Resentment is a perception of unfairness – you’re not getting the help, appreciation, consideration, affection, reward, or praise you deserve. This sense of unfairness, together with an innate anger, combine to give the root of resentment.
It is also an amplification process of three steps:
– there is the trigger for anger.
– there is an amplification of that anger because of the unfairness of the situation.
– the universalising of that situation – feeling or thinking that it will always be like that.
Resentment is never specific and rarely goes away. Where anger is a tool to put out fires, resentment is more like a smoke alarm that’s always on, just in case a spark should ignite.
Other people might think your resentment is about the past and urge you to ‘let it go’. But resentment is really about the future. After an intimate betrayal, it seems to protect you from the danger of trusting again.
Resentment has a strong component of self-punishment and can breed distrust. Though usually obscured by the inclination to devalue those we resent, the self-punitive nature of resentment revels in sentiments like: “Why did I ever trust her!”; “I knew he’d let me down!”; “How could I have been so stupid to believe him again!” The false appeal of self-punishment is that it seems to keep us safe from future hurt and disappointment. If you get mad enough at yourself – and punish yourself sufficiently – you might not be “so stupid” as to trust or rely on that person – or someone like him – again. This illusion of protection from hurt is the “great lie” of resentment. In fact, you get hurt a lot more often when resentful, for the simple reason that people react to what they see.
What resentment does for your resilience
Resenting a situation or a person drains your energy massively and therefore drains your resilience. It occupies your mind and heart; it reduces your focus and distorts your perspective. It makes you reactive and can add to, or cause conflict, stopping you communicating with others that really matter to you. It is harder to be calm and be present, to step back and see things differently. It distracts you from using your energy for the positive things that you want to do and achieve.
When your mood is positive you are caring, playful, romantic, supportive, cooperative, analytical, or creative. A few negative feelings are not likely to change your mood. But, when your underlying mood is resentful, you can experience emotions like waves of anger, anxiety, jealousy, or envy, which motivate behaviour that is controlling, dominating, impulsive, possessive, confrontational, vindictive, dismissive, withdrawing, or rejecting. A few positive feelings here and there will do little to alter your mood.
In short resentment is a bit like a dementor from Harry Potter (Ref: Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling) – it sucks the life out of you, drains your resilience and makes everything grey and heavy.
What You Can Do To Shift Resentment
- Notice it and honour the intention behind it – to protect you
- Decide you want to change being hijacked by resentment
- Use the HALT tool to figure out what the source of the resentment really is, and how you might go about changing it.
Being free of resentment is resilience building. It takes guts to notice and accept you are feeling resentment. This is half the ticket to changing how you feel.
Don’t let your mood be so affected by covering up what you really need via resentment. Honour your needs, and let yourself be free.
Jenny Campbell, CEO, Resilience Engine