The Psychology of Rancor

Rancor is a feeling that chains you to everything that previously hurt you. Therefore, your pain never goes away.
The Psychology of Rancor
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 12 March, 2022

Rancor is a deep and persistent feeling of anger and deep-seated resentment that unbalances and sickens the body and mind. It can be caused by several factors. For instance, being insulted, betrayed, deceived, abused, or mistreated.

Resentment builds until it finally turns into a desire for revenge. A desire that feeds on itself and grows to the point that it begins to be unbearable. In this way, rancor is gradually formed. From there, it’s not difficult to move on to hatred. A hatred that prevents you from calming down and observing things from a distance. As stated by Alberto Acosta, Professor of Psychology at the University of Granada, “Resentment requires prior experiences of anger with the same person”.

Undoubtedly, you’ll have suffered from rancor at some point or another. Everyone does. It often makes you adopt the kind of behavior that goes completely against your true personality. This is so you’re able to withstand the imbalances and anguish that rancor generates in you. Because, as a rule, you’re true to your own patterns of behavior. These aren’t necessarily the same as the behaviors of others.

What some see an unforgivable offense, others may regard as unimportant. In fact, although the offensive act may be the same, the one who considers it to be less important will be less hurt.

Rancor imprisons you

Crying woman clinging to a barbed wire

There’s a fable that explains really well what rancor is and how it’s experienced.

Two men had shared a prison cell for several years, enduring all kinds of mistreatment and humiliation from their jailers. Once released, they met, years later. One of them asked the other:

“Do you ever remember the jailers?”

“No, thank God I’ve forgotten them’ he answered,  “How about you?”

“I continue to hate them with all my might.” replied the other.

His friend looked at him for a moment, then said:

“I feel sorry for you. Because it means they’re still holding you prisoner.”

As you can see, rancor ends up becoming a prison. However, it’s not one imposed by others, but by yourself. This feeling of deep hatred doesn’t allow you to move forward, because you continue dragging everything along with you from the past. The kinds of things that should really stay there.

“Rancor is an outpouring of a feeling of inferiority”

-José Ortega y Gasset-

Woman with negative thoughts

A dangerous weapon that hurts you

Feeling that someone has wronged you unfairly is all part of life. Nevertheless, it’s not for you to judge them. You only have to be responsible for yourself, modifying your association patterns and keeping in mind that if someone deceives you, it doesn’t mean that other people will do so too.

You’re unique. Don’t make the mistake of trying to make others think as you’d like them to. They’ll never be what you want them to be. Bear in mind that you’ll probably be let down many times. You need to understand that everything changes. Furthermore, you’re also capable of disappointing others, even though it may be unintentional.

If you make the decision to turn bitterness and deep anger into lasting rancor, you’ll be manufacturing resentment. Without a doubt, this is a dangerous weapon that unbalances and sickens both your body and mind, preventing you from enjoying life. Indeed, you shouldn’t forget that your resentment often does more damage to you than what caused it in the first place.

As a matter of fact, resentment often ends up becoming somatized in your body, giving rise to inexplicable illnesses connected with those negative feelings you’re dragging along and keeping inside yourself. You need to learn to accept that people will let you down sometimes and that it’ll make you angry. In addition, you may feel frustrated and powerless.

“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” 


The chains of rancor.

Final reflection

Continuing to hate over something that happened a long time ago, and not letting go of all the pain that others have inflicted on you is a double-edged sword. A weapon that’ll turn against you. In fact, the only one it’ll hurt will be you. Why would you want to harm yourself in this way?

When resentment resides within you, it has no purpose other than to make you continually wish for things to go wrong for those who hurt you. By hating, you keep everything to yourself and, if you don’t let it go, you’ll keep suffering.

As Master Thich Nhat Hanh describes, “At the moment you become angry, you tend to believe that your misery has been created by another person. You blame him or her for all your suffering. But, by looking deeply, you may realize that the seed of anger in you is the main cause of your suffering. Many other people, confronted with the same situation, would not get as angry as you.”

The teacher adds that “They hear the same words, they see the same situation, and yet they are able to stay calm and not be carried away. Why do you get angry so easily?”. He himself gives us the answer: “You may get angry very easily because your seed of anger is too strong. And because you have not practiced the methods for taking good care of your anger, the seed of anger has been watered too often in the past”. 

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.