Anger and resentment can often be like on overstuffed suitcase that weighs you down and demands large amounts of energy and attention. When looking at the topics of anger and resentment, it is first important to discuss what the differences are between these two words.
Anger is a normal, natural emotion. In fact, in many situations, it’s a healthy and appropriate emotional reaction. Anger takes place in the present, when life isn’t going the way we think it should. In this way, anger has a corrosive effect, it is a “fight” against present-moment reality, a refusal to accept what is. Anger is often a secondary emotion, meaning that it can take shape unconsciously in response to something or someone that evokes feelings of hurt, fear, inadequacy, etc. when have secondary emotions because when most people feel primary emotions, they feel vulnerable (Mager, 2017). For many people, experiencing this vulnerability creates too much distress, which in turn transforms the emotions into anger.
Resentment is closely related to, but not the same as, anger. Resentments can be viewed as negative feelings toward someone or something that stems from the past. Resentment is often the re-experiencing of past wrongs- real or perceived- and the old feelings of anger connected to them. (Mager, 2019) It involves holding on to that anger. There is a saying that when you resent somebody, you become their slave. The stronger the resentment is, the more time you spend thinking about it, caught up in the anger connected to it. Ultimately, the person holding the resentment is the one who suffers most. “Holding a resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Mager (2017) offers 8 strategies to address feelings of anger and resentment in more healthy and helpful ways:
- Practice identifying and allowing yourself to feel the underlying emotions that anger may be superimposed upon- such as hurt or fear. Work to be actively present and accept these feelings, even if they are uncomfortable.
- Practice being consciously present with your anger and resentment. Observe it and allow it to simply be. Notice what happens.
- Identify how you may have contributed to the situation(s) that you are angry and resentful about. It’s important to be aware that people can play a role in the events about which they are angry/resentful at.
- Practice expressing anger and resentment differently. This could include things such as, sharing these feelings with safe, supportive people, journaling about them, releasing them through physical activity, or participating in activities that promote a good cause.
- Learn and practice relaxation and self-calming technique. Mindfulness, intentional breathing, medication, and yoga, are all examples of this.
- As difficulty as it may be, endeavor to practice treating those people you feel angry at or have resentment toward with kindness and compassion. Although easier said that done, try changing how you act towards these individuals—they will often change how they act toward you in return.
- Resist the urge to be a channel for the anger and resentment of others. Feelings like anger and resentment can be magnetic and try to pull you in, but try your best to resist the urge to join in on their negativity.
- Practice applying the understanding that unless you’ve learned how to change the past, it’s as good as it’s ever going to get! It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to like what is happening in the present or has happened in the past in order to accept it. By simply accepting the way things are, you can free your attention and energy from the feelings of anger and resentment, allowing you to be more skillful in the present.
Mager, D. (2017, January 17). 8 Strategies to Work Through Anger and Resentment.
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