How does one get rid of anger and resentment? Sometimes I run the extremes between the negative emotions of anger and resentment. It’s not difficult to feel angry when you read the headlines on the news. Or get resentful when you read social media posts of people you believed were your friends and thought the way you did. Perhaps a friend sent you an email calling on you to take an action which didn’t align with your beliefs. Any of these can trigger that feeling of anger and bring on a sense of resentment.
First, I want to define the difference between the words anger and resentment. Anger is the emotion we have when we get frustrated with a situation or believe we are right and others are wrong. Resentment is the reliving of that initial anger. The word resentment comes from the French word – sentir – meaning, to feel. The prefix “Re” means again. So, resentment is feeling, again, that anger we felt in the first place.
Anger can sometimes be a positive emotion, but only if we use it to move us toward taking actions that bring positive change. For instance, I am angry that my clothes are not fitting as well as they used to. Using that anger can be the motivation I need to stop reaching for those potato chips. Anger can be positive when it encourages us to do things differently. To change our behavior or take an action to bring about a positive result. For instance, if I get angry about legislation that is coming up for a vote in the government, anger may inspire me to contact my senator and speak out. That is when we channel the anger into something positive.
Feeling the feeling of anger over and over and not getting out of the feedback loop is resentment. Resentment is a corrosive thread. It courses through my life and causes me pain and diminished enjoyment. My spiritual advisor often reminds me of how toxic resentment can be. She told me that when I am resentful at someone, it is like I am drinking poison, hoping the other person will die!
So the question is – how can we be rid of anger and resentment? I have to get these negative emotions out of my body or else, like Kryptonite for Superman, I weaken.
Here are some steps one can take to get through anger and resentment to freedom:
- First, we have to acknowledge the anger. I had a friend who told me that trying to stop feeling angry was a form of denial of one’s emotions. Anger in and of itself is not a bad thing, but staying angry and feeling it over and over isn’t productive. Acknowledging the anger, without judgment, sometimes allows the process to begin. We can then move from anger to action to freedom.
- Second, exploring the origin of the anger can help define what is bothering us. One can do this through talking it out, writing about it or even taking a walk in nature. (I don’t advocate only thinking about the anger, that is not going to be effective in solving it. Like Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
- Third, taking an action toward a solution, once we’ve defined the cause of the anger, is a healthy step. We have to let the anger inspire us to take a positive action. Then the anger can be channeled to become a motivating force for good.
And now about resentment. Resentment is like being stuck in a never ending feedback loop that doesn’t go anywhere. The cycle of resentment has to be broken. The question is, how can we do this? And again, the answer is threefold:
- We have to explore the nature of the resentment. What are we angry at, why are we angry, and how does it affect us?
- Once we define the resentment, we can look at what it triggered in us to make us angry. Are we afraid? Are we lying to ourselves? Are we trying to look good or be right?
- When we’ve defined how the resentment affected us, we can ask The Universe (or God) to remove the resentment. I don’t have the power to remove the resentment. I do have the power to do the investigative work to see what caused it and how I reacted.
- Finally, if the resentment persists, I have to be willing to continue to dig deeper. I must look at why I still have these negative emotions. I have had the experience of getting rid of resentment only to have it return a few months later. I thought to myself, “I already did this work!” Resentment can return. It is only asking us to have the courage to look more closely at what is going on inside our psyche.
The good news is, if we are willing to do this spiritual work on our anger and resentment, we are sure to get relief. Sometimes it take a lot of work, sometimes the relief comes easy. Each resentment seems to have a life of its own!
There’s a joke about the guy who was golfing and hit the ball into the woods. When he reached down for the ball, he found a bottle with a genie inside. The genie came out of the bottle and offered the golfer 3 wishes but warned him that whatever he wished for for himself, his ex-wife would get double of whatever he had asked.
His first wish was for a million dollars. The genie obliged and told the man that there was now a bank account for him with a million dollars. His ex-wife now had an account with two million dollars in it.
His second wish was to become a golfer on par with Arnold Palmer.
The genie obliged his wish but warned he’d never be able to beat his ex-wife as she was now the best golfer in the world.
So the man asked the genie to take him into the bushes and to beat him half to death…
Resentment and anger can be overcome and it doesn’t have to continue to beat us up. Let me know if you have ever experienced deep-seated resentment and how you were able to overcome it (with or without a genie).