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Resentment, Fear, and Anger

Question:

Hello, I am a big fan of the podcast. I am a Soto Zen practitioner and have been doing zazen very regularly. Recently an overwhelming feeling of resentment for my mother has popped into my psyche. Although we have a great relationship and talk almost everyday it seems that through zazen practice this has come to the surface. I have been previously unaware of this. My resentment stems from the fact that when I was 17 she moved to another state, leaving me and my younger brother with my father. Now that I am older and am supporting a family I sometimes feel that I could really use her help. The funny thing is that I know that my feelings are selfish and that my mom is happier where she is. I am trying to work with these feelings and was wondering if you could give me some feedback/advice from a Buddhist perspective.

Answer:

I thinks it’s perfectly normal for a child to feel “abandoned” in those circumstance. The question is whether or not it’s healthy to continue feeling this way as an adult. Obviously, it’s not healthy. Your mother had her reasons for leaving at the time, and whether or not they were reasonable to anyone else, they made sense to her in that situation. We all make decisions, and sometimes those decisions are wrong or hurt others. I don’t know whether or not she was right or wrong to leave, or if that was an overall good thing or bad thing, but it is clear that in this case, her decision hurt you at the time, and the resentment from that is still with you.

So what to do? Resentment is a form of anger, and we talked about that only a few weeks ago. This resentment has continued to grow in you subconsciously over the years until you became aware of its presence. You are grasping at anger or holding on to fear from years ago, and this is affecting your relationship with her today. Having these harmful old feelings is causing you suffering now, and if she senses it, it’s causing suffering for her as well.

I am not a psychologist, but it seems to me that you need to talk this out with her. You need to fully understand her reasons for doing what she did, and when you understand it, you need to forgive it and accept it. This may be a very tough thing to do, but you need to let it go, anything else is going to continue to build up and cause problems later on.

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