Eight Keys to Managing Resentment

· January 31, 2019
Holding on to resentment can be bad for your mental health. Discover effective and practical ways to say goodbye to resentment and move on with your life in this article!

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resentment as “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury”. It’s a negative emotion that you feel when someone harms you intentionally or didn’t try to avoid doing so. Resentment is also what motivates revenge. As such, the main reason why managing resentment is so important is not just to avoid hurting other people, but also to take care of your own mental health.

As tempting as it seems sometimes, dwelling on painful experiences is bad for your well-being. At the end of the day, what you’re really doing is poisoning yourself. It’s easy to justify doing so by saying that you’re just venting and expressing your emotions to make yourself feel better.

Eight keys to managing resentment

It’s helpful to have some tools to manage your resentment. Here, we’ve collected some advice about how to deal with these kinds of situations. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be able to identify the cause of the problem and analyze it in a way that doesn’t make it worse. Consequently, you can avoid getting carried away by the emotions that threaten to control your behavior.

A guy with his eyes closed and his fingers on his temples.

Nip resentment in the bud

If you want to manage resentment, the best thing to do is analyze the root cause in the most objective way possible. Try to find a well-founded explanation that counteracts your negative feelings. For example, you should accept that a personal or professional situation won’t always adapt to your needs or desires.

Don’t feed negative thoughts

Turning a problem over and over in your head won’t do you any good. You’ll just end up getting mad at yourself, which makes it difficult to manage resentment. Instead, try to forget the problem. Accept that you can’t change what happened and start working on looking for solutions.

Value forgiveness

This might be one of the most complicated pieces of advice. That’s because forgiving another person isn’t usually a simple task. Thus, a good option is to try to remember the events or circumstances that are motivating you to forgive. Keeping these in mind requires more effort because the feelings that make forgiveness difficult are usually already on your mind.

There’s a simple activity that can help you do this. Make two columns on a piece of paper, and write down the positive and negative aspects of your relationship with the person in question in each one. You can even give a numerical value to each one. That way, you manage the resentment you feel in a more objective way. It’ll help you get perspective on the situation and evaluate the good along with the bad.

Draw conclusions

This step is a good follow-up to the last one. Once you’ve analyzed the positive and negative aspects of your relationship with the person who hurt you, you can draw conclusions about the value of the relationship. That way, you’ll know whether you want to go beyond forgiveness and try to rescue the relationship or not.

Vent your feelings

When you’re managing your resentment, it’s important not to keep the problem to yourself. Talk about it with someone who can help you see things from a different angle. They might give you ideas or insight that you didn’t have before.

Don’t act without thinking

Letting yourself get carried away by your emotions is the antithesis of managing your resentment. As difficult as it may seem, the best thing to do is take a step back and don’t try to have a discussion in the heat of the moment. Wait until you’ve calmed down and can see things rationally.

A woman sitting on a couch managing her resentment.

Selective memory

Your brain has a survival mechanism that helps you forget things that cause you pain. This isn’t a foolproof solution, but it can help you manage your resentment in a healthier way.

If someone hurts you in some way, don’t go through life waiting for it to happen again. Instead, try to convince yourself that it was an isolated incident. That being said, it is important to know how to recognize peoples’ character. You can try to be aware of someone who might hurt you again in the future. Just don’t become obsessed with that idea.

Distance yourself

Lastly, if you’re dealing with a situation that causes constant stress, sometimes the best thing to do is distance yourself. This can be good advice for a breakup as well, so you can avoid situations that open up old wounds. In the end, time and space will help you see things more clearly and leave resentment behind.

Menahem, S., & Love, M. (2013). Forgiveness in psychotherapy: The key to healing. Journal of Clinical Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22018