Resentment and being frustrated can cause a lot of problems. Let’s take a look at how to overcome it.
What is resentment?
This emotion is a complex one. Resentment is a deep, painful anger that is felt when someone has been betrayed, or when their expectations have not been met. Frustration due to the actions of others is a leading cause of resentment. It could be the ongoing anger felt by a spouse that has been cheated on; infidelity leads to a lot of resentment- if you want to see the built up emotions of a wronged husband or wife, visit the divorce courts. Bitterness can fester for years until an insult or injury is resolved.
Resentment is a secondary emotion.
It can be described as a secondary emotion. It is the result of an initial, perhaps painful, emotion not being settled. It is the emotion brought on by other emotions. For example, I may feel ashamed about being sad. I may have been shamed in the past for not being happy, or for not fitting in with a group of outgoing, extroverted individuals. Anxiety is another emotion that can lead to other emotions. It is possible to be anxious about a situation, a job interview perhaps, and then to feel resentment towards the process of recruitment because job-seeking creates anxiety.
Resentment can appear in many guises and there are many situations and scenarios that can lead to it.
Why does resentment happen? What causes it?
I think a lot of our bad feelings towards others are because our own expectations have not been met. I mentioned the terrible pain that is felt as a result of infidelity. A wedding usually involves the exchange of vows; they are heartfelt and honest promises to support and help each other during the course of a marriage. A lot of people place a great deal of emphasis on those words.
“My word is my bond” is a forthright statement. It conveys an agreement, a commitment, and a solemn undertaking to do as one said. Breaking vows breaks expectations. Broken expectations, if not repaired, can lead to a deep dark festering of unhappiness and resentment towards a partner.
A similar thing can happen in the workplace.
If an employee agrees to be ready to work for a specific time each day, the boss is going to get frustrated by the tardiness of the worker. The employee may have a resentment towards the company. Maybe they didn’t pay them the expected wages in the previous payslip. An honest mistake in the accounts office has created an uncomfortable feeling within the worker; she may feel that it’s their right to take back time that they’ve worked and not been paid for. These negative feelings are not going to help fix the problem.
Resentment is the result of negative feelings.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of negative feelings.
- Fear. This can lead to resentment. If we do not have the courage to overcome a difficult situation, we can spend years regretting the lack of action. Being fearful is a natural reaction, especially when we find ourselves in a new situation. Fear is an emotional response to an uncertain environment. Overcoming and coping with fear is a very effective way to prevent resentment.
- Anger. Imagine driving along, and you’re on time for an appointment. Suddenly, up ahead, the carriageway is closed. There are traffic cones and a diversion has been put in place to take traffic on to the slow minor roads. You see this and realise that you are going to be late. Now, you find yourself in a tricky situation. You gave your word – your bond – to be at the meeting at an agreed time. You’ll be late and you’ll have to apologise to your colleagues. You will lose face, and your ego may have to take a hit. Knowing that this is going to hurt your standing within the team will lead to anger towards the roadworks. How many times have construction workers been verbally abused by passing motorists? If you ask someone that works in highway construction and maintenance, they’ll have some stories to tell about irate motorists. A lot of people feel angry if they’re delayed. A resentment towards traffic delays, diversions and roadcrews will arise. Looking at it from the viewpoint of the other person; they’re going about their business in a high visibility vest and tarmac-clogged boots when a barrage of verbal bile erupts from the windows of a passing car. If this happens a lot, the construction worker is going to generate resentment towards motorists.
- Loneliness. Being alone can be a difficult thing to do. Humans are social animals. People desire contact with other fellows and friends and family members. If an individual loses contact with their “tribe” the sense of loss is measurable. Loneliness and separation from loved ones leads to resentful feelings. If the disconnection is due to circumstances outside of our control, you can bet that it will lead to more resentment. If a parent has to go away for work and stay in hotels for long periods away from the family home,children can feel isolated and lonely. They may be being cared for by other adults, but that doesn’t lessen actual resentment towards either the absent parent, or the parent’s career.
Resentful feelings only head in one direction. Downwards.
An impassioned resentment can create a downward spiral of pain. If one problem isn’t resolved, that leads to people cutting off communications, to becoming passive-aggressive and eventually to a lifelong grudge being held until their dying day.
Picture this, your neighbour agrees to pick up your children after school. The kids know about this, and they’re fine with it; probably because Jim, the fictitious next door neighbour in this article, has a new playstation and a big screen tv and the gaming chair with the steering wheel and the pedals, etc., I’m not jealous. Honest. Anyways, during the afternoon, Jim has to take a call with his boss, and it takes longer than usual. He’s not able to pick up the kids, and he doesn’t feel right in telling his boss to shut up for five minutes while he makes a call to let you know of the situation. The kids are left waiting in the cold wind and rain.
The kids are unhappy. They’re not too keen on English winters; Jim feels like an idiot for not being able to call you, you get it in the neck from the kids, Jim feels ashamed for one, not standing up to his boss, and two, for not explaining the change of circumstances to you. Jim feels bad, Jim hides away and becomes a recluse, you wonder why Jim is an arsehole for not picking up the kids… can you see how this is spiralling? The lack of communication down to fear and anger, turns a neighbourly, happy relationship into “Jim will burn in hell”.
Resentment breeds resentment. It’s a good idea to acknowledge it, fix it and move on from it before it turns into the helter-skelter of doom.
Prevention. How to prevent the actual resentment present in our lives.
First of all, we have to acknowledge it. There is always going to be something, some situation that leads to resentment. It could be Jim. It could be Jim’s boss. It could be the kids. In reality, it’s not someone else causing the pain. We’ll get to that in the next paragraph… Whatever it happens to be, take time to be aware of what it is. Knowing the enemy, makes it easier to defeat the enemy.
Identification is the next step. Take time to figure out what role YOU played in creating the resentment. That’s right. Don’t blame Jim. Don’t blame the kids. Look in the mirror and figure it out. Hey guess what, it’s down to you. They’re your kids. They’re your responsibility. You should’ve told your boss that you had to leave early today to pick up the kids. Handing the responsibility to Jim, well, that was just an opportunity to save your own skin.
Act on the consequences. We have to own up to our wrongdoings. Talk to Jim, thank him for doing his best. A lot of resentment occurs because of our expectations of others. We think other people have perfect lives that we can slot our problems into. Sometimes those slots get blocked off.
Release that resentment. You’ve dealt with it. You know what, sometimes things go wrong. Don’t beat yourself, or other people, up about it. We are all trying to do the best we can with the skills and experience that we have available to us.
A really good way to prevent resentment is to be grateful for what we’ve got. Be grateful that Jim offered to pick up the kids, and be grateful that he lets you have a go on his rather nice games console. In return, show your gratitude by helping him when he takes delivery of an even bigger flatscreen TV.
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