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Handling Resentment

Chapter 7: Handling Resentment

Tools for Anger Work-Out

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


What is resentment?

Resentment is the:

  • harboring of animosity against a person or group of people whom I feel has mistreated me.
  • unresolved anger I have over a negative event which occurred in my past life.
  • seething, aching emotional turmoil I feel whenever a certain person or event is discussed.
  • lack of forgiving, the inability to let go and forget.
  • root of distrust and suspicion I have when dealing with people or events that brought me pain in the past.
  • unresolved grief I experience when I find it difficult to accept a loss.
  • result of being heartbroken after exerting a great deal of effort and energy to achieve something that eventually was lost to me.
  • result of feeling that I was unjustly victimized with no resolution to the problem.
  • long-term suffering in silence when an open expression of hurt is unwanted and uninvited.
  • cancer robbing me of contentment in life.
  • grudge I hold against a person or group of people whom I feel has kept me from achieving.
  • feeling offended but silent when I believe that a person or group of people have ignored or denied my rights.
  • root of my depression.


How is my resentment manifested?

When I am filled with resentment toward a person or group of people I:

  • pout or fume silently in their presence or at the mention of their name.
  • get upset when music, a movie, or a TV show reminds me of the unpleasant interactions I have had with them.
  • speak in a derisive or demeaning way about them.
  • have nightmares or distressing thoughts or daydreams about them.
  • become stuck in my efforts for personal growth and I don't even know why.
  • get furious for no apparent reason.
  • get depressed, despondent, and find myself going in circles in my attempts to overcome these negative feelings.
  • avoid mentioning or discussing anything that relates to my past anger or upset with them.
  • grit my teeth and smile when I really want to scream and yell when these people are mentioned to me.
  • fake enthusiasm and excitement about being with these people when I'd rather have nothing to do with them.


How does resentment develop?

Resentment can be the outcome of:

  • accepting negative treatment from others passively, never expressing negative feelings about it.
  • agreeing to do something for others yet feeling that I am being taken for granted or taken advantage of.
  • trying to get others to see my point of view while they ignore or deny the truth or wisdom in what I have to say.
  • seeing others succeed who have not worked as hard as I have. I feel they don't deserve this measure of success.
  • going unrecognized for my good work or competency while others who are more in favor are recognized.
  • working hard and having others prevent me from realizing the bounty of my success.
  • having someone whom I have tried hard to please reject my efforts of caring and concern.
  • an impossible position in a relationship with someone where I am damned if I do and also damned if I don't do what the person wants from me.
  • being embarrassed by a person whose goal was to belittle me.
  • being consistently rejected, unapproved, unaccepted, and abandoned by another.
  • being the object of discrimination or prejudice.
  • being ignored, put down, scorned, and rejected by a person or people for whom I made sacrifices.
  • having someone I care about be treated unjustly with my requests to stop such action going ignored.
  • trying my best to please someone but no matter how well I did, it was never good enough.
  • recognizing that I am the one who always makes the effort in a relationship, and when I stop giving the relationship ceases.
  • giving in a relationship hoping to sustain it, but the other person abruptly terminates it.
  • never getting the chance to seek reparation for having been victimized.

What are the negative effects of my unresolved resentment?

When I have unresolved resentment I:

  • am touchy or on edge when I am reminded of the person or persons I resent.
  • usually deny any anger or hatred against those whom I resent.
  • am provoked or angered when I see those whom I resent get recognized and reinforced for their achievements.
  • am bothered by my hostile, cynical, and sarcastic attitude; it becomes a barrier between me and the people with whom I want to establish a healthy relationship.
  • get stuck in my efforts to grow as a person.
  • reject all efforts to get me to work on forgiving and forgetting past offenses and hurts.
  • resist all attempts to get me to get on with my life, including the suggestion that I have unfinished business with people from my past which needs to be addressed.
  • find it difficult to open myself up to trust others, especially in new relationships.
  • find it hard to believe that I'll ever be recognized for my competency, worth, and abilities.
  • tend to overcompensate in my efforts to be successful.


What irrational thinking underlies my resentment?

  • No matter what I do it is never good enough, so why try?
  • People are out to get me so, I'll reject them before they reject me.
  • There is no use in resolving unfinished business with people from my past who mistreated me.
  • Everyone is out to get me.
  • Hard work, a clean life, and treating people fairly is a waste of time; it has never paid off for me.
  • There is no way I can forgive or forget my negative past.
  • I'll never win at anything I try; I've always lost even to this day.
  • There are the “haves” and the “have nots,” and I'm a have not guaranteed to be a loser.
  • My life should at least be fair.
  • It is better to grin and bear it; I'll never get anywhere with an open, honest approach.
  • What's done is done, so let it be.
  • I've never been given a break in the past; why should I expect anything different now?
  • It's all a matter of politics: who you know and what you have to bow down to that determines your fate.
  • It's who you know rather than what you are that determines your success.
  • Why is it that people with fewer talents, who work less, and struggle little, always seem to get ahead while I remain stuck.
  • The price of hard work and effort seems to be failure and disappointment for me.
  • There's always going to be someone who will guarantee that I'll be unsuccessful.
  • They are all alike; why try to win them over or be nice to them.
  • It will never change; why try to alter the situation between me and them.
  • There are always people more talented, prettier, and more competent standing in the wings to take my place.


How can I overcome my resentment?

Techniques I can use to rid myself of resentment include:

  • admitting to myself that there is unresolved resentment behind my hostile, cynical and sarcastic attitude; and decide to rid myself of it.
  • doing private anger work-out toward the people I resent.
  • writing a letter in which I detail all of the reasons for my resentment.
  • identifying the “hot buttons” that indicate the presence of resentment in me and working at defusing their impact.
  • working at a rational outlook on my past life so that it isn't a chain around my neck in the future.
  • listing those for whom I've got resentment and systematically working at forgiving and forgetting their past offenses.
  • improving my self-esteem and self-worth; looking only to myself for approval and recognition.
  • working with my support network to identify when I slip back into resentment over my past.
  • developing self-affirmations and positive self-visualizations to overcome my negative outlook on life.
  • re-establishing myself in pursuits in which I excelled, but dropped due to lack of perceived success.
  • working at being a winner in what I do best.
  • believing in myself to be a winner in life.

Steps in overcoming resentment


Step 1: To overcome any resentment I have against a person or people in my life I first need to identify who they are and what they did to make me resentful. I need to answer the following questions in my journal:

  • Toward whom in my past or present do I hold any level of resentment?
  • What did each of these people do to hurt, offend, or victimize me?
  • How real or imagined are these offenses?
  • What has the specific resentment against each of these people done to my attitude about me and my future?
  • How paralyzed am I in my efforts toward personal growth by the resentment I carry toward each of these people?


Step 2: Once I've identified each person I have resentment against and the extent to which this resentment has affected me, I need to develop a new way of looking at my past, present, and future life. To do this I need to answer the following questions in my journal:

  • What irrational thinking am I locked into because of my resentment?
  • How will ridding myself of resentment help me to develop a positive belief system in my life?
  • How can I loosen the bonds and open myself in anger work-outs over those I resent?
  • What blocks my attempts to express my anger openly?
  • How hard am I working at overcoming my blocks to anger?
  • What new behavior do I need to develop to freely express my anger and rid myself of energy draining resentment?
  • What new rational thinking do I need to develop to overcome the negative impact of my resentment?
  • How will my life be positively impacted by getting rid of my resentment?
  • What new behavior do I need to develop to ensure that new resentment doesn't arise?
  • What new attitudes and approaches do I need to develop after ridding myself of resentment?


Step 3: Now that I've considered a change in attitude and belief system, I need to:

  • Write a letter to each person I resent. In it list all real or imagined offenses.
  • Explain for myself why each person treated me badly. Was it real or imagined?
  • Forgive each person, let go, and forget the offenses. (See the prologue of this book for an example of a letter of resentment.)


Step 4: Once I've let go of all of my resentment through forgiving and forgetting, I need to visualize my life, present and future, without the negative impact of resentment. I need to log this vision in my journal, and affirm its reality daily.


Step 5: If I am still bogged down by the negative effects of resentment, then I need to go back to Step 1 and begin again.