I wanted to hit “end” on my call.

Or alternatively, I fantasized about hitting mute and doing something else for about 20 minutes.

And no, I was not on a call with a telemarketer.

I was on the phone with a friend.

In case you didn’t get my drift above, I was not enjoying the call.

This was the latest in a string of calls over a few months that were dominated at the beginning by my friend talking about what was wrong in her life.

Eventually, she would get around to asking how I was. And my answer was usually some version of “I’m fine. Nothing much going on.”

The problem was that I was not fine. I was pissed. In fact, I had moved beyond pissed into the land of resentment.

Resentment is a complex emotion. It is a mixture of anger and bitterness wrapped around a  judgement about what someone else “should do”.

Often times the resentful thought is a mirror of what you really want for yourself.

Specifically, with my friend I thought “She should ask me how I’m doing first and not get so wrapped up in her drama that she forgets about me.”

At the root of my frustration was anger that this friend was making me stand up for my needs. I wanted her to know (without me having to say anything) how to take care of my needs.

I really liked playing the role of supportive, self-effacing friend. At least I thought this was the role I was playing.

In actuality, I was playing the role of martyr. (“I’ll ignore my needs because your needs seem more important and I’m strong enough to handle my stuff alone.”)

She was “making me” acknowledge that I had needs beyond just getting an approval fix from being a good friend.

I did not want the gift she was offering then, but I am so grateful now to have had that experience.

I believe the gift my friend offered me was the opportunity to learn how to take care of myself, specifically to state my needs and feelings, without someone else having to drag them out of me first.

Figuring out what your true needs and feelings are can be tough, especially when you are someone who is much better at paying attention to the needs and feelings of other people.

Here are the 3 steps I used to figure that out:

1. Write out what your friend (or the person you are mad at) should do.

Get really specific here about what you want from the person in your life who is making you unhappy. If you want some ideas about how to get specific, Byron Katie has a great worksheet called “Judge Your Neighbor” on her website. (Because aren’t we all really good at figuring out what other people should do?) You can get the link to it here.

2.  Do a turnaround.

Look over your writing assignment from step #1. Pick out a “should” statement about the person you are upset with, then turn the statement around. To do this, switch the roles between you and them.

For example, this was the thought I had about my friend: “She should ask me how I’m doing first and not get so wrapped up in her drama that she forgets about me.”

The turnaround of this statement is “I should tell her how I’m doing first and not get so wrapped up in her drama that I forget about me.”

This type of statement may sound awkward or silly at first, but it can open your eyes to an aspect of the situation that had previously been hidden. For me, I realized that I really needed to take my own needs and feelings more seriously, rather than pawning off that responsibility on someone else.

3. Give yourself permission to ditch any rules that keep you stuck in the situation.

I realized when I was in the crappy-phone-call situation with my friend that I had several rules that made me feel powerless in the situation. One rule was “I can’t talk about what’s going on with me unless it’s really big or she asks first.” Another rule was “If my friend is going through a hard time, its not OK for me to talk about myself.”

When I feel trapped in a situation, more often than not the trapped feeling comes from the subconscious rules I have created that are limiting my choices in the situation. Letting go of these two rules gave me the freedom to share honestly what was going on with me, and my resentment dissolved afterward.

These 3 steps helped me transform a broken relationship into one that continues to be healthy today. I have found that in many cases, these 3 steps are not a “one and done” type of experience. Rather, they are a continual process, kind of like weeding a garden, that helps us to keep our lives free of emotions that poison our relationships.

PS- Has resentment about a person or a situation been steeling your time and energy?  Sign up for The Oasis Workshop on May 3rd and take a big step toward letting go of resentment and re-claiming your happy 🙂 Click here to get your ticket now!