Resentment: “Bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly”
I learned about resentment when I was sixteen years old and basically had two things on my mind. The second thing was getting a car. I saw myself as a responsible boy who earned good grades, was no trouble to anybody and basically had a clean record.
So, I approached my dad about getting a car. Not a new car, mind you. Just transportation to get me to school, to work (part time) and, of course, to perhaps have more of an opportunity to take care of the first thing that was on my mind.
My father was old school when it came to parenting. He pronounced that a 16 year old wasn’t responsible enough to have a car and I couldn’t have one until I was at least 35. No negotiating. No discussion. End of conversation.
Today I am 70 years old and still remember the incident and the deep resentment I felt toward him – not because he said no – but because I perceived that my feelings didn’t matter to him on an issue that was a major part of my life at the time. And I deeply felt that I was being treated unfairly based only on my age classification instead of being judged for me as a person, on my own merits.
I couldn’t help feeling resentment toward him. But, I never expressed it. I just held back emotionally when I was with him after that, at least for a time. Of course I eventually got over it (and in full disclosure, he did let me drive the family car), but for a time I was much less eager to go that extra mile to do things for him, share things with him, or be in his life.
Most of us have had the experience of being treated unfairly – or at lest of having has the perception of being treated unfairly. Resentment often follows- even if the offending person doesn’t realize it.
(Side-note: A few years ago I mentioned the car incident to my now very aged father. He had no recollection of it whatsoever).
We can talk about resentment as being the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about or acknowledge, yet it is there. It is the wall that becomes erected between people which blocks good feelings or love from being experienced.
Resentment often doesn’t rage or even scream. It often just sits there looking innocent as it smiles at you, but underneath it is boiling and stewing. It spends much time plotting revenge or getting even so think on getting a mouth guard. Eventually it destroys love. In intimate relationships, it often kills sexual desire.
We can imagine love as being in a bottle. Then, resentment is the cork that prevents love from getting or expressing itself.
Love may try to escape by sneaking around the cork, but at best, just a little will get out.
As you think back over your life, has resentment bottled up love you had for a relative, for a friend, a partner, a child, a sibling, a parent?
You loan money to a close friend who doesn’t pay it back. Now that is all you think about when you see them or talk to them. Your good feelings toward that person are blocked.
You feel resentment toward your intimate partner whom you feel over controls you and your life. Suddenly you lose all sex desire for that partner and want to rebel against him or her.
You are your partner are living together and now it is time to buy a house. They make much more money that you do and want a pre-nuptial to protect themselves in case things don’ t work out. You are highly resentful that they don’t have more commitment to making it work.
As we teach in our anger management classes and explain in our workbook, dealing with the emotion of resentment is not easy for many reasons. It often involves sitting down and asking yourself what basis need is being blocked that is causing the resentment in the first place.
Then, the trick is communicate to the other person that you have the resentment, the reason you have it, and how you propose things get rectified or fixed. In short, talk about it instead of holding it in and suffering – or feeling guilty because you have the resentment in the first place.
It takes courage to do this sometimes, bu the payoff can be tremendous, as discussion often clears the air, relieves that pressure inside of you, and allows those love feeling to again flow.