Resentment, colloquially known as bitterness, is a toxic emotion that is primarily induced by feeling as if you are being treated unfairly. Resentment can be felt in any type of relationship including intimate partnerships, friendships and professional relationships. It is an emotion that is built up over a few weeks, months or years after feeling as if you have been slighted or wronged repeatedly.
At first, resentment is targeted to the person who you believe has wronged you but over time, resentment becomes habitual and generalizes to a larger group of people, such as all men, all employers, or at it’s worst, all people.It is an extremely destructive emotion that can tear apart a relationship and cause serious physical ailments including backaches, chronic headaches, ulcers and chronic fatigue. Resentment does not go away on its own but requires significant conscious effort to reverse.
Here are some tips on how to work toward letting go of resentment:
Stop blaming. People who are resentful have a tendency to blame others for their problems. Any error at work. a or a fight between spouses automatically becomes the other’s fault because he/she fell into a group that triggers feelings of resentment.
Resentment In Action: For example, an employee who has been fired from his previous job for someone else’s mistake may feel that he was treated unfairly. When he joins a new job, his resentment towards his previous coworker generalizes to his current coworkers. When a project falls apart, his immediate reaction is to blame his coworker for the mistakes. He may roll his eyes and think about how incompetent people in his field really are.
What To Do: This blame prevents him from seeing the larger picture and identifying his role in the current problem. Instead, it perpetuates a strongly-held, yet often mistaken, view of others and the world further damaging your relationships. Instead of blaming someone else the next time something goes wrong, take a minute to identify your contribution to the problem.
Stop minimizing. South Asians very often minimize their personal needs and wants believing that sacrifice is the key to harmony in any relationship. While all relationships, personal and professional, require compromise, regularly sacrificing one’s needs or happiness results in a build up of resentment. Everyone has needs and minimizing them does not change the fact that those needs have to be met.
Resentment In Action: Take the classic example of a wife who wishes for her husband to tell her he loves her more often. Instead of voicing this request, she minimizes her need, convincing herself that him going to work or taking care of the children is just as good as hearing those three little words. Unfortunately, as each day goes by and he does not utter that statement, she begins to feel upset. When he asks her for something that he needs, she obliges but the feelings turn into resentment. She may feel that it is unfair for him to ask for something when she is sacrificing something of her own. The wife then takes out her resentment by picking a fight about something entirely different and the husband is left confused about why she is so upset.
What To Do: Identify your needs in the relationship that causes you to feel resentment. Increasing self-esteem can help if identifying your needs seems difficult. Learn how to communicate those needs clearly so that the other in the relationship can now how to meet those needs.
Manage difficult situations as soon as reasonable. Sometimes speaking your mind immediately when you feel negatively toward something is not always appropriate. However, holding on to negative feelings past the time when it is reasonable to speak up often sets the stage for feeling resentful.
Resentment In Action: As an example, you have told your friend how excited you are to attend a certain concert and to be on time to so you don’t miss anything. Still, your friend comes late and doesn’t apologize in the car. You can feel yourself getting upset but because there are others in the car you do not say anything. On the way home, it is just the two of you in the car but you had such a great time at the concert you do not want to spoil the mood so you again say nothing. The next day when your friend calls, you still choose not to say anything but the longer you talk to your friend you feel resentful that there is no apology.
What To Do: Resentment has the ability to turn a small, manageable conflict into a large, damaging fight that may be difficult to repair. As soon as it is appropriate to do so, calmly express your anger, sadness, disappointment or whatever your emotion is. That conversation, even if it turns into an argument, is going to be much less hurtful than letting resentment build up and picking a fight later.
Resentment is perpetuated by a habitual and rigid way of thinking. It is not easy to reverse but is entirely possible. Work consistently toward conceptualizing situations differently than you have been. If you are finding it difficult to do on your own, seek the aid of a professional who can help you retrain your brain. Feeling resentful does nothing other than make you feel negatively and damage your relationship with others. Ask yourself if holding on to that is truly worth risking your relationships and your health.
How do you overcome resentment?