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