Overcoming the Silent Killer to Spiritualize your Life & Relationship

DK Dasa
12 min readOct 15, 2023

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The Silent Killer (of the Soul)

In the ancient scripture Sri Isopanisad, there is a Sanskrit term atma-ha, which literally means “killer of the soul.” Of course, we understand from this same scripture — and every other great scripture of the world for that matter — that the soul is eternal and therefore cannot be killed. So the Isopanishad uses this phrase in a non-literal sense to illustrate the point that if we engage in activities and lead a life that covers the true nature of the soul, we are bound to become covered over by darkness and spiritual ignorance, in this life and in the next.

I would argue that one of the most dangerous paths towards “the killing of our soul” is to fall prey to resentment. There is a reason resentment is known as the silent relationship killer. In fact, the inspiration for writing this piece is first and foremost to speak the words I myself need to hear. For most of my life I have struggled with repression, leading to resentment, which comes out in passive-aggressive behaviors. Now, in my most important relationship, my marriage, I have also struggled with resentment (as well as emotional dysregulation and copendent tendencies that accompany it).

What I have learned through my education, experience, and realization is that resentment is the most complex of all emotional states. Really, resentment is more of a mood than of a concrete emotion; and it has deep roots, as well as deeply negative impacts. I can personally attest to how damaging this state can be.

Intimate relationship expert and author Dr. Steven Stosny explains it this way: Emotions are like waves that rise and fall, usually pretty quickly. On the other hand, moods are more like a steady current flowing underneath the surface. Therefore, moods determine our emotional experience much more than our emotions influence our moods.

Here is another way to conceptualize resentment. Look at the breakdown of the word, it’s re-sent-ment. The prefix “re” means again and also serves as an intensifier. “Sent” refers to feelings (think “sentiment). And the suffix “ment” refers to a state.

So resentment is an ingrained mood that intensifies our emotions and traps us to keep experiencing them somatically, rather than moving with and through them. Emotions are subtle messages that are meant to give positive direction to life by helping us take better care of ourselves and others. Resentment blocks us from connecting to this natural process.

In fact, it is well-documented in psychological research that resentment arouses the entire central nervous system. Not only that, it can keep it aroused (again, forcing us to keep experiencing our emotions somatically, as tension in the body, rather than processing and releasing them). This basically means that when resentment crosses a certain threshold, it becomes chronic. In other words, it keeps the central nervous system in a state of chronic stress. When resentment is chronic, it can not just be towards one thing or person, it permeates one’s experience of life. Inevitably, this incites a war with one’s own emotions that threatens to disconnect one from the sense of meaning, purpose, and sensitivity by which to move forward in life. It impairs concentration, increases the tendency toward errors (in action and judgment), and leaves one vulnerable to reactivity — all culminating to create the perfect storm of dysfunction in a marriage/intimate relationship. Ultimately, resentment stems from a resistance or refusal to take personal responsibility for what is in one’s sphere of influence.

Let’s bring this thing back full circle… Again, resentment is known as the silent relationship killer. And again, we’re talking about killers of the soul. The reason resentment is one of the most destructive influences to one’s consciousness is because the essence of spirituality is love, and love is expressed and received in relationship, with God and others. Resentment impairs our ability to engage in healthy, vulnerable, reciprocal relationships due to projection, shame, anger, volatility, etc. When these tendencies prevail, our capacity to be receptive to spiritual nourishment through genuine connection is diminished, because we are blocked from connecting with others, God, and ultimately ourselves.

The Fairness of Unfairness

In this world many of us struggle with an obsession over fairness, what is right, what is wrong, what I deserve, what I don’t deserve. There is no place more destructive to obsess over fairness than in relationships. One mentor shared with me his brilliant realization — Fairness is about karma and the subtle laws of material nature. An aspiring spiritualist does not ask for and seek fairness, they seek God, who is transcendental to all these mechanistic, calculated, energetic exchanges. In other words, real spirituality is about spontaneous, sincere service and love, which is completely independent of “fairness.” As tiny little individual entities, we do not even have the capacity to understand real fairness. We cannot conceive of the entire, cosmic, eternal picture and subtle workings of cause and effect with our limited brain and sensory power.

Frankly, fairness in relationships is almost always less about right and wrong and more about wanting to avoid feeling our core hurts. Under the guise of “fairness” we can tend to try to control situations or a partner/loved one in order to deflect and resist feeling painful emotions. Core hurts are those deeply rooted insecurities and traumas we internalized as children — “I am inadequate. I am unlovable. I am unworthy”, etc. So oftentimes the subtle dynamic that plays out in relationships is “cross the line of what I say is unfair — which really means ‘make me feel something I don’t know how to handle’ — and you deserve to pay so that the score gets evened out.”

Of course, the score will never be settled. You must be catching the point by now. Resentment plays out as blame and projection in an attempt to reduce anxiety, shame, and/or pain. Trying to resolve the issues you resent in a relationship will never remove the resentment. It’s more deeply rooted and will just shift to other things. The problem must be cut down at the root.

This is the fairness of unfairness. Every one of us in this world has core hurts that compromise our ability to comprehend our true nature as souls and our connection with the Divine. It is ONLY by the self-correcting messages of our emotions that we can be motivated to do the work necessary to reawaken our nature as eternal, blissful, spiritual beings with a unique relationship with God and a propensity to engage in selfless, loving service. We must learn to not numb, avoid, or become reactive to our emotions and core hurts if we want to take advantage of God’s perfectly arranged cosmic sensitivity training uniquely tailored for each and every one of us.

The Silent Savior (the Ultimate Antidote to Resentment)

Just as resentment is coined as the silent killer, I am denoting contentment as the silent savior. Again, resentment is a chronic undertone of bitterness about life and relationships, characterized by an inability to relate with our emotions as gateways to positive change. Contentment is the polar opposite. Etymologically, content literally means to hold together. Thus, contentment is that state of being which holds us together, allowing the various parts of our life and psyche to become integrated in connection with and service to the soul and its source. Here are 3 essential principles for cultivating contentment and setting oneself up for success in relationships.

1. Our level of contentment = the content we take in

Contentment is built on the foundations of faith — “trust in something sublime,” as my grandfather Guru defined it. The genuine faith of a spiritualist is succinctly encapsulated in the verse from Srimad Bhagavatam which states: Those who see the Divine, benevolent hand behind everything that happens to them and who accept even their adversity to be uniquely crafted for their betterment are qualified to attain the highest spiritual realization (10.14.8).

This type of firm faith, which again underpins contentment, is cultivated through the content that we take in through our mind and senses. Simply put, our level of contentment in life depends on the content we ingest through the mind and five senses. Whatever you taste, smell, touch, see, hear, and think about ultimately creates your state of consciousness.

In this regard, it is crucial to cultivate a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, sufficient rest, outlets of recreation, meaningful work, and balanced habits. In an overstimulating and complex society, social media, news, screens, and other sources of quick dopamine hits vie for our attention. When we do not regulate our exposure to all of this sensory input, we become disconnected from our bodies, minds, and emotions. Imbalanced sensory exposures and habits dysregulate the nervous system, leaving us distractible, on edge, and/or unable to be with ourselves in a healthy way. As the Bhagavad Gita (6.17) affirms, one must be regulated in habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work in order to have a platform from which to transcend material pains through spiritual practice.

Speaking of transcendence, it is absolutely essential to daily read, hear, and/or meditate on genuine spiritual scriptures. The Bhagavad Gita is known as the Vedic intelligence. That, and other similar books that delineate eternal truths about God, the soul, the nature of this world, and the process of self-realization, serve to fortify one’s intelligence to be able to appreciate the miracles of life. Reading sacred literatures, hearing classes about spiritual topics, and reflecting on wisdom all nourish the seeds of faith within the heart. With a balanced lifestyle, properly aligned intellect and heartfelt faith informed through understanding, experience, and realization, one’s underlying mood is uplifted. Remember, resentment is not an emotional problem, it is a mood problem. When the predominating mood flowing through us is positive and optimistic, contentment blossoms, and we are able to take more personal responsibility for our experience in life.

2. Learn to embrace the present moment through mindfulness

Resentment cannot develop without some amount of shame, anxiety, and anger. In intimate relationships, resentment is developed due to the inability to cope with the core wounds triggered by these emotions. That is where the blame game comes from. Again, trying to resolve the issues we resent in a relationship will never actually resolve our resentment… Because it is almost never about the issue of focus. Instead, it is actually about using blame in an effort to try to reduce our own shame, anxiety, and/or anger. This is called codependency — subtly trying to make someone else responsible for one’s own feelings or experiences; or, trying to take responsibility for someone else’s feelings at the cost of working through one’s own.

The only way out of the cycle of resentment is through. Our own negative emotions that trigger our core hurts need to be dealt with. The cycle of resentment pushes us to continually avoid or numb our core hurts, thus dishonoring our emotions which come to us with messages about how we can feel better.

Cultivating mindfulness — the ability to embrace, accept, and reciprocate with the present moment — is essential. Mindfulness entails maintaining awareness of our inner experience. It entails observing and honoring it, without getting carried away by it.

As Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad Gita (2.14), one must learn to tolerate the non permanent appearance and disappearance of happiness and distress, which arise due to sense perception.

It takes constant practice to tolerate the waves of thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and judgements that arise every hour of every day. As Krishna further states in the Gita (6.35), it is incredibly difficult to tame the restless mind, but it is possible by the combination of practice and detachment.

Practice and detachment allow us to remain in control of the nervous system, not letting external stimuli elicit thought patterns, emotional spirals, or behaviors that are destructive. As famous holocaust survivor and existential therapist Viktor Frankl noted, “Between the stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space lies our freedom and power to choose our responses. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Mindfulness is the process of tapping into that space and leveraging it to live proactively, as an empowered, conscious person. One of the most powerful ways I cultivate the ability to be more mindful in my life are breathing exercises. In Ayurveda, the ancient Vedic science of holistic health, the sages described that the breath is to the body like thoughts are to the mind. Thus, taking conscious control of the breath correlates to the ability to take conscious control of the mind.

It is essential to take time every single day to engage in some deliberate practice of inciting relaxation and presence. Whether it is breathing, observing the mind, body scans, yoga nidra (non-sleep deep rest), etc. — we must practice being aware of our inner experience and sensations. The more we deliberately and proactively practice this, the more we will be able to do it during the inevitable stressors of life and relationships; the more we will be able to identify when we’re “triggered” and know how to hold space for that part of ourself that is anxious, afraid, or overwhelmed. In this way, we learn how to accept our experience without judgment, and reciprocate with it by utilizing it as a therapeutic compass to guide us further along the journey of healing upwards into wholeness.

3. Develop discipline and integrity

Nothing is more satisfying and conducive to cultivating contentment than integrity. When we actually prove to ourselves that we are who we say we are — that we have solid values and live in alignment with them — nothing is more empowering.

To be integral is to be honest not only with others but also with ourselves (which may be even more difficult). Integrity also means to be unified in one’s internal construction. Just as the foundational materials of a building must be unified to make the building sturdy, so must the various “parts” of our psyche be unified and work together in service to the core self, the soul.

Only by subjecting ourselves to the guidance and care of mentors — those who are further along on the path — and being transparent and vulnerable with them about the ways in which we are falling short, can we continue to move forward. An additional way to cultivate the mood of humility and of being a perpetual student, learning existential lessons in the cosmic classroom of life, is to journal regularly. By keeping a regular log of our experiences, of successes and failures, our positive and negative emotions; we help ourselves process, release, gain insights, and reflect on how we can make adjustments going forward. Whether it’s a page a day, a paragraph, or even one sentence, journaling helps us to be more mindful, self-aware, and relationally-aware.

As our integrity is refined, we develop more self-trust and confidence, becoming more internally satisfied with our own efforts, and less dependent on external results or gratifications. We become more content. We invoke the silent savior of relationships and spiritual progress.

The soul is by nature integral. It is unified in its mission and function to improve, appreciate, connect, and protect. These are the activities we engage in that activate our personhood as spiritual beings. These are also the results we create when we are aligned with that core value.

The process of invoking integrity depends on developing discipline. We must constantly practice responding to our cure hurts and negative emotions in a different way. Specifically, we need to relate to anxiety, distress, depression, loneliness, anger, resentment, and other negative emotions as messages that we are disconnected from our core value.

We must be willing to tolerate discomfort in order to properly receive and process the message, which then drives us to improve a situation, appreciate someone/something, connect with someone/something, and/or protect someone/something. Again, this is where practices like confiding in a mentor/counselor and/or journaling works wonders. They empower us with the insight and accountability we need to cultivate discipline and adaptability; to upgrade our responses to relational and emotional stimuli. We then cultivate deep contentment.

Compassion Power — the Mark of Advancement

If you are working to overcome resentment, emotional volatility, and/or codependency, one of the measures of progress is compassion — for yourself and for your partner. When you respond to triggers and conflict by feeling compassion for your own hurt/insecurity, as well as your partner’s needs, you know you are making progress.

To love adequately, you have to tolerate feeling inadequate. — Dr. Steven Stosny

They say your mate is your mirror. When we attack (project resentment) onto the mirror because we do not like the reflection we see (our own issues), we perpetuate disconnect.

Again, we must learn to tolerate the pain from the image we see in the mirror. The best (& perhaps only) way to tolerate it is to use it as fuel that drives actions which promote core value — connection to our deeply rooted nature of compassion, competency, and creativity.

Cultivating contentment through refining the content we consume, practicing mindfulness, and developing discipline are the keys to unlock the door to compassion. And the Bhagavad Gita (12.13) states that compassion is the first among qualities that are dear to God.

I pray that I can head my own advice around all of this and that something in here was insightful or useful for you, dear reader.

Here is to uprooting resentment. Here is to sowing the seeds of contentment in the soil of nutritious content, mindful awareness, and integrity. Here is to reaping the fruits of compassion and connection which serve to spiritualize our life and relationships.

I invite you to reach out. I’d love to hear from you and discuss anything that stuck out to you. Please let me know if there is any way I can serve you.

Sincerely,

DK

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DK Dasa

Former Monk | Bhakti Yoga Practitioner | Counseling Grad Student | passionate about sharing universal wisdom for personal, relational & spiritual wellness🙏