Understanding and Overcoming Resentment

Patient Expert

As I continue in my recovery with anxiety, Post-Traumatic, and depression, there are a few triggers that I now recognize very clearly. Resentment is one of them, perhaps the strongest. Resentment is my "red flag" that something is seriously amiss.

The more I am able to be very honest with my feelings and resulting behaviors, the more I am able to be very clear on how to undo the unhealthy belief systems that have left long and deep tracks on my psyche. My feelings and beliefs directly influence my behaviors. I do not particularly like this fact, but it is true.

This is why the recognition of triggers of any sort is essential for me. The tracks and ruts do not get erased--they simply get easier to recognize.

First, I had to recognize (or label) what resentment felt like and what it meant. For me, resentment is an uneasy mix of feeling both annoyance and anger at the same time. I feel like I have been provoked, yet there is not always a recognizable source. I feel like I am being forced to do something I do not want to do, but am doing it anyway. It is a moment of feeling taken advantage of: be it my time or my trust.

Resentment usually comes upon me quickly and runs deep and hard. It is more than feeling frustration or exasperation: it actually feels closer to hate. And I do not use the word hate lightly. It is in such moments of feeling resentment, though, when I can honestly say that I hate exactly where I am and exactly what I am doing. If I continue forward with this feeling going on, I am on the road to trouble, on my way to slipping back into a long-traveled rut of hating myself. I am not expressing anger at the person who has taken advantage of my time or trust, but I am expressing anger (and hate) back toward myself for not recognizing earlier what got me into the situation in the first place.

It is amazing to me how the mind can work. It slides so easily from one feeling to another, not always based on logic, but rather on experience. And experience can be stronger than logic.

Now that I can recognize resentment when I feel it, I know it is a "red flag" that I must pay attention to. When such a "red flag" pops, yeah, I get angry with myself anyway. However, the anger toward myself abates because I also recognize that I have enough sense and strength to see it for what it is: a feeling that can be handled and resolved. I am also human, and as a human, I will make mistakes, fall into old patterns or be caught off-guard. None of these situations is a deal-breaker. Recovery means recognition, not perfection.

For someone like me, I do not like to be caught off-guard. Letting down my guard was hard enough. Even so, I go back to the idea that I am human: if I want to engage in life, well, there are going to be rainy days. This is when I am glad that I have an umbrella.

I just recently went through a short period of resentment. Ugh. Don't like it, but okay. There is was. How did I get here again? I haven't felt resentment in awhile. (Were did I put that darn umbrella?)

I was angry at myself for putting myself in a situation that was not at all comfortable to me. I was doing something that was good for another, but not good for me. I let myself get caught in the idea that if I give someone what they want, then somehow I too will get what I want from them (i.e., love, friendship, thinking that I am more cool than I am a dork.)

Ignoring the facts does not change the facts. I am who I am. What matters is what I think of me. If I compromise who I really am, who is the real dork in this scenario?

I allowed myself to do what I did for what I desired to be the truth, not for what was the truth. Anyone else been there? The end result of this "resentment" lesson was to remember to listen to my feelings rising up inside me. If I ignore them, I ignore the real me. And that is what I did for almost thirty years. Although this was a close call, at least I can share that it was a close call, not a complete and full-blown trigger had I acted. I still get a little scared, to be honest, when I feel resentment. It means I haven't been paying attention.

Also, by acknowledging my feelings (even though I really did not want to) I maintained my morality and integrity. I have such a capacity to ignore what I know to be true and this is one of the long tracks rutted in my psyche.

It still frightens me to know how close I can actually come to defaulting. If I can maintain my knowledge of triggers, I can protect myself from what I already know (even though I will still try to work around what I know I already know). Working hard to stay cognizant and honest with friends (by sharing what occurred and receiving a good natured "eye roll" and some straight talk) and my therapist is what enables me to get the support I require to stay well - and not revert.