Resentment is a form of anger. It is personal because someone hurt you personally.  You felt unsafe because your personal boundaries were not respected.  The person responsible for making you unsafe by their actions is the perpetrator. Resentment is holding on to anger. Holding on to anger, Buddha said, is like  “wanting to poison someone and drinking the poison yourself.”  Buddhist teachers use an analogy of the clear sky (the mind) with temporary clouds (anger).

Is letting go of resentment the same as forgiveness?

Christianity says, at the Crucifixion Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34

In Christianity, for example, the perpetrator can commit grave crimes against humanity, and ask Jesus to help them to forgive their persecutors as he did at the Crucifixion. But what if the perpetrator is not sorry for what they have done?  They may not care about you at all. They may be glad they hurt you. They may do it again, given the chance and even do the same to others.  

Forgiveness is personal as well.  Forgiveness is about recognising the other person’s wrong and no longer bearing a grudge.  Forgiveness seems by many people I work with, to be about no longer holding the perpetrator accountable for what they did.  It seems to be less about the feelings of the victim.  It feels like more wrong-doing and more injustice when discussing forgiveness.

Since holding on to anger is harmful to the victim and the victim wants more than anything to stop being the victim, this article discusses the pros and cons of holding on to resentment and not forgiveness.  And this has absolutely nothing to do with condoning or colluding with abusive or neglectful behaviour towards another living being, nor does it mean that the victim is in any way responsible for what the perpetrator chose to do to them.

Does holding on to resentment make the victim self righteous or narcissistic? 

Resentment could be symbolic to a dog licking its wounds.  It doesn’t allow them to heal by letting them dry out, instead it keeps them open and exposed, on display.  Whilst resenting others for hurting you is a natural human response and does not make you narcissistic, it becomes a problem for you when it consumes you, affects your health and impacts your relationships.  

If you are displaying a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, lack empathy and develop a sense of entitlement, it could indicate narcissistic traits. However, experiencing resentment is not an indication of narcissism.  It is only destructive to you, the person feeling resentment.

Resentment is a trauma response

Resentment is a trauma response. It feels like it is protecting you.  Clients have said, “Holding on to resentment feels like the last thread of but it should not have happened.” This is a trauma response. Your amygdala is not letting you forget this to protect you from it ever happening again.  

Why are you holding on to something so destructive to you?

Clients have said, “It feels like the only thing left that proves it happened is my resentment because everyone else is behaving like it didn’t happen.” It feels like, once they let go of resentment, they are saying it doesn’t matter what that person did or what people did not do to take action; that the intrusive, abusive act did not matter. No matter how many years the person has suffered because of that perpetrator, it is like saying, no one cares and in addition I have stopped fighting for what is right and true, therefore I don’t matter either, I am not important.

Some people I work with protest that they hold on to resentment because “It keeps it alive that you are right and the perpetrator is wrong.”

If you are hurting yourself by holding on to resentment, if someone neglected to protect you or to take action that could have validated you, they are all perpetrators of abuse.  Abuse is their wrong-doing whether you hold on to resentment or not.  Resentment is your feeling and it belongs to you. It has nothing to do with the perpetrator whatsoever.

Reasons to let go of resentment

“When you are steadfast in your abstention of thoughts of harm directed toward yourself and others, all living creatures will cease to feel fear in your presence.” Patanjali

Wayne Dyer refers to Patanjali’s quote in his literature and public speaking videos, stating that we are waiting for someone else to change in order to take away our resentment.  He says it is hard to hear, but there are no justified resentments. 

In counselling I can help you identify your resentment as it is your feeling, support you in acknowledging that resentment and with no judgement, help you to finally move on.  

We are very clear here that bad things happen to good people and that the world is harbouring many perpetrators, perpetrators that often do not get the punishment to fit their crime if they are convicted of a crime at all, due to our extremely flawed and archaic justice system.  Therefore, the maths says that there are many people who are walking around with a strong sense of injustice and the only ones this injustice harms is the person who has been wronged.  That means wronged by the perpetrator, often the justice system and in particular, the society that says and does nothing about it, keeping abuse and neglect underground and allowing the perpetrators of abuse to continue abusing many more victims.  Culturally talking about abuse will put an end to the stigma and the shame that is transferred to the victim.  Please do not hesitate to report abuse. You might save someone’s life.  If you want to check out definitions of different types of abuse, please click here. 

Counselling can help when you feel resentment

It’s important to process and address your feelings constructively to help manage and resolve your emotions.  Resentment is a personal matter.  I know you are hurting and trust has been lost. There is a strong sense of injustice that often has no solution.  Resentment can often appear to be the only shield to protect you.  This protection is an appearance to mind.  It is not really protecting you. It is blocking your ability to be free of suffering.  Counselling and working through trauma can put an end to your suffering.  When you are ready, I am here for you.  Click the link to read more about stress, anxiety and feeling safe here.

Book your free consultation to discuss your counselling work here. I am looking forward to meeting you and working with you very soon. Best wishes, Karen