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What is Resentment and How To Let Go of It?

What is Resentment and How To Let Go of It?Updated on October 5, 2020 | Published on September 23, 2020
Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD, Psychiatrist

What is Resentment and How To Let Go of It?

Resentment is a strong emotion.

Correction: VERY strong. It is a complex, multi-layered negative emotion fostering deep within your heart slowly corrupting your entire being.

…and still,

People fail to identify resentment because it is hidden far behind the curtains of anger and fear. Instead, they try to find quick, run-off-the-mill fixes that are only successful in avoiding it for a while.

Resentment is weird, the longer it stays within you, the more powerful it gets until it finally manages to get the best out of you.

To fix it, you need to get to the crux of it face-to-face and ACCEPT it. There’s no other way around it.

But before we find a solution to deal with resentment, let us first understand what it is exactly.

Resentment Definition

SUMMARY
Resentment is the upsetting feeling for a person/place triggered by real, imagined, or misunderstood injustice.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”.

…and there’s nothing that explained this feeling of destruction better.

Resentment is a feeling of being treated unfairly or when you feel that you did not receive your deserved share. It can be for anything love, attention, money, or even a slice of pizza.

Resentment has been misunderstood for a long time. The Internet is filled with guides on how to let go of relationships but unfortunately only a few discover the depth of it. Most of them only advise you to “just forget it” or “let the bygones be bygones” which is nothing but generic advice.

For anything or anyone that tells you to “ignore or forget” resentment, never listen to them unless you want to bear the brunt of it in your later stages.

Never

  • fight
  • ignore
  • forget
  • lock, or
  • pretend that you don’t have

resentment. Instead,

  • accept
  • experience
  • deal, and
  • try to heal

resentment.

Trust me the concept of “fake it till you make it” doesn’t work on human psychology.

Still, not clear? Here are a few examples to help you gain more understanding.

Resentment examples

Resentment can be triggered in the following situations:

Disclaimer: These situations are hypothetical in order to help you understand the context better.

1.      When you ordered a Pizza, and your siblings got the largest and cheesiest pizza slice. 

2.      When you have been eyeing on an office promotion but instead of you, your colleague was promoted.

3.      When you have been investing equal time and effort as your CEO but are paid 100 times lesser to him.

4.      When you use the most expensive makeup products but your best friend is more beautiful than you.

5.      When you have something really important to say, but the family members of the groups of people are paying attention to your older/younger sibling.

Or any other situation where you feel that you are not getting your fair share of social resources in respect to others can lead to resentment.

So, how will you know you are the victim of this silent killer called resentment?

Symptoms of Resentment
Symptoms of Resentment

Symptoms of Resentment

These are some of the signs that you are sure to witness along with a burning rage in your heart.

1. You constantly feel negative about the situation.

When you think about the situation that made you feel less valued, strong emotions like anger or envy overpower you.  

2. You can’t stop thinking about the situation that triggered resentment

Resentment is triggered when you replay the same situation over and over in your head not letting your conscience forget the injustice.

3. You regret lowering your boundaries

Regret is the side product of the most significant sign of resentment. If you feel regretful about opening up to someone, you must know you are being trapped by this demon.

4. You want to avoid conflict

Resentful people are too afraid to seek clarifications. They are scared about the avoidance or conflicts that might come if they try to resolve it.

5. Your relationships are at war

Oh yes. You have no idea how resentment can silently creep in and destroy all that you have – both within and with others.

6. You feel less valued.

That’s the whole concept of resentment. You constantly feel that you are not valuable or suffer from some sort of inferiority complex.

7. You are hopeless

You just start to feel that there’s no viable solution to mend your emotions.

8. You feel detached

Resentment can push you away from your own. You start withdrawing from anyone who tries to come close. 

Now that you know the definition and symptoms of resentment, you should also know –

What Does Resentful Mean?

If you feel resentful of someone, you feel bitter towards them because they received something you deserved. It is usually followed by envy or other similar negative feelings.

For example,

1. She is resentful about the way he was treated in class.

2. He was a little resentful of his promotion.

Before we dive deep into the causes, consequences, and symptoms of resentment, let us first understand how it is different from other emotions.  

Resentment vs Anger

Resentment and anger have been used interchangeably since time immemorial without knowing the fact that both have distinguished meaning.

Let’s find out what separates the two.  

Anger Resentment
Anger results in aggression or violent behavior usually in response to a threat. Resentment is triggered when a threat is dealt with/without being aggressive. 
Anger is like a fire extinguisher that prevents harmful situations from getting more harmful Resentment is a smoke alarm that warns when someone from the past experience shows up.
Anger is like an immediate action. Resentment is built over the years. 
Anger can be put off when the stimulus is not around. Resentment can stay even when the stimulus is long gone.
Resentment vs Anger

Resentment vs Conviction

Some people also measure resentment and conviction on the same weighing scale but inherently both of them are different. Here’s how!

Resentment Conviction
Acting on resentment usually results against something like unfairness, injustices, abuse, etc. Acting on conviction usually results for something like well-being, justice, etc.
Resentment vs Conviction

After understanding, the basic definition and its distinguishing factor, it’s now time to know –

What causes Resentment?

There can be several reasons that led to resentment in your heart but most of them are triggered by acts of injustice or humiliation.

Apart from that, common situations that can cause resentment include public humiliation; accepting negative treatment without voicing any protest; constant discrimination of any kind; desire to own things or traits in other’s possession; feeling used, undesired, or unvalued; achievements going unrecognized; others receiving the same reward without working as hard.

It can also be sparked by continuous ignorance or belittling by another person. People have also advocated for emotional rejection or denial to be another cause for resentment.

Past can also play a significant role in the person bearing resentment. If a person has had a troubled past with troublesome experiences, he/she might be so focused on these grievances that it may lead to resentment in the principal.

Long story short, resentment can be a result of the experienced grief usually sustained by ruminating (thinking about the same situation over and over again). Resentment can cause a lot of harm, both emotionally and physically, let me explain.

Consequences of Resentment

Resentment has both healthy and unhealthy aspects with short-term and long-term impacts.

Resentment is like self-punishment, which creates the appeal of a false boundary that is supposed to protect you from future unfair situations. In reality, you are hurting yourself more than anyone ever would.

In worse situations, resentment is often followed by rage, anger with a motive to make the person feel exactly like you have felt like putting them down, humiliating them, devaluing them, etc. This harms you as a human being, drains positive emotions, and pollutes your conscience.

Resentment when experienced with an intimate partner is the strongest and casts lifelong scars on the resenter. In short term, it can lead to edginess in the resenter, hatred against the person, or anger when the person is discussed in a positive scenario.

But in the long term, the resenter can experience a sarcastic attitude, doubtful nature, difficulty in trusting others, trouble in self-disclosure, lack of emotional growth and self-confidence, inferiority, and even disinterest in future relationships.

Persistent resentment can also leave a physical impact on the experiencer – weak immune system, hypertension, depression, drug addictions, and even shorter life span.

And finally, to the most important segment of this think-piece –

How to Let Go of Resentment
How to Let Go of Resentment

How to Let Go of Resentment

Part I – Accepting the Past

Step 1: Identify the source of your resentment

Any king of healing starts with understanding the problem. Reckon your own feelings and ask several questions to understand it from crux, like:

  • When did you start feeling resentment?
  • Is it because of one particular person or multiple people?
  • What was the situation that led to resentment?

Or anything else that helps you comprehend the root of your resentment. This will not only help you identify the correct way of resolution but also teaches you to accept your feelings.

Step 2: Recognize your power

Sometimes you feel resentful of others because of your own doing. You think you were wrong to let your guard down in front of the person who hurt you.

You keep blaming yourself for trusting the person and not being able to see this situation coming. This gives rise to the feeling of anger which fiddles with your mental health.

To prevent yourself from emotional abuse, it’s best to stop putting the blame on the other person, identify your power, and move on from it.

No one has ever been better with the bitterness.

Step 3: Verify whether its resentment or jealousy/envy?

The desire of what others possess can lead to various negative emotions like jealousy, envy, and entitlement.

So, if the feeling of resentment is characterized by envy, i.e., you feel resentful because the other person has something you want, there’s no way you can make peace by taking it out on the other person. Instead, you need to accept the fact that you are lacking in order to heal.

For example, your parents gifted a new cell phone to your older sibling that you wanted. In that case, you feel that you asked for the cell phone first and are more deserving of it. Come to terms with it, do an honest evaluation of your parents and discuss it with your parents.

Understand that the real reason you are suffering through resentment and anger is you, not them.

Step 4: Acknowledge your feelings

Humans have a habit to keep hiding negative feelings in their hearts. The pent up does more damage than you can imagine.

Since anger is a very common emotion, people feel it’s easier to appear angry than explain that you are hurting from several other emotions like disappointment, jealousy, or resentment.  

But hey, you are human, just like all others and it’s okay to feel what you are feeling. Give yourself enough time to accept that.

Think about what happened, what you are feeling, and why you are feeling that.

Step 5: Vent out in front of your close friends

When you feel stuck in a situation, there’s no one better than your own circle to lend help.

Find a person who you can trust with all your might – it can be your friends, family, or even your partner and pour everything that’s in your heart. You will feel light almost instantly.

Plus, they will also be able to lend you a third-person perspective which will help you to brainstorm a solution.

Sometimes, others manage to see what you can’t and sometimes that’s all you need to get better!

Step 6: Write it out

Write down all that you feel and specify all the details that you can remember. Mention the situation that led to resentment, list down all the traits of the person that made you feel resentful.

Remember to be honest. You are doing this to heal, not deceive.

You can also write down the behavior of the other person that made you feel rejected. Try to dive deeper and uncover all that you have been trying to push away in the name of “I am better than that.”

In the end, scribble all the negative impacts that they had in your life. For instance, if you resent your partner and hold them responsible for not being able to trust anyone – write it down.

Step 7: Confront or Discuss it with the person

Sometimes, people hurt you unconsciously and want to understand why you are hurting. In that case, confronting the person who hurt you is not a bad idea.

Sure, it won’t set things right and they might not even know why they did what they did but a candid discussion with the person responsible can take you a long way. Here are a few do’s and don’ts when you finally decide to talk to the person.

  • Use “I” statements to express your hurt.
  • Ask for explanations or their side of the story.
  • Look for solutions together.
  • Tell them how an apology can make things better for you.
  • Confront only when you developed a better perspective of your feelings.
  • Don’t hold them responsible for everything that you have been feeling.
  • Don’t be critical.

The primary point of this step is to prevent developing a wall between you and the person you hold responsible. Remember, healthy relationships thrive only when you can communicate your feelings to each other honestly.

Part II – Letting go of Resentment

Step 8: Stop rethinking the situation

When a situation puts you in a difficult spot, you tend to keep replaying that in your head. This is often called rumination and it pollutes your psyche more than you can imagine.

In order to prevent rumination, you need to take control of your thoughts. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Don’t dwell on what happened instead focus on solutions. This is one of the most successful ways to deal with resentment. Brainstorm solutions to help manage the circumstance and stop seeing yourself as the victim.
  • Look at your situation with open eyes. Sometimes, you develop resentments for situations in your mind. So, take a thorough look and re-evaluate your analysis. 
  • Don’t put yourself in the trap of self-loathing, instead count on your strengths. Look at the brighter side of the situation and capitalize on it.

Step 9: Acknowledge good characteristics of the culprit

It might be very difficult to spot good qualities in the person who has hurt you so much. But, trust me, the benefits outweigh the struggle by a very big margin.

Remind yourself that “to err is human” and write down all the qualities that are worth highlighting in this human being. It will not only make you more kind but also help you develop a greater objective about the situation.

Remember, everyone deserves a second chance.

Step 10: Choose to forgive

Resentment is powerful but you know what’s more powerful? Forgiveness!

You have been hurt by the ones close to you – there’s nothing else that can heal you except forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean that you need to forget the harm that this person caused you or let them inside your life. It just means that you will let go of the rage that you have been holding against him/her.

So how can you do that?

  • Tell them, out loud, face-to-face.
  • Write all that happened in a piece of paper and then tear it into pieces or flush it.
  • Learn to forgive yourself.
  • Stand in front of the mirror and say it to yourself: I forgive you!

Step 11: Find meaning in the situation

Ever heard of the age-old maxim “Everything happens for a reason”? Well, it does but only if you have it in you to look for the reason.

Instead of feeling angry about the situation, why don’t you sit down and ask yourself –

  • Did this happen to you so that you learn to create boundaries?
  • Did this happen to you so that you learn to celebrate a person in your life?
  • Or there was something else?

If you believe in spirituality, reach out to your spiritual advisor and seek further understanding of the situation.

Step 12: Consult a professional

If you are unable to help yourself, even after continuous efforts, consider this option and contact a mental health professional.

Remember, resentment if left untreated can play with your emotional, mental, and even physical well-being.

You don’t want your future to bear the brunt of the past. So, follow what your doctor says and seek treatment for anger management issues.

Even though now you know how to handle resentment against someone, resentment in intimate relationships still needs a deeper understanding because of its impact on your future.

Resentment in Relationships (Resentment in Marriage)

Resentment often creeps in between an intimate relationship and erodes the foundation of it. It is more common in long term relationships due to the higher probability of events.

So, what can be the reason you are feeling resentful against your partner? Let’s find out!

1. Unbalanced responsibilities

Relationships thrive on healthy partnerships. From daily chores to parental duties, to even on intimate moments, if everything is residing on just one’s shoulder – it is sure to trigger resentment.

2. Filtered communication

Two people in a relationship go through a lot of things together and once in a while, you end up saying something that hurts your partner’s feelings or vice versa. But if either of you is not a great communicator, the hurt is going to build up as resentment.

3. Overpowering traits

It might also be possible that one of you in the relationship is a passive-aggressive person, or it is also possible that one of you constantly feel overshadowed that has led to resentment.

4. One-sided affection

One-sided love has been responsible for building up resentment since time immemorial. When you put in so much effort, love, care, and everything else and still doesn’t get anything in return, you are bound to resent your partner.

5. Medical issues

When one partner is diagnosed with a chronic illness, mental or physical, the other partner takes up the role of caregiver. This can build up resentment in the caregiver-partner mostly because they didn’t “sign” up for it.

Resentment can end relationships. More so, destroy every hope of getting back to each other. It can also take a major toll on your mental health and transform you in ways that you never wanted –

Resentment and mental health

Resentment is a very common emotion and surfaces itself in the form of anger or annoyance. In a few cases, the victims fail to forgive or accept the situation which does serious harm to their mental health.

For instance, a person who has suffered injustice from their childhood will fail to look past any kind of abuse. They might also feel helpless in any negative situation and lose the capability to see any positive coming out of it.

Resentment can blind you and give you a false sense of power coupled with anger and rage. This false sense of power can be extremely dangerous and can turn into hatred, if not harnessed properly.

So, what’s the end to this suffering, or, –

Opposite of resentment: Contentment

Resentment by definition means “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly”.

So, context-wise, the opposite of resentment must` be: Contentment. Contentment by definition means “a state of happiness and satisfaction”.

Remember, happiness is one thing, contentment is another. Very few people find satisfaction in life so if you have, consider yourself lucky!

Wait, that’s not the end. Not yet… Let’s quickly glide through some resentment quotes that introduce us to the gravity of this emotion.

Resentment Quotes

1. “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

― Carrie Fisher
“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” - ― Carrie Fisher

2. “As smoking is to the lungs, so is resentment to the soul; even one puff is bad for you.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert
“As smoking is to the lungs, so is resentment to the soul; even one puff is bad for you.” - ― Elizabeth Gilbert

3. “His love for her was so deeply woven with resentment that he could not untangle the two.”

― Kim Edwards
“His love for her was so deeply woven with resentment that he could not untangle the two.” ― Kim Edwards

4. “Resentment seems to have been given us by nature for a defense, and for a defense only! It is the safeguard of justice and the security of innocence.” 

–  Adam Smith
“Resentment seems to have been given us by nature for a defense, and for a defense only! It is the safeguard of justice and the security of innocence.” -  Adam Smith

5. “Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten” 

– Jon Dryden 
“Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten” - Jon Dryden

The Final Word!

If you have reached here, I am sure now you know how resentment can glide into your relationships and consume all the warmth within.

…but ONLY if you allow it to.

Remember, there’s nothing more powerful than your own dedication.

If you want to emerge as a good human being, forgive who caused you harm, and offer kindness.

There’s nothing in the world that can stop you!