Letting Go of Resentment

What is resentment?

Resentment is a feeling of anger about something that seems unfair. Bad things happen to everyone. Money problems, health problems, or feeling that you do more than your share can create feelings of anger and grudges. Some people are unable to let go of negative emotions, and this allows resentment to build up.

What causes it?

Resentment is often caused by a need to feel “right” or in control. You may feel this way if someone:

  • Does something mean, hurtful, or thoughtless
  • Does something that you feel you should have done
  • Does not do what you think they should have done

How can I help myself?

Expressing your anger at the right time and in the right ways can help prevent feelings of resentment. Letting resentment build up affects your emotional health and can affect your physical health. Here are some ideas that can help you talk to someone about your anger:

  • Never hit anyone to express your anger, no matter what the cause.
  • Try to look at things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Express what you feel in words. Use “I” statements, such as statements that start with “I feel…,” rather than saying things that sound like you are blaming the other person. Practice saying what you need to say in a calm and respectful way–for example, “That is not OK with me.” Don’t shout or curse.

If you cannot talk about your anger directly to the person causing your anger, you might:

  • Write about your resentment in a journal or letter to yourself. Be honest about all the things that are bothering you.
  • Explore why you feel that you have been treated badly. Is it real or is it a story that you have told yourself?
  • Forgive the person involved. Forgiveness helps you let go of your anger, but it doesn’t have to let the other person “off the hook.” For example, a mother can choose to forgive a drunk driver who killed her child so that she doesn’t have to live with the anger, but that doesn’t mean the drunk driver should get out of jail. Refuse to see yourself as a victim.
  • Imagine your life without resentment. Describe this vision in a journal, and read it daily.

When you have to deal with something hard, like having a family member with a severe illness, it may seem unfair. You may not be able to control what happens, but you can control how you react. You may find that practicing yoga or meditation helps. Or maybe you are the kind of person who needs to work out your resentments with running or biking. Perhaps you could release your feelings through music, poetry, praying, or keeping a journal. Do what works best for you.

When should I seek help?

Increasing irritability and trouble letting go of resentment can be signs of depression. If this is a problem for you, ask your healthcare provider for help or a referral to a mental health professional.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-06
Last reviewed: 2014-10-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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