: See, even though you made it home on time- and that's the important thing here- I struggle today- so I don't mean to keep bringing this stuff up- but if you see that I'm not cheerful, that I sort of have a little chip on my shoulder, just understand that I'm working on it and it will pass. I'll get a grip on it and don't think for a minute that i'm not still way proud of you and of all the hard changes you've made in your life to get to this point. Heck, four months clean is no small accomplishment. And I know it's not always easy for you either.

Son: Yeah. It's hard for me sometimes. But Dad can I say something?

Dad: Sure.

Son: That stereo was a dinasaour!

Dad: I know. It sure was! I bought that in college Son, and I guess that's part of the problem. That stereo had a lot of good memories for me.

Son: Well it wasn't going to last for ever you know.

Dad: Good point Son. It might have just died on it's own and I guess eventually it would have died anyway.

Son: Right!

Dad: Yeah, maybe, but it didn't. I guess knowing that the money that you got for it- what, you told us like 25 bucks? Knowing that that money went to buy drugs for my son, that's kind of is still hard for me, like as if the good memories I used to have about that stereo are now sort of chased away by the bad ones. You know it was my first major purchase as a young man! Still, I know that holding onto that resentment is really stupid of me. So, that's what I mean- I'm working on it- OK?


Dad: Anyway, I might be thinking about something like that and you just think I'm being a jerk. I just wanted to tell you that it's my problem, I'm working on it, and I'm sorry if sometimes I come off like an old nag about things.

Son: OK, well OK, thanks for clueing me in Dad, I'll keep that in mind.

Dad: Thanks Son, Thanks for listening.

Son: Ok, is that all?

Dad: Yep, that's my big speech for today! Nothing more to report until my news conference tomorrow morning at breakfast!

Son: OK.

Dad: By the way- thanks for listening Son. And don't forget I am way more proud of you than I am resentful and every day I think it gets better!

Third: Quit giving your teenager everything he wants. The more you give, the more they take advantage and sometimes, the less appreciative they are and the worse you feel. The vicious cycle goes like this. We give in, our teen does not appreciate it, we feel even more resentful. Or we don't give in, we feel guilty. Try feeling guilty a little more often. You'd be surprised how much faster it is to get rid of a little guilt than it is to get rid of a little resentment.

In other words do the best you can to stop enabling your teenager. For more on this click here.

Fourth: Direct some of your resentments towards the disease of addiction that your teenager may have, rather than towards your teenager. Write a letter to the disease. Read it to your teenager. This is a way to let them know how badly you feel about the way things have gone, without attacking them. And it's more than a theraputic gimick. this disease is trying to kill our teenagers.

Fifth: Pursue your own happiness. Don't let 90 percent plus of your focus and your energy be about your teenagers, regardless of how well or how poorly they are doing. Teenagers learn from our example. Keep things in perspective. Look after your own friendships, hobbies, career goals, church activities, etc. Volunteer to help other parents who are going through something similar to what you went through. The healing power of one parent helping another through the emotional minefield of having teenagers with drug problems is very powerful. Often it's the parent who reaches out to help who feels so much better about things. Twelve step has a saying: "You have to give it away in order to keep it."

Lori talks about this better than I can. Please read Number Six in Eight Things I Wish I Had Learned Sooner About Having A Child With A Drug Problem: By the way, I hear that Lori and her Son attended our last PSST meeting, that I missed, and that they are supposed to attend our 8-15-09 meeting in Mt. Lebanon. Lori has written a lot for our blog and you click here to go to one of her popular PSST posts Losing Your Teenager and Gaining an Adult -

Sixth: We cannot forgive others until we have forgiven ourselves. Just something to ponder. I think it's a challenge that we all have. I like the things that Dr. Wayne Dyer says about it here.


Anonymous said...

WOW....I wonder how many of us have carried resentments for any number of reasons! This makes me think...thanks for the great post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks. We really need to work on this.

Lloyd Woodward said...

One more thought: If we are holding our teenagers accountable we tend to carry less resentments.

Anonymous said...

I really needed to read this. I am angry and disappointed. Having items stolen from my home by my own children seems to be such a betrayal. The disrespectful things they say and the language tht is used just disgusts me. I am struggling with these issues right now and keep questioning myself about whether I don't visit her in Shuman to punish her or to use tough love? I don't always pick up the phone when I know it is her. We were very close and I feel as if I need to guard myself from anymore pain. I do try to keep in mind that it is the disease that I am angry at. Then there comes a time, like with my adult daughter who choses to use drugs to continue to pray for her but not welcome her in my home. To cut off my relationship for my own sanity. But if she calls or I see her I smile and give her a hug. Have a brief conversation and be polite. Keep it short and we always end with I love you. Which I do but I just chose not to have a relationship with a drug addict including my own daughter. I am no longer angry with her. I accept her as she is but she is toxic to me and just because I am her mom doesn't mean I have to sacrafice my own serenity. It took a lot of time to get to this point. It is like a miracle that I have been blessed with. I listen to Dr. Dyer's CD's practically every day right now. He is one of the tools I am using to cope and do the best I can in spite of it all.

Unknown said...

Listen to me!!!! I also have a child that is a addict however, I will never give up on my child nor will I cut that child out of my life!! I had a bother that was a addict whom by the way the whole family cut him off and would not speak to him. Well I did the same for about a month and then I thought to myself " what if he overdoses one day, what if I never speak to him or see him again"? Do I want the last memory of him to be me fighting with him and saying things out of anger? Well Aug. 18th his birthday he stopped by my house and although I knew he was high we had a great conversation and I enjoyed the time we spent together. I continued to allow him into my life because after all if he did steal things off of me, they are only that "THINGS" and if he stole money off of me it is only "MONEY" however all of those things can be replaced and so can money however, my brother can not be replaced!!! On Nov. 15th 2012 I got a phone call while I was at work about my brother, I rushed to the apt. my brother had been staying at and found my brother dead on the floor from a heroin overdose. Im so glad I had the time I had with him and the last words I ever spoke was " I love you"!


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