When you resent someone, your brain produces a constant stream of negative thoughts that are toxic to your own well-being, and hinders your creativity. It’s time to get real. Yeah, you ended up with the short end of the stick. Yeah, you didn’t get what you deserved. Yeah, someone disappointed or mistreated you. But holding on to that anger and letting if fester only hurts yourself. You have to find a way to resolve this for your own sake.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what exactly resentment is, how it affects you, and most importantly, how to let go of resentment.
What is resentment?
First, let’s define what resentment actually is. Resentment is a deeply seated emotion that builds up when we feel that we have been wronged, and there’s unresolved emotional conflict. You’re hung up on something unfair that happened to you in this past, but that you never fully resolved.
Resentment is really only about two things: being wronged, and being angry at someone. To understand the problem of resentment, you have to understand the brain. We use our brain for all kinds of purposes, and one of those is the processing of emotional experiences and negative feelings. For example, you could watch your favorite television show, and suddenly remember a memory of being really excited about the show. You can suddenly feel that same feeling, and if it’s a good memory, you feel happy and at ease. However, if you associate the experience with something sad or bad, you’ll start getting mad at the show.
How resentment affects your health
Dr Gabor Mate wrote in his book When the Body Says No: “Resentment is soul suicide.”
Resentment implies that something that is already gone is trying to ruin what is left—and it’s terrible for both your mental- and physical health. Studies have shown that it can contribute to high blood pressure when you’re constantly replaying these hurtful events and let the emotions fester within yourself. You’re also making yourself more prone to anxiety, depression, and stress, as a 2011 study showed.
resentment can weaken your immune system while increasing stress and anxiety and the risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer, alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive behavior, weight gain, mood swings, depression and burnout, and it’s been linked to a shortened lifespan.Dr. Nina Radcliff, Resentment and its impact on your health
What’s more, resentment gets in the way of you doing your best work, because it consumes so much of your emotional and mental energy. It’s hard to be truly creative when you’re replaying the events again and again in your mind.
Why you resent someone
There are many potential reasons why people feel resentful, but there are a few common causes of resentment that we’ll address here.
Feeling unseen and under appreciated at work
Resentment is a learned behavior, and it’s how you learn to deal with life. Maybe you feel resentful towards your boss at work, because he didn’t properly acknowledge your contributions, the extra-hours you put in, never rewarded you appropriately, and then promoted somebody else to the position you’ve been working towards.
Resentment in those situations usually takes the form of feeling angry or disappointed, which is a normal response. However, you’ll also feel guilty, or even worse, guilty for feeling those negative emotions, because you think you should be above them. Maybe you blame yourself for not doing a good enough job of highlighting your contributions to the company and your boss. Or maybe you conclude that you really did well, and undeservedly got passed over because your boss is an asshole, and there’s nothing you can do about it, and you start looking for a new job, or build your own business. But don’t keep on doing what you’ve been doing without resolving your feelings of resentment.
A key point is that you should not be holding onto this resentment. It’s going to only become a detriment to your own well-being. If you want to be a successful professional, you need to work hard, do your best, and always try to improve your performance. The hardest part about this is a deep sense of humility when exploring your own contributions to the situation you feel resentful about. It takes a lot of self-awareness. Seek out an open conversation with your manager, tell them (in a mature, non-confrontational manner) that you’re disappointment that you weren’t promoted, that you feel your contributions aren’t seen, and ask for advice on how you can improve and do better.
Over-giving in a friendship or partnership
Many friendships and relationships start out great, but inevitably get a little one-sided as the friendship or partnership develops. For example, you were close friends, and every now and then you’d help them out. They loved it and often sought you out when they needed advice.
You enjoyed helping them out, because they valued your opinion. But eventually, the relationship changed. You found out that they felt comfortable asking you for help, and they began to take your help for granted, even came to expect it and felt entitled to receive your help, as if it now was your duty. What’s more, when you needed help, they weren’t willing to support you the way you supported them. You might felt disappointed at first, but eventually that disappointment turned into resentment, and your friendship suffered.
Ways to let go of resentment
If you want to let go of resentment, there’s no one simple technique for doing it, but there are many ways you can choose to find your peace of mind.
Take ownership of how you feel
Own your feelings. Be honest with yourself about how you feel. It’s a waste of time—and a waste of energy—to run from them. For example, if you find yourself resentful about not being rewarded for your hard work at work, try to own that feeling and address it. Accept the role you played in all of this, and that you at the very least allowed things to get to this point. When you get into an “extreme ownership” state of mind and focus on what you can control, you take back your power.
Have an honest conversation
Talk with the person you feel resentful towards. Let them know how you feel about things, and ask them to share their perspective with you. It’s very common for resentment to turn into anger when you talk with someone about it, so try to be open and honest with them, without getting too worked up about things.
This might sound like overly generic advice, but vigorous physical activity helps to calm your mind and balance your neurochemistry so your system is not chronically flooded with stress hormones. This is especially true when you are angry. So get off your ass and walk, take the stairs, or jog outside, or even do some weight training or martial arts!
Relaxation techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation all help to reduce physical and emotional tension. Practice some relaxing stretches, meditate, take a bath, do whatever helps you to calm your mind and release those stress hormones so you’re able to have a calm, rational, and open conversation about the situation at hand, and release resentment more effortlessly.
Imagine sending the person you resent a ray of love
This might sound very new-age, but especially if the person you resent is a loved one, or a family member, imagine that you send them a ray of love. Almost like a ray of light that comes from your heart and goes to them and you light them up with your love. This not only helps to reduce the feelings of resentment, but it’s also a reminder to you that you love them and value their presence and support.
Practice body psychotherapy
Body psychotherapy (also known as somatic psychotherapy) has been shown to help people deal with persistent feelings of resentment. It essentially involves focusing on the feelings and sensations you experience in your body, on a physiological level, while you feel resentment.
- Does your stomach feel tight?
- Do the muscles on your face tense up?
- How about your neck- and shoulder-muscles?
- Does your breathing become more constricted?
Becoming aware, and then working with these sensations can help you release feelings of resentment and anger.
Change how you think
Examine your own thought process when you think about them, and the things you resent them for. Try to understand the person’s actions, and why they did what they did in the first place.
For example, if you resent someone because they didn’t pick you up or call you back, try to understand what they were feeling at the time. Did they have a lot going on at work? Were they overwhelmed with life? Were they dealing with a serious health issue? It’s possible that something stressful happened, or perhaps they were just tired. Once you factor in these things, letting go of your resentment becomes more easy.
Take deep breaths
Breath is a powerful regulator of our mood and physiology. Take a few minutes to focus your breathing, to train your body to reduce the feeling of stress naturally. This is a great way to not only change your physiology, but also to reduce your feelings of anger and puts you in a better state of mind. There are many breathing exercises that can help you calm down.
See things from their point of view
Oftentimes, the things we blame someone else for only are wrong because we see them from our own point of view. When friends disappointed you, try putting yourself in their shoes and understand why they acted the way they did.
Forgiveness has the power to heal. If you feel you can’t forgive someone, try to ask yourself, “What would it take for me to be able to forgive them?” This too requires a lot of inner work, and it exceeds what I can cover in this article, but practicing forgiveness activates a powerful healing process.
The practice is the path
Letting go of resentment is difficult. It takes a lot of deep inner work. You’ll sometimes find that you try to do it, fail, and simply have to try again another way. That’s a life lesson I personally have to learn again and again. You learn that you can be flawed and imperfect and still have a healthy self-esteem.
In this article, I’ve shared different techniques that help you overcome resentment and become a more positive, empowering and empowered person. So I hope these tips have helped you to release those negative emotions and find a more peaceful way of dealing with the people in your life.
In what healthy ways have you overcome resentments in your life? Let me know in the comments below!