The Pain of Living with Resentment

· January 22, 2016

Having feelings of resentment is natural for human beings. At some time or another, we have all felt resentment, but when we do feel this feeling, we must not allow it to fester within us, like a poisoned arrow to the heart. The only thing it can do is hurt us, causing us more pain than whatever it was that initially made us feel resentment.

We are all responsible for our own happiness, and we all have the right to be happy. However, happiness is a personal decision. Each person decides if he or she wants to live a life filled with negative feelings, like resentment, or if he or she is content to relinquish those feelings, which turn us into an onion, enveloped in unhealthy layers that prevent us from seeing what is inside.

Resentment is a feeling that can actually benefit us when it is felt in small, reasonable doses. For example, it may prevent us from going back to trusting someone who has betrayed us. But, if we make resentment our ally and allow it to control our personality, we create a problem for ourselves that we did not have before, a problem which does not often have an easy solution. If we feel resentment, the first thing we must do is confront it sensibly and think of it as an opponent. It is not our friend, and we don’t want it to be.


How does a resentful person act? 

Resentful people are recognizable because they exhibit some of the following characteristics:

  • Their principal emotion is rage due to the pain that they feel and think about, but do not express.
  • They don’t want to talk about or with the person who causes them to feel resentment.
  • If they do interact with that person, they often will speak to them in a dry and/or rude way.
  • They don’t make eye contact with those who make them feel resentful.
  • They systematically disregard any idea or suggestion made to them by those who they resent, even if they know deep down that it is good. In this way, they prefer to pay the price of not taking the advice in order to avoid admitting that the other person is right. On the other hand, they will speak to that person out of necessity, but in a curt and direct way.
  • They show their resentment in their non-verbal communication. The nervous system is activated in the same way it would be when confronting danger: fight or flight.
  • They take mental notes of all the situations in which they feel affronted or offended, beginning with the very first moment in which they felt the initial pang of resentment. Those situations are their weapons for when the tense silence becomes a declared battle.

How does being resentful affect your health? 

The word resentment comes from the Latin word for “rancid.” That is to say, something rancid can be or can bring with it only negativity. Therefore, people who harbor resentment only generate more pain for themselves, rather than pain for others.

Physically, this emotional pain causes blood pressure and heart rate to skyrocket, producing stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety come hand in hand with other symptoms such as feeling faint, muscular tension, and a drowning sensation, among others.

A true downward spiral is like the wheel in a mouse’s cage; it leads us nowhere. Therefore, we must learn to manage our emotions, utilizing our emotional intelligence” and ridding ourselves of painful feelings. We must do this for the health of both our body and mind. We must shed the heavy armor of negativity that only causes us harm and unnecessary unhappiness.

How can we overcome feelings of resentment?

  1. First, become conscious of that fact that we feel resentment. If we cannot admit that we have a problem, we can never overcome it.
  2. Learn to express our emotions, and talk about what bothers us with those people towards whom our resentment is directed.
  3. Learn to forgive. Watch out, because we all make mistakes. We all must learn to be more lenient and understanding with others and with ourselves.
  4. Learn to think positively. Yes, it’s not easy, and it takes some work, but it is enriching work. If we begin to change our way of thinking and begin to see things in a different way, we will notice it in our mind and our health. If we take things in calmly, and begin to worry less about everything, while letting events and issues take their natural course, everything will be better.

None of these steps are easy to take, but with a little effort, we can all help ourselves and free ourselves from negative feelings like resentment. Using emotional intelligence, we can laugh, listen, and begin to change, little by little. Most of the time, to want it means you can do it.