Resentment, or anger and indignation experienced as a result of unfair treatment, is a relatively common emotion. Those experiencing resentment may have feelings of annoyance and shame and might often also harbor a desire for revenge. A person may become resentful as a result of a slight injustice or a grave one, perhaps harboring the same bitterness and anger over a small matter as they would over a more serious issue.
What Is Resentment?
Feelings of resentment are not linked to any particular mental condition but instead often result from the inadequate expression of emotions after a painful experience. The occurrence may be a true injustice or an imagined or misunderstood injustice. A careless comment made by a friend could facilitate indignation and grudging feelings, as could criticism from a boss. Resentment can also be broad and applied to large groups of people, often with drastic consequences; for example, racism and religious persecution often develop from deep-seated resentment.
A person experiencing resentment may feel personally victimized but may be too angry or ashamed to discuss the resulting emotions, instead allowing the grudge to fester and be expressed in the form of anger.
Resentment and Mental Health
Because resentment is a common emotion, most people will experience, at some point in life, a general feeling of anger or annoyance over unfair treatment, but problems can arise when a person is unable to forgive. Persistent resentment might stem from a serious matter. For example, a person might, understandably, resent a parent after years of abuse and become unable to look past any injustice. However, when a person begins to feel like the victim in every negative situation, this can lead the individual to develop an altered perception of reality and find it difficult to see any positive outcomes.
Developing an ability to forgive is considered to be an important aspect in overcoming resentment, as is acknowledging the feelings underneath the resentment and facing them one at a time. Resentment can intoxicate a person, as feelings of anger and rage lend a false sense of power and do not always encourage a healthy form of expression. But this intoxication can become dangerous, as any intoxication can, when feelings of resentment grow unchecked and turn into hatred.
Therapy for Resentment
Resentment may develop to a point where it becomes harmful. A person who finds it difficult to forgive others for any wrong, no matter how slight, may find some benefit in therapy. Those who wish to understand the reasons for their resentment of a particular individual or situation might wish to revisit the event, alone or with the help of a therapist. Because the source of a person’s resentment can differ, however, there is no one type of therapy used to treat these feelings.
Methods of personal actualization have been shown to be effective therapeutic techniques for treating resentment. Individuals who have self-actualized tend to accurately perceive reality, experience empathy and compassion for others, and are typically able to accept the self and others easily. Therefore, these individuals may be less likely to blame others for wrongs or hold on to resentful feelings.
- Bloom, P. (n.d.). The Toxic (and Intoxicating) Effects of Resentment. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs/toxic-and-intoxicating-effects-resentment.
- Sander, D. (n.d.). How to Deal with Feelings of Resentment. Retrieved from http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/deal-feelings-resentment-14316.html.
- Schwartz, A. (2012, May 21). Understanding Resentment. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=47219.
Last Updated: 01-29-2016