What is resentment and why do we have to let it go?

“Resentments will lead you to drink,” I’ve heard said in the rooms of recovery over the years. Really? What is resentment and is it really that powerful? I believe they are. I know the reality of being eaten up inside by resentment. It’s overwhelming. They say love is the most powerful emotion but for me, I think rage and shame rule. Those emotions seem to cut to the core th quickest. So, yes, resentments are dangerous for long-term recovery.But more than, that. They impede general happiness. And, isn’t that the point of what we’re doing with recovery? To be happy?

Wikipedia defines Resentment as,

A complex, multilayered emotion that has been described as a mixture of disappointment, disgust, anger, and fear. Other psychologists consider it a mood or as a secondary emotion that can be elicited in the face of insult and/or injury

Wikipedia

What causes resentment?

Resentments are caused by a sense of wrongdoing or injustice. Many situations can end in resentment but they usually start with someone feeling used, abused, taken advantage of, humiliated, shamed, jealous, envious, etc. Basically resentments live with our lesser emotions and serve little purpose except to make us unhappy. Personally, resentments also make me quite obsessive. I can overthink a situation I’m unhappy about for weeks.

What does resentment lead to?

Well, depends on the person and resentments. They don’t go away on their own so at worst, without thinking or talking about them, you’re not giving yourself a chance to feel happy, joyous and free.. You probably won’t be able to unburden your brain from worry and that can lead to all kinds of things. Resentments can certainly wear down relationships, if not destroy them altogether. They can also disrupt your mental health and wellness. Some people can also make themselves physically sick with anything from anxiety to headaches, stomach aches, ulcers, and worse.

How to let go?

The first thing to healing resentments is figuring out what they are covering. Do you feel hurt, embarrassed, jealous, unseen? Once you identify the feelings below the resentment, you might see this all stems from fear, sadness or vulnerability. Learning to be OK with those feelings is the first step to dealing with resentment.

There are many tools that can help manage and heal resentment. Talking to someone trustworthy who has good judgement will always add a useful perspective. Learning to see if you have any part of what happened will also be painful but a growth experience. For me, I realized, I often did have a part in the outcome of situations I was unhappy with. There are other outlets such as journaling, or using exercise or meditation. The goal is to learn to new behavior and replace the old ones with healthier new ones.

Instead of jumping into jealousy or anger, learn to pause and exercise before you react. Talk to someone and find out if you’re seeing things clearly. And, always be accountable for what you bring to the table.


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Lindsey Glass

Lindsey Glass is the co-founder of Reach Out Recovery. Her 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World Of Recovery, has helped to lift the stigma from addiction and recovery and is used in recovery programs nationwide to show what life is like on the other side of addiction. Lindsey's teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, was distributed to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television in 2014-15. Lindsey has written dozens of popular articles on recovery. She is a recovery advocate and frequent keynote speaker. Lindsey is the author of 100 Tips for Growing Up, My 20 Years of Recovery, 2019. Before focusing on recovery, Lindsey was a TV and screenwriter. She has worked in publishing, web development, and marketing.

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