Help! How Do I Deal with All This Resentment?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I am having trouble living with the constant resentment I feel toward other parents, friends, even my husband.

I have three children, two who play competitive sports. Our community is small, so everyone knows everyone. Lately, all I am hearing about and seeing on social media is updates about what amazing athletes other people’s children are and how they are going to nationals, etc. My child was not on the team this year because she is one year older. Her sports season was amazing; however, it ended with a totally unfair and biased decision made against her team, stripping them of the medal they deserved. My friend’s child’s team got to nationals on a little piece of luck that went their way, not talent.

I know this makes me sound bitter and maybe I am. I just can’t deal with the constant bragging about it when I am sitting here with one kid who is going nowhere in life, and the other two who are constantly getting tough breaks, much like myself. This is just one example.

I am also so resentful of women who get to stay at home and be around for their kids. I am resentful of my husband for not being able to support us without my income, forcing me into jobs I despise. I am boiling over with this. Any advice is appreciated. —Resenting Issue

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Dear Resenting,

I think it is great you’ve reached out for help with your resentment concerns. You’ve already seen for yourself the most fundamental aspects about resentment: (1) Resentful thoughts are powerful, and (2) harboring resentment, over time, becomes toxic. For you, the resentment has creeped into many aspects of your daily life and relationships. It has made you feel negative emotions and reinforced negative thoughts. It has become highly uncomfortable and seeped into how you feel generally. Most importantly, you are noticing you’ve hit the “boiling” point—you know it is time to change things, and you’re wanting to do something to make a change.

To effectively deal with resentment, you’ll need to both identify what is triggering the resentment and be honest with yourself about how you are dealing with the resentment. When do you notice resentment? Using the example of your child’s sports team, does resentment seep in the moment you see that photo of another player proudly shared on social media, accompanied by a massive amount of “likes” and congratulatory comments, juxtaposed with few congratulatory messages or even acknowledgements for your child on your social media feed? What thoughts does that trigger in you? Perhaps this provides more evidence that confirms what you already believe—that you have gotten a raw deal but others seem to get a lucky break? Do you extrapolate from the specific (e.g., this photo) to the general (e.g., “Once again, nothing is ever fair for me” or “How disgusting that they always need to brag”)?

Similarly, ask yourself what you do about this resentment typically. Do you withdraw from others (perhaps anyone you know who is associated with this team)? Do you engage in talking negatively about these people to others? Do you hold it all in and stew internally?

Next, go through the same questions about feeling resentful and explore how the questions relate to your marriage, your or your children’s successes and failures, jobs you “despise,” etc. How does resentment manifest?

Now that you have a better handle on how resentment is affecting you, the next thing you’ll need to figure out is what you can do about it. Taking action will take both effort and energy. That said, think of all the energy going toward feeling resentful. Ask yourself if is this how you want to spend your energy. It is up to you to consciously make that decision. This is something you have control over. One potentially helpful approach is to explore and work through these issues with a therapist.

Generally speaking, our thoughts shape how we feel. Reframing the negative thoughts into something more constructive will be key.

While in therapy or on your own, something I would strongly recommend for overcoming resentment is to change some of your thoughts. You’ll need to take an honest look at the thoughts you have and consider the effect of these thoughts on how you feel. Generally speaking, our thoughts shape how we feel. Reframing the negative thoughts into something more constructive will be key. For example, if an event happens that makes you feel disappointed or resentful, you might say to yourself, “While that didn’t go my way this time, perhaps next time it can.” A small shift in thinking opens the possibility of a positive outcome. On the other hand, assuming there will be another unfair outcome taints how you view the situation. You’re essentially searching for confirmatory evidence to support this (irrational) belief.

Another practice I strongly recommend is focusing on gratitude. Despite how you feel about your circumstances, surely there are things you can identify to feel grateful for. For example, it sounds like your daughter is a talented athlete in her own right. How much do you appreciate the opportunity to watch her play, succeed, and enjoy herself while doing something that brings her joy? Does it bring you joy?

I’ll leave you with this advice: Be the change you want to see happen in your life. If you want to be less resentful, make a conscious effort to be more something else (e.g., grateful). Be an active participant in how you view your life rather than the voice that provides the negative commentary. When we consistently think life isn’t fair, we are setting ourselves (specifically our emotional health) up for failure. What is missing from these thoughts is YOU. Taking control of how YOU respond may change how you feel.

Sincerely,

Marni Amsellem, PhD

Marni Amsellem
Marni Amsellem, PhD, is a licensed psychologist. She maintains a part-time private practice in New York and Connecticut specializing in clinical health psychology, coping with illness, and adjustment to life transitions. Additionally, she is an interventionist and research consultant with hospitals, organizations, and corporations, both locally and nationally, involved with research investigating the role of behavior, environment, and individual differences in multiple aspects of health and decision-making.
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  • Marian

    Marian

    May 26th, 2017 at 10:39 AM

    I messed up pretty badly when my kids were little staying home when in reality I couldn’t really afford to and trying to keep up with the Joneses in any way possible and going into major debt as a result.

    Not my finest hour and I will admit that I am still recovering financially from those mistakes. But once I was able to own it all and start making progress to get out of debt and get a job, I have felt much better about myself and my family life.

    I had to go to work, and I don’t feel like my kids are missing out on anything because that’s what I had to do to make ends meet. I think that they are probably benefiting more by seeing their dad and I work hard and dig ourselves out of the hole that we dug for ourselves.

  • Pate

    Pate

    May 27th, 2017 at 7:27 AM

    How do the kids feel about this? It is likely that you are holding onto far more resentment than they are. This is not healthy for anyone.

  • alden

    alden

    May 28th, 2017 at 12:47 PM

    You can’t continue to live your life thinking of all the ways that you believe that you have been wronged. You have to be positive, think about how grateful you are that you have the means to allow your children to be involved and that physically they have the capability to be so involved.
    You are putting quite the sour spin on the way things are when truth be told there are probably thousands of others who would give almost anything to be in your shoes right now.

  • Lauren M

    Lauren M

    June 25th, 2017 at 7:03 PM

    One way to deal with all these feelings of resentment would be to write all of your thoughts and resentments in a private journal (either in hard copy of on your PC or tablet etc). As well as writing about your resentments, also write about the good things such as your children being healthy and strong, etc. This may help greatly, especially when you work through it and then read back.
    Also, I know it may sound a bit trite, but try to view it all through a different lens. For example, be super glad that your children are healthy and athletic and that you can watch them grow, develop important life skills, including learning that sometimes life can be unfair. Think of it all this way and how it will all build character in your children and how you yourself can grown into a strong, wise person.
    Don’t be too hard on yourself, as it is normal to feel some resentment, but don’t let the resentment and negativity take up too much space in your mind and your heart.

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