Five years ago, to the day, I was wondering about resentment. Just remember, as you read this archived piece, it's called a practice for a reason! :-)
I've been wondering about resentment for days now. It's an insidious, rankling feeling. You know what I mean; it's that little buzz that runs right up your spine, swirls around your brain and then zaps you in the heart when someone you love reminds you to be grateful for everything you have, when you just want to kvetch a little at the end of a tiring, frustrating day. Or when your friend excitedly discusses plans for her wedding when you've been single for so long. Or when your classmate raises a point in class that you just came up with in a hallway discussion with her 20 minutes earlier. Or when you don't get a raise. Or when you get laid off. Or when...or when...or when.
The list can go on forever. Resentments can be big or small, important or trivial, over slights imagined or real. But what do they all have in common? There's always a twofold sense of nobody-understands-what-I'm-feeling and easy-for-you-to-say. There's a sense that the other party thinks they know better or deserve better than you. Or the corollary-that you seem to have missed out or that you deserve as much as they have.
Of course, resentment is simply a feeling. It's an emotion. It's a reaction. And, baby, it's all yours. It has nothing to do with anyone else. Nope! Not the person who made the remark, not the world out there. Resentment is your feeling about yourself that is directed outward toward some external target. Resentment is what you employ to deflect the hard work of responsibly facing your own discomfort. And if you feel it (and we ALL do) and don't examine why, you risk letting it grow into an infection of misery. You risk letting it turn into a belief. You risk skewing your long-term perspective. After a while, unexamined resentment can spin into various other patterns.
Resentment as resignation: My ship has sailed, I'm in a low-paying job and I'll never be financially independent, so why bother?
Resentment as envy: The neighbors are redecorating again; they are such snobs.
Resentment as bitterness and self-righteousness: Who does she think I am, her personal secretary? She can call the 800 number herself; I have real work to do!
Resentment as self-pity: My parents have no idea how awful my roommate is. They just don't get me.
Resentment generalized: All men are pigs, or all teenagers are disrespectful, or all old people are out of touch.
As controller of my own emotions, it's up to me to either feed or starve this beast. Resentment, you're not the boss of me! You served a purpose. I allowed you in for a short time, but now I banish you while I examine my heart, organize my life and make changes so I am happier. Be gone!
What's that I hear you say, resentment? "Easy for you to say?" Well, maybe not always easy, but definitely for me to say.