Just as life often holds scrapes, breaks, strains, and accidents which affect our bodies, so our emotional lives and relationships often hit bumps. Sometimes cracks appear, which need to be mended. Sometimes walls are erected which keep us from communicating and furthering a relationship. Sometimes we feel like others don’t love and appreciate us, and we feel hurt.
Often, when we feel hurt, and maybe feel shame as well, we become angry. Being angry feels less vulnerable and more powerful than being hurt, so anger often appears as a secondary emotion. We may have come into a situation with a positive intent and the other person may not have been or behaved like we anticipated. If we can’t resolve the issue, anger subsides into resentment, and lives on inside of us. The hurt and shame that we do not know what to do with keep the resentment alive. We look for things to justify our feeling of resentment and reinforce our viewpoint. We may blame and openly criticize what or who we resent and try to bring others onto our side.
Rose Mary Boerboom, MA, LP, in the Self Mastery Workshop, identifies two major (and possibly surprising) sources of resentment: being “too nice” and being “too dependent”. Being “too nice” is always doing what others expect of us while ignoring our own needs and wants. It is often identified as “selflessness”, while taking care of our own needs and wants is labeled “selfishness”. However, being selfish means that we do not care about others, only about ourselves. Taking care of ourselves is not selfish. We have a lot more to give if we are taking care of ourselves! If we neglect our own needs and wants, and then do not get the appreciation or approval from others that we are expecting, resentment sets in. In this case resentment can serve as a red flag that we do not have good boundaries. Others dictate who we are and what we do. We must consider our own needs as well as the needs of others. How far would we get if we prepared food for others and never for ourselves? We need to supply our own need for food first. Then we will have strength to also help others.
Being “too dependent” also means that we are not taking care of ourselves. Instead, we are expecting someone else to “be there” to meet our needs. We depend on the other person for love, approval, comfort, and safety without stepping up to offer ourselves love and approval. We do not self-soothe or keep ourselves emotionally safe. When we learn to take care of ourselves in this way, we not only experience less anxiety, but we also avoid resentment when the other person cannot provide all that we need and want. Boerboom explains being too dependent this way: “you depend on others to give you what you need to give yourself. …you wait for others to do for you what you need to do for yourself. You resent them when it doesn’t work out or they don’t come through.” The person we depend on “gets to decide if we are worthwhile and deserving or not. That leaves us vulnerable, powerless, and resentful.”
If we find ourselves weighed down by resentment, what do we do next? Next week we will talk about forgiveness (and forgiving ourselves).