Friday, February 22, 2013

Resentment and the Retired Partner: Shifting Your Mood

For the last fifteen years I have been using the same beautician. As you can image, over that period of time we have shared many stories about our relationships with our partners, family, work etc.

When she came to see me the other day I asked her “how are you enjoying life now that your husband has retired?” Well that simple question opened up a flood of emotions, words and a physical reaction that I interpreted as someone who was not very happy. I listened to her reasons for why she was not happy and much of what she was saying was about how she felt restricted and encumbered by him being there all the time. I interpreted that she had not accepted that he was going to be there as he had retired and their relationship was changing. One example of her unhappiness was she felt she could no longer go home after work and sit and watch her favourite TV Show. This was because her husband’s response was “why are you watching that rubbish”. I asked her if she was open to some coaching as I interpreted from all the various things she was telling me, she could be in a mood of resentment. 

Sieler argues that the mood of resentment is related to the emotion of anger, and can be thought of as anger that endures. Sieler’s quotes Robert Soloman who maintains that the mood of Resentment is  ‘amongst the most obsessive and enduring of all emotions poisoning our whole subjectivity with its venon’ … ‘What is most vile about this all-pervasive emotion is its deviousness…resentment loves misery as its company…

The following offers this lady’s situation as an example to demonstrate the mood of resentment, how it is manifested in language, and how it can be held in our physiology (body). 

The persistence of an emotion, in this lady’s case anger, can result in the formation of an ‘emotional habit’ or habitual ‘way of being’. Resentment can often be a low level simmering feeling that sits in the background and can impact on how you do and do not observe and participate in your work, life and relationships. In this lady’s case she said she did not accept that her husband had retired and would be there all the time with her. She was continually opposing that fact that he was at home with her all day, and these feelings simmered and then blew up into arguments. She said she was angry. She said “it is not fair that I am treated this way by him”. She wanted to punish him, to get even. She described how she had been quite ill with headaches and felt tense all the time, particularly in the jaw, neck and shoulders.

As an ontological coach I help people to move away from a state in which their feelings are not recognised, un-owned or not expressed. By supporting this lady to get in touch with her emotions I was able to help her move towards a more resourceful ‘way of being’.  This was partly achieved by helping her to accept the current situation through her changing her language. This does not mean that she has to like it, or agree with it, but helping her to see the ‘facticity’ (things that cannot be changed) she is then able to start to language the situation differently. By her declaring that “I accept my husband has retired and he will be home most days”, by making some shifts in her body alignment (relaxed open posture, even breathing) she was able to move from her own ‘negative stories and assessments’. She committed to having a ‘conversations for clarity’ with her husband about how they can ‘explore’ together, the new ways they can live, love and be happy in their retired years.

Resentment is portrayed as a negative mood, but it is perfectly human for us to find ourselves in resentment. For a converstation on exploring moods such as resentment contact

1 comment:

  1. What is most vile about this all-pervasive emotion is its deviousness…resentment loves misery as its company… packing services