Resentment. The word is probably a familiar one in your vocabulary. What usually comes to mind, though, when we hear that term? We think of coworkers that are rewarded for their laziness, we think of that sibling that seems to catch all the breaks, and we think of that ex of ours that moved on way too soon after the breakup. Resentment is defined as a bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly. It is also a hazy and poisonous smog that can be extremely difficult to rid ourselves of once we have spurred its existence.
A Psychology Today article titled “The Smallest Guardians: What does your resentment tell you?”* discusses the dangers and circumstances of this popular attitude. According to the author, Dr. Steven Stosny, “If the holes that failure and loss gouge in the heart do not fill with more value, they fill with resentment.”
It is true that we have all witnessed friends and loved ones shift in and out of stages in resentment. It is also incredibly likely that you yourself have once been trapped within a bubble of bitterness. The environment this creates is one of near-wrath and pain. Resentment is good for no one.
But worse than that, the resentment spawned from a single flawed—or even failed—relationship can grow and thicken to harm other relationships in your life if you are not careful. One bad breakup can lead to affecting and damaging even the oldest of friendships. “Moods generalize, in subtle and inexorable ways, to form chains of many varied links,” states Dr. Stosny. He explains that the “chain of resentment” can blur a person’s core values. When this happens, we lose ourselves and we forget what we stand for. We lash out at others and take for granted the relationships of support that surround us.
Stosny warns, “The unconscious nature of resentment is what makes it so hard to regulate. Resentment spreads like an air-born virus. If you get near a resentful person, you are likely to become resentful without noticing your mood change. If someone comes into work resentful, by lunchtime, just about everyone seated near that person is resentful.”
So how do we immunize ourselves from this horrible state? As the article suggests, we must fill our hearts with value. Sometimes this can be as simple as finding a delicious book to fill your spare time with, or perhaps as large-scale as taking on a home renovation project. Volunteering is a wonderful way to add value to your life. Here are a few unique ways to fight off the clutches of resentment. Please also investigate the Resentment Test at http://compassionpower.com/Emotional%20abuse%20anger%20resentment.phpto ensure that you are not reaching unhealthy levels of spite.
1) Give back. Volunteering is one of the healthiest ways to begrudge a grudge. If your schedule does not allow you to make a commitment, then do something simple such as sending care packages to soldiers overseas. Google “soldier care packages” and pick an organization that means something to you. When you put together your packages, really put care and thought into them so that your concentration is focused on your deed and not your grievance.
2) If you feel that a sense of resentment is building within your current relationship, try joining a gym. Get involved in a physical activity class such as boxing or mixed martial arts in order to get a sense of release without poisoning your relationship.
3) Occupy your brain. Download a “Words with Friends” app on your phone or join online Scrabble. Try choosing a topic that has fascinated you in the past and research it; write your own personal research paper. Pick up some non-fiction books and learn about famous people that interest you. Don’t allow yourself to focus on the bitterness in your life; keep your brain moving.
4) Find a unique and creative outlet for yourself. Join a knitting class or take up pottery lessons. Take a field trip to your closest Michael’s store and invest in some canvases and oil paints and go crazy.
5) If you are feeling resentful towards a coworker, or even just ready for a big change in general, then brush up on your resume. Research cover letter writing and start job hunting to occupy your time.
Don’t live a life of disgruntlement! Always choose to grow yourself over wishing ill-will on others.