Understanding Resentment

Understanding Resentment

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



“He is 40 years old. In every way, the indicators were that he would have a personally and professionally successful life. However, his Bipolar Disorder left untreated from adolescence until the present time, left him feeling unfulfilled in every aspect of life. What he felt because of his failure was a deep-seated resentment of his parents, particularly his father. Every time he speaks to them and sees them, something that has become increasingly infrequent in recent years, he harangues them with all the injustices they committed against him. Still, he refuses medication for his Bipolar Disorder, although he admits he has. He also refuses any type of psychotherapy. It seems there is no limit to the blame he puts on his parents and the world for not treating allowing him to be the success he should be.”

According to the Oxford American Dictionary, resentment is the indignation about being mistreated. It’s a complicated emotion because it involves feeling humiliated, shamed, and, ultimately, wanting revenge. The mistreated person cannot forgive. In intimate family relationships, it broke connections among family members. Feeling such a negative emotion often stems from feeling unseen and misunderstood by others. To the one who feels being mistreated, it’s all the same, whether something slight or significant. It does not matter how trivial or severe the injustice might be.

Resentment is corrosive

Because the nature of life is such that there is plenty of injustice for all of us, there is no end to the amount of resentment we can perpetrate against ourselves. However, resentment is corrosive because it involves thinking obsessively about the insults and injustices committed against the self. In the end, the resentment becomes turned against the self because maintaining such a high negative emotion takes a toll on physical and mental health. 

They are the feelings of anger and the fantasies of revenge, which are as focused and draining as the memories of the injustice. The resentful person cannot let go of this negative emotion and move on with life.

Under the worst circumstances, resentment can turn into full-blown hatred and fanaticism for groups of people resenting other groups. Fanatic hatred gave rise to the Nazi party in World War II. It’s simmering resentment that gives rise to religious and racial hatred.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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