Resentment is defined as an experience of indignation and anger as a result of unfair treatment.

The people who experience resentment possess feelings of shame, annoyance and a desire of taking revenge. A person may become resentful because of the unjust behaviour of others.

What is Resentment?

Feelings of resentment are not related to any specific mental health condition. It is an inadequate overwhelm of emotions after a hurting or painful experience. A false comment made by a colleague, or criticism from a boss can lead to grudging and indignation of feelings. Resentment can also be seen on large global scales. For example, religious persecution and racism often grow from a deep-rooted resentment. It additionally combines the emotions of disappointment, anger and fear.

Resentment grows more powerfully when we are forced to release emotional pain, and forgive others. Additionally, it thrives on negative feelings. The energy of the body must be restored to overcome these negative thoughts.

An individual who experiences resentment may feel personally victimized, but may be too ashamed and angry to disclose the emotions, instead of allowing the bitterness to discharge, resulting in these feelings manifesting in the form of anger.

Psychological profile of resentful people

Individuals experiencing resentment, hide the pain that they feel during a betrayal. They keep those feelings safe inside because they don’t want to forget their past experiences. This pain often turns into anger.

Similarly, revenge is usually a part of this dangerous formula. It is not meant in a violent or direct way, although it sounds physically aggressive.

Characteristics of resentful people

Some of the characteristics of resentful people include:

Dichotomous thinking

Things are seen in either black or white. Ex. You are either betraying me, or helping me. You are either with me, or against me. Cognitive distortion occurs as a result of this type of thinking. The worst part is that resentful people fail to realize this, as these feelings are natural to them. To handle everything in life, going to extreme is their only way. Because of this, they tend to push everyone away from them.

Immense pride

Pride is a battle horse that annihilates and encompasses everything. Though their pride is immense, it is also very delicate.

Inability to forgive

There is no doubt that forgiving is not the easiest thing to do. However, if we want to get closure and move on with our lives, it is an important part of life. Such people don’t have any wish to forgive anyone. Resentful people feed their pain by replaying the triggering situation over and over again. In this way, their emotions of anguish and despair intensify.

Characteristics of Chronic Resentment in Relationships

  • Automatic defence systems.
  • Defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling or criticism.
  • External regulation of emotions - unpleasant feelings.
  • High emotional reactivity.

Signs of Resentment

  • Resentment can occur in different forms. They include:
  • Feelings of conflict and avoidance.
  • Feelings of regret.
  • Feelings inadequacy.
  • Not able to stop thinking about the past situation that triggered the strong emotions.
  • Tense relationships.
  • Recurring or continual feelings of strong emotions. For example, thinking about the specific experience or interaction results in anger.

Resentful people hold on to negative feelings and become unable to let go of anger or the desire for revenge by revising the distressing events again and again. In this case, resentment may affect an individuals mental health.

Resentment and mental health

Majority of the people experience a general feeling of annoyance and anger because of unfair treatment at some stage in their life. When an individual is unable to forgive due to injustice, problems arise.

Developing an ability to forgive or move on is regarded as an important aspect in controlling resentment. Resentment does not encourage a healthy form of expression, as feelings of rage and anger lead to a false sense of power, which can intoxicate a person. When feelings of resentment grow unchecked and turn into hatred, this intoxication can become dangerous.

Causes of Resentment

Resentment stems from a variety of situations that are considered as wrongdoings, from an individual and are triggered by the expressions of embarrassment and injustice. The most common sources of resentment involve publicly humiliating incidents. This includes feeling like an object of regular prejudice and discrimination, accepting negative treatments without any protest, feelings of being used or taken advantage of by others, and having achievements go unrecognized while others succeed without working hard.

Resentment can end relationships, if left to bubble under the surface. Resentments can give rise to dyadic interactions. For example, denial or emotional rejection, ignorance, putting down, scorn, deliberate embarrassment and belittling by another person. 

In addition, it is worth noting that resentment also continuously grows and can be maintained by past grievances. Thus, resentment can take place because of the grief process and can be sustained by ruminating.

The following are common reasons of resentment in relationships:

Lack of adjustment

It is important to co-exist with one another without hurting the other person’s feelings. If your partner begins ignoring or complaining about the things that matter to you, you may end up harbouring resentment.

One-sided relationships

You may like to spontaneously take care of your partner before they even ask for it. Naturally, you expect them to reciprocate, however find yourself being disappointed. In this case, there are chances that you are in a one-sided relationship. As a result, the giving partner senses that the other partner is ignoring their expectations and needs.

Inability to let go of grudges

Letting go of the past and forgiving someone for their mistakes is easier said than done. The partner who holds the grudges, dislikes the other person because of his or her mistakes. On the other hand, the guilty person dislikes their partner for not being forgiving and supportive enough.

Not appreciating each other’s efforts

Sometimes, people take their partners for granted. Therefore, they do not observe that their partner is making constant efforts each day to make their relationship work. This results in a build-up of negative emotions in the other partner, as they sense that the other partner is not grateful enough.

Unfulfilled desires and expectations

Relationships often begin with a lot of expectations from both parties. You may feel that your partner is not contributing to the relationship, which can lead to dissatisfaction and resentment.

How to let go of resentment?    

Letting go of resentment, in many cases, means forgiving. Some individuals believe that creating peace with an occurrence allows them to let go of any burdens they’ve been carrying. This often means adjusting one’s frame of mind and emotional response.

Are you experiencing feelings of resentment? Here are some effective ways to help you let go of resentment and make peace with your feelings.

Consider why letting go is difficult

When you consider moving on from the resentment, what feelings come up to you? When the resentment has been held in for a long time, letting go of resentment can trigger fears of losing one’s identity.

Use self-compassion

Sometimes people find that the emotions associated with the resentment also provide a feeling of familiarity and security. This is sometimes seen in individuals who hold on to resentment for long periods of time. Self-compassion can help individuals realize that while the short term coping mechanism can make them feel good, it will wear them down over time.

Explore empathy

When an occurrence that caused the resentment is built around a misunderstanding, trying to observe things from their perspective can help to reduce the resentment.

Cultivate gratitude

When experiencing feelings of resentment, take time to reflect. Reflect upon the things you are grateful for when the feelings of resentment start to bubble up. Focusing on the ways in which you are fortunate and privileged can make it more difficult for the emotions of resentment, which often flourish on self-victimization, to take root.

Therapy for resentment

Therapy can be beneficial to navigating and overcoming feelings of resentment. Therapy can be particularly beneficial to those who find it difficult to forgive others for any wrong. A therapist can help uncover the root cause of the resentment and provide ways to work through and overcome these feelings. As the cause of resentment can differ from person to person, therapy is not a “one size fits all” approach.

Personal actualization methods have been proven to be an effective technique for overcoming feelings of resentment. Self-actualized persons tends to accurately perceive compassion, reality and experience empathy for others. Therefore, such persons do not hold onto resentful feelings and may feel less likely to blame others for wrongdoings.

 Though constant feelings of resentment can be uncomfortable, there are techniques that can be used to overcoming these feelings. Working through your resentment can help you lead a happier, more satisfying life.

About the Author Anu Verma

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