Many people end up going through life, allowing themselves to be weighed down by feelings of anger, hatred and resentment. Being treated unfairly or whenever we feel wronged or less valued by others, we experience resentment. And most of us get trapped in such experiences.

Resentful thoughts have such power over us that we can become immobilised at times. The fact is that we can’t control how we are treated by others, or their attitudes or behaviours. We are bound to get hurt by acts of injustice, discrimination or when we experience unfair treatment. 

As human beings, we are meaning making machines. We tend to assign meaning onto our experiences. So, the meaning that we assign onto our experiences generally determines the beliefs we develop about what we can, whether we are worthy or whether we are good enough.

Unhealthy interpretation of resentful experiences can make you constantly feel negative, undesirable or unvalued. And in most circumstances, we let such experiences make us powerless to self-regulate.  Since we assign negative meaning to our resentful experiences, they further amplify negative emotional states. It manifests in to numerous ways as desire for revenge, hostility, bitterness, hate, self-loathing and vengefulness.  

“Bitterness and resentment only hurt one person, and it’s not the person we are resenting, it’s us.” — Alan Stewart

Resentment & victimhood 

Resentment can be extremely damaging both emotionally and physically. Resentful thoughts do not just stay confined to our headspace, but often spill into other areas of our life.

Most of us cling to our fears, doubts, self-loathing or hatred because we tend to find some element of  security in familiar pain. It feels safer to embrace what we know than to let go of resentful thoughts or feelings for the fear of unknown. But this not only negatively impact the way we communicate and relate to others, but also get us accustomed to rigid thinking patterns. 

Resentful people blame others for their uncomfortable emotional states. They function out of victim mindset in their personal or work relationships. Self-victimisation further breeds a sense of entitlement. This makes them perceive as world against them.

Victimhood turns them into attention seekers, and constant complainers. You find such people constantly complaining about how bad things are, or how insensitive people are to their needs. They blame others for their life’s ups and downs, and avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

Carrying negative attitudes like, ‘world is mostly unfair’ or ‘I am not valued’ often results in ‘poor me’ strategy to seek validation or to get sympathy from others. Attributing whatever happens to external factors only or some fated force outside of their control only increases their resentment further. The prolonged feelings of displeasure or indignation can sometimes become habitual and have a lasting effect on your mind and body. 

Self-esteem & Resentment 

Resentful thoughts can come from different means. When someone wrongs us, or when they are not apologetic for their actions. They could even be caused by rejection or when someone does something unjustified.

When you remember past unfairly treatment, it results in viewing other similar situations in negative perspective. Negative self-talk prevents you from living a congruent and valuable life. With resentful thoughts, one cannot step into their future and do something useful or valuable. 

However, people with high self-esteem might be less affected by any instances of unfair treatment. They are not hesitant to confront those who treat them unfairly. And those with low self-esteem on the other, might care too much about how others perceive them.

Since they look for external validation, they often are not able to communicate their needs or let others know when they feel they are hurt. Low self-esteem makes you hold onto resentful experiences for long towards that person or situation. Over-fixation on past experiences keeps you in a disempowered state.

Resentment and emotional brain

Even though we think of emotions as internal states, they are also a combination of thoughts, feelings and actions. They are also because how we process and respond to those feelings. Resentment can be a tough emotion to deal with. Where sadness, joy, fear and anger are considered as primary emotions. The reactions we have to these emotions are what leads us to secondary emotions. 

Secondary emotions can be further broken down into tertiary emotions. Resentment is considered as tertiary emotion. For instance, it can result as one reacts in rage, which is secondary emotion, to an experience that causes anger. It can also be the result of other secondary emotions like disappointment, envy, disgust or irritability. Such harsh negative emotions hamper your present moment awareness, unless one makes a conscious effort to choose to release resentful thoughts. 

Living without resentment 

It is difficult to let go of resentment, especially, when the person who wronged you has not apologised. Sometimes you resent others because of your own doing. You think you let your guard down or blame yourself for trusting someone and not being able to see the situation coming. There are some things that can’t be forgiven. While it is normal for such instances to arise from time to time, however, holding on to it would only keep you stuck in many areas of your life.

Carrying your unresolved issues weighs you down. Forgiving on the other hand, reduces resentment as well as helps prevent future negative feelings which are important for your well-being as well as to maintain healthy relationships. Unless you let go or forgive yourself, or the other person, you cannot really be available to your present moment. 

Letting go comes from a place of forgiveness and leads to self-empowerment rather than self-victimisation. This helps to repair and renew relationships. Creating a space of acceptance and letting go of past experiences and forgiving people or situations will set you free from pent up anger or resentment. Some experiences are easy to let go and for some you need time. But with conscious effort to let go of your negative emotions, you can free up your mental space to harness self-compassion. 

To-do

  • When an other person is responsible for your feelings of resentment, try to understand the motive behind their actions. If it was unintentional, or their actions were never meant to hurt you in any way, forgiving them reduces the way you feel about such experiences.  If you think it is intentional, or that their behaviour is unjust, let them know their behaviour was unacceptable. This provides an opportunity the others in your life to not to make the mistakes again in future.
  • If you are holding onto bitterness for long time, understanding how it is keeping you stuck in other areas of your life helps you move on. Practicing compassion towards self and others allows you to accept yourself as you are, including your hurtful emotions. It allows you better tolerate negative feelings. Considering your own resentful experiences in bigger perspective of life as a whole, you can let go of your long held resentment.
  • Nonjudgmental awareness of present moment, or mindfulness provides an opportunity to acknowledge and accept negative thoughts and feelings. Acceptance in a nonjudgmental manner reduces secondary emotional reactions which are a primary sources of resentful thoughts and feelings. 
  • View everyone’s experience as unique and be empathetic. Empathy reduces harsh feelings or hostility we have towards other people. Listening to understand rather than judge others for whatever they say or do alleviates feelings of anger. 
  • Practice gratitude for all the things you have and your achievements. Cultivating thankfulness leads to accepting the situation as it is. This way, you are allowing yourself to be happy and can get fully involved in the process of moving forward without being obsessed with long pent up emotions. 

Here are few famous quotes and sayings that may inspire you to change and let go of resentment 

“The suffering itself is not bad; it’s the resentment against suffering that is the real pain.”— Allen Ginsberg 

Never hold resentments for the person who tells you what you need to hear; count them among your truest, most caring, and valuable friends.” — Mike Norton

I eventually came to understand that in harbouring the anger, the bitterness and resentment towards those that had hurt me, I was giving the reins of control over to them. Forgiving was not about accepting their words and deeds. Forgiving was about letting go and moving on with my life. In doing so, I had finally set myself free.” — Isabel Lopez

Never dwell in resentment, but never forget to learn from the reflection.” — Debashish Mridula

If you have high expectations you’re going to get resentments and all kinds of tension.” — Anthony Hopkins

“Forgiveness is the way we break the grip that long-held resentments have on our hearts.” — Sharon Salzburg

“When you carry resentment towards another, you are effectively strengthening your relationship with that person. Let go of the resentment and you break the ties that blind you.” — Steven Aitchison

Instead of wasting my energy on hate and resentment, I’d rather invest my energy in love and contentment. “ — Karen Salmansohn

 “Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.”
– Melody Beattie


Life in itself has no meaning. Life is an opportunity to create meaning.

Osho

In a culture obsessed with happiness, too many of us live our lives chasing happiness rather than meaning. We are too busy looking for happiness in various aspects of our lives, be it relationships, health, work lives or in our creative pursuits. None of us take time to pause and reflect upon-whether or not our lives make sense in any way or to know what makes our lives worth living. Most people’s goal is to find happiness. Living a meaningful life however is in no way connected to how comfortable or happy one is, whether you have enough money or how good you are at satisfying your wants or needs. It has more to do with discovering your true purpose and leading life in connection to that bigger purpose.

A happy life is not necessarily be a meaningful life

Happy life and meaningful life often go hand in hand. However, happiness is related to our biological needs and desires, whereas meaning has more to do with our overall life satisfaction and contentment. If one wants to pursue meaning in life, they need to stop searching for happiness in whatever they do. Even though happiness makes you feel your life is worthwhile in the moment, it doesn’t guarantee you will find meaning in whatever you do. 

Seeking happiness without meaning is short lived and would probably be stressful. When your expectations of happiness are not met or when you realise you aren’t happy, you again feel empty and experience negative emotions. On the other hand, people who really strive to pursue meaning in their life  acquire better attitudes that cause them to look beyond their current situation and connect with a bigger purpose. Finding a way to seek meaning rather than happiness makes it easier to glide through life’s ups and downs. Seeking meaning in what you do always results in long-term happiness and creates lasting relationships leaving you intrinsically motivated.

Quest for meaning begins with self awareness 

Many of us struggle with finding meaning as our days get controlled by worldly perceptions of what we are and what we have to do to fulfil our responsibilities. We often end up feeling swept along, rather than living in control of ourselves. Searching for meaning can often seem as a daunting task in our busy schedules in wanting to become something which we are not. This can be for social acceptance or for external validation.  Some psychological studies have however made searching for meaning more manageable by narrowing down to three dimensions —coherence, purpose and significance as the elements that we need to gain a healthy sense of meaning in life. 

In other words, meaningful life is one where one leads a significant life, with right purpose and a coherent plan to pursue that purpose. All this however is possible only with the knowledge of self. Since everyone has their own idea of what meaningful work is, what’s meaningful to you might not be the same for someone else. Only when you know who you really are that you can truly envision the right purpose and true meaning in life. Without the proper understanding of your own self, you remain restricted to the way others perceive you or the way world sees you. 

This is the reason many of us have gotten used to defining ourselves in terms of possessions that feel like extensions of our own self. They are all things that are external to us. And identifying yourself with your worldly self, or the way others perceive you, you can never be able to find what really it is to live meaningfully means for you. Any search of finding meaning or what makes our lives more meaningful has to start with an inward quest. With awareness of our real self, we find our purpose. With enlightened self, we find the true meaning. So therefore allowing your true self to seek meaning begins with controlling your perception of life. 

Meaning, purpose and goals 

There are so many demands on our time and focus that if we don’t become clear on what our primary goals are we’ll end up trapped, going around in cycles doing work that makes us feel unfulfilled. 

When aspiring for a fulfilled life, it might make more sense to look for things you find more meaningful. Having meaningful goals imparts emotional significance. Since meaning doesn’t exist on its own and it is something we create, it is important to live with intention and prioritise your highest values above everything else. 

An intention to live a meaningful life can be a motivation to having a right purpose. This can further motivate you to create goals that take you in the right direction. An inward urge to find meaning fuels right purpose that connects you to the bigger perspective. When you become overly focused only on your daily tasks or goals, you can lose sight of your bigger purpose. It is only when your purpose, meaning and actions align, whatever you do becomes significant.

choices based on values make your life more meaningful 

Our values are however central to who we are. They are the foundation of how we think, act and feel. They bring meaning into our lives and are the basis for the choices we make in life. They are more like direction we take in life towards a meaningful life. Inspite of experiencing disappointments, regrets, conflicts, or losses in your life, having values doesn’t take away your life’s purpose or meaning. 

Identifying values that drive you most create more meaning. Some people value social cohesion, some knowledge and creative endeavours while others value service to others or helping/giving. No matter what yours are, having goals that reflect your values allows you to connect to your unique self and help you make wise choices in any situation. Not syncing them on the other hand leads to dissatisfaction, resentment and frustration. Whereas being guided by values.

To-Do

  • Discern what is important to you. Make a list of your priority values. Write down your top five things that you believe are the essence of how you want to live your life. Reflect on your deeply held values that you want to base your most important life choices on. And then go onto Invest your time and energy into activities and people that help you fulfil those.
  • Regularly take time to self-reflect to raise your level of awareness. When you focus your attention on yourself, you can relate to  your true self rather than your worldly or perceived self. Start small and take ten minutes everyday to reflect on your choices, values and attitudes. Remain mindful of what you do and your actions to connect to what makes meaningful. 
  • Identify what you are passionate about to create a list of goals that you find fulfilling and meaningful. Gain clarity as to what type of work inspires you the most and what jobs or activities allow you to pursue your interests. Setting goals you are passionate to achieve provide you with a sense of direction that will help you find more meaning. 
  • Discover your purpose to articulate meaning in life. Connect what you are doing to a meaningful or bigger purpose. These tasks can range from creative pursuits to inventing or building meaningful relationships. You can invest your time in lending a helping hand to people in need or in growing and learning new things. 
  • Simplify your life. Most often, we focus on many things or seek more in order to feel valued, accepted or more successful. In the process, we lose touch with our authentic self. But when you focus on being aware of yourself and your purpose, you can create more time and space for activities or tasks that give you a sense of meaning.

Moving ahead……

One can try and discover a meaning in life by doing things in alignment with their deeply held values. Instead of aspiring for a well-lived life, pursue goals that you find more meaningful or purposeful. Look beyond your limited beliefs to draw meaning from goals in larger context and that with bigger perspectives. Once you are aware of your true self, your motivations, preferences and priorities, it becomes more challenging to justify misusing your time doing anything other than meaningful pursuits. 

The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her own life.”

Victor Frankl

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