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What Is Resentment and How You Can Create A Resentment-Free Life

What Is Resentment

Living a resentful life day after day, will not only deplete you emotionally, it will also stop you from living your life to the fullest.

These are the questions most of my clients ask, once they realize that chronic resentment keeps them stuck in the depressive, angry, or anxious states that brought them into treatment:

Isn’t my resentment valid?

Isn’t it justified?

Yes, of course, your resentment is valid and justified. And you have an absolute right to be resentful. But those are the wrong questions. The right questions are:

Do I want to be resentful?

Is resentment keeping me from being the person, worker, partner, and parent I most want to be?

Resentment is the persistent feeling that we’re being treated unfairly—not getting due respect, appreciation, affection, help, apology, consideration, praise, or reward. It keeps us locked in a devalued state, wherein it’s extremely difficult to improve or appreciate or to connect positively with people in general.

Related: 7 Mental Habits That Make You Feel Bitter With Time

Resentment is the road to:

  • Bad sex
  • Failure at work, school, relationships
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Aggressive Driving
  • Community breakdown
  • Ill Health
  • Violence

A lot of your resentment isn’t even your own; you probably caught it from someone else. It’s one of the most contagious emotional states.

If you’re around a resentful person, you’re likely to become resentful. If someone comes into work resentful, by lunchtime everyone around that person is resentful. If you’re in one mood when you come home, and someone else in the house is resentful, you’re likely to join their resentment. If you encounter a couple of jerks on the road on the way home, you’re likely to make everyone in the house resentful once you get there.

Resentment passes:

  • Workstation by workstation throughout the company
  • Locker by locker in school
  • Car by car down the road
  • Room by room at home

In the workplace, resentment is:

  • The hidden cause of most failure (deteriorates judgment, increases errors)
  • Breeds stagnation, spite, infighting, backstabbing, burnout, sabotage, internal collapse
  • Prepares the way for violence (the resentful employee faced with something unexpected, getting fired or not getting a raise or promotion, is at a risk to be violent).

When it comes to health, resentment increases the risk of:

In close relationships, resentment is:

  • The heart disease of families (#1 family killer)
  • Destroys trust and intimacy
  • Creates continual power struggles or persistent passive aggression
  • Eventually leads to contempt, disgust, detachment

Chains of Resentment Are Hard to Break

The habitual nature of resentment means that:

  • It’s never specific to one behavior, nobody resents just one thing.
  • Its content is rarely forgotten; each new incident of perceived unfairness automatically links onto previous ones, eventually forging a heavy chain.

The chain of resentment always extends into the distant past. In advanced stages, it goes into the future. That’s when you hear things like, “It’s going all right now, but she’ll find some way to screw up the weekend,” or, “It’s fine at the moment, but the ‘real him’ will come out, just wait.”

The tremendous effort required to drag the chain of resentment through life makes us hyper-vigilant for possible ego offenses, lest they “sneak up” on us. The chain of resentment makes us look for things to resent.

This creates frequent sour moods and an atmosphere wherein no offense is too trivial or too unrealistic to be added as yet another link on the chain. We’ll find things to resent in the news, traffic patterns, a dearth of parking places, the temperature of drinking water, and in other people’s tastes, thoughts, opinions, mannerisms, and feelings.

Related: 10 Common Habits of Bitter People And How to Avoid Them

A member of a court-ordered class I once taught had a colorful way of describing the effects of resentment. He said that dragging the chain of resentment through life is like carrying around a bag of horse manure. (Okay, he did not say “manure.”) You want to smear the bag of horse doo-doo in the face of the person you resent.

So you carry it around, waiting for the opportunity, and carry it around, and carry it around, and carry it around. And who stinks?

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Steven Stosny

 Steven Stosny, Ph.D., is the founder of CompassionPower. His current book is Empowered Love, and his previous books include Soar Above: How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain Under Any Kind of Stress, Living and Loving after Betrayal, How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It: Finding Love Beyond Words, Love without Hurt, The Powerful Self, and Treating Attachment Abuse. Dr. Stosny has treated over 6,000 clients for various forms of anger, abuse, and violence, and is also an advisor of the Prince Georges County Circuit and District courts on domestic violence. He has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” many CNN shows, and in the New York Times, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, WSJ, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, O, Psychology Today, USA Today. He has taught at the University of Maryland and at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. His blog on has over 18 million views.View Author posts