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Understanding Resentment

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Case:

“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 as a result 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 despite the fact that 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.”

This is a young man who is wasting his life being resentful

According to the Oxford American Dictionary, resentment is defined as indignation or anger about having been treated unfairly. It’s a complicated emotion because it involves feeling humiliated, shamed and, ultimately, wanting revenge. In wanting revenge, the other must suffer a much worse fate than was caused to happen. By its very nature, the reasons for feeling resentful cannot be forgiven. In intimate, family relationships, love among people is broken. Feeling such a negative emotion often stems from feeling unseen and misunderstood by the other. It does not matter how trivial or serious the injustice might be. To the one who feels being treated unfairly, it’s all the same, whether something slight or major.

Resentment is corrosive

However, resentment is corrosive because it involves thinking obsessively about the insults and injustices committed against the self. Because the nature of life is such that there is plenty of injustice going around for all of us, there is no end to the amount of anger we can perpetrate against ourselves. In other words, in the end, the feelings of resentment become turned against the self because maintaining such a high level of negative emotion takes a toll on physical and mental health. It seems that the resentful person cannot let go of this negative emotion and move on with life. There is a constant reliving of the injustice that was committed. This reliving pops into consciousness at any time and for no reason. Then are the feelings of anger and the fantasies of revenge which are as focused and draining as are the memories of the injustice.

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

To sum this up, the resentful person is convinced that the only role they can play is that of the victim.

If you are one of those who is afflicted with this sense of always being mistreated then it’s important to get therapy in order to change. It can be done but it’s hard to get rid of resentment without the help of others because it becomes a way of thinking and feeling that is almost addictive in nature. However, it can be changed and should be in order to improve one’s quality life.

Are you resentful or do you know someone who is?

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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