Too much anger and resentment can affect our health.
It’s bad for our minds and bodies.
Anger can give rise to high blood pressure and increase our heart rates. Resentment can cause insomnia and keep us awake at night.
Anger and resentment can also have a negative impact on our relationships. When you are angry and resentful all the time, your perception becomes very negative and others might not enjoy or want to be around you.
But avoiding or suppressing anger and resentment
is unhealthy too.
It takes a lot of energy to suppress emotions and pushing emotions down creates more harm for our bodies. Emotions stuck in our bodies can become chronic illnesses. Furthermore, ongoing, unaddressed issues can be worse for our relationships in the long-term.
The better way to deal with anger and resentment is to feel them and let them go. But before we learn how to do so, let’s differentiate the two. Even though anger and resentment usually come together, there are actually two rather different emotions.
The Difference Between Anger and Resentment
What Is Anger?
Anger is felt when someone crosses your boundaries or does something that harms or offends you. It is a strong feeling of displeasure, annoyance, and hostility.
It causes you to act in the moment.
You might want to yell, shout or even hurt another person to punish or stop them from doing what they are doing. Although there’s an impulse to act, a person who is feeling angry may or may not act on their impulse. It depends on how well they are able to handle and respond to their anger.
What Is Resentment?
Resentment is rather different. Someone who is resentful usually does not have the desire to act. In their mind, they might secretly want others to change, apologize for what they have done, or take revenge. But oftentimes, people hide their resentment and not express their feelings so as to avoid conflict or being judged by others.
Resentment is a feeling of bitterness and indignation.
It is a feeling of being unfairly treated, being taken advantage of or not getting what you deserve. Usually, there’s a lot of noise in your head. Your mind keeps repeating the same story to generate feelings of resentment.
Anger Vs. Resentment
One of the main differences between the two is that anger is more body-based while resentment is more mind-based. Anger is usually what you feel in your body in the moment. Once you release or express the energy, you will feel better.
Resentment, on the other hand, is something that you harbor and build up in your mind over a prolonged period of time. It gets refreshed every time your mind replays the stories of indignation in your head.
Anger is also stronger, more apparent and aggressive while resentment tends to be more persistent, hidden from others and passive-aggressive. There is more energy to act when we feel angry than when we feel resentful.
People who have a problem with expressing anger such as codependents,
usually end up feeling resentful.
They either feel that it’s inappropriate to express their anger or they have bad experiences with their anger or other people’s anger. So they try to push their anger down and pretend that they are fine. But unexpressed emotions can cause them to harbor a grudge for the person who has hurt them.
For the rest of us, we commonly switch between anger and resentment. People who realized the damage they had caused by their anger might stop expressing their anger and become resentful instead. People who harbor resentment might feel bouts of anger from time to time when the stories get looped in their minds too many times in a short period of time.
So how do you let go of anger and resentment?
How to Let Go of Anger and Resentment
1. Feel the anger and resentment in your body.
When you have anger and resentment, the first thing you want to do is to be present with it, acknowledge it and not judge your emotions. To be present with your emotions, pay attention to how your body feels and don’t push the uncomfortable feeling away. Allow the energy to rise up.
If you have zero resistance to your emotions and an intention to release the energy, it only takes a few seconds for the emotions to be released from your body. I’ve tried it many times myself. Releasing anger feels like a rocket has been launched from the base of my spine and out through the top of my head. For resentment, it feels like someone is gripping my chest with their hands and my chest area feels tight and stuffy. To release resentment, feel your chest opening up. Imagine a tight fist opening up.
Of course, this is what I feel in my body. Your experience might be different. You have to notice and observe your body to experience it yourself.
Emotions need to be felt in your body before they can be released.
Some of us think that expressing our emotions might help us process our anger and resentment. But this may or may not be the case. Punching your pillow, tearing things apart or singing a vengeful song might make you feel good and offer you some relief. But ask yourself, “How much of the anger is truly felt in my body and how much is directed to something or someone outside of my body? Am I releasing my anger or am I building up my anger?”
When we release our anger through some form of destruction on a regular basis, we condition ourselves to act upon our anger every time we feel angry. We are telling ourselves that we need to do something in order to release our anger.
However, emotions need to be felt in the body, not outside of the body. You can release anger without expressing or acting upon your anger. Letting go of emotions is the middle way between suppressing and expressing. It’s a natural process that all babies can do. Just that when we become adults, we develop resistance to uncomfortable emotions.
Also, if you are paying attention to your mind and the stories it’s telling, you are most likely not feeling the emotions in your body. The stories in your mind only produce more negative feelings. Your mind doesn’t help you to release the emotions. To let go of your emotions, shift your attention away from the mind to your body. Feel what you feel without the story.
2. Be in touch with the underlying emotional pain.
Anger and resentment are usually a cover-up for deeper emotional pain. They often suggest that there are some fear or hurt feelings that you don’t wish to address. Many of us would rather be angry than cry.
For example, people who participate in riots and protests often display a lot of aggression and anger so as to not feel powerless. When people feel suppressed by their government and they feel like they can’t do anything to change the situation, they turn to anger to provide some relief from the helplessness they feel. At least, they have something to do and they feel like they have some control over their fate.
Your emotional pain tells you what you want.
When you feel angry and resentful, you can’t hear very well. Your emotions block you from listening to other opinions including the deep wisdom within. Your mind keeps justifying that you are right. You are easily agitated by what other people do and you are taken over by your impulse to act.
Acknowledge the underlying emotional pain helps you to discover what you really want. When there are feelings of anger and resentment, ask yourself, “What are you afraid of? What hurts you?”. You can also complete these sentences, “I’m afraid that…”, or “I feel hurt when…” Then, instead of blaming others, ask yourself, “What do I want from them?”
So for instance, if you are angry or resentful at someone for breaking up with you, recognize that you feel hurt when someone abandons you or breaks their promise to you. You are afraid that you can’t find another one better than him or her. Ultimately, you want to be loved by them.
3. Take 100% responsibility for your needs and your emotions.
Anger and resentment make us think that we are right. They have hurt us. They should be the one to apologize and make amendments. Not us. But holding onto our position doesn’t help us resolve the problem. So what if we are right? We still feel angry and resentful.
Wanting to be right makes us the victim. For us to feel better, the other person has to stop doing what we don’t want them to do and start doing what we want them to do. However, when we wait for others to change or resolve the conflict, they get to decide whether they want to do it or not. It means they get to dictate how we feel.
When we are angry with someone,
we are actually angry that we lose control of our emotions.
We have allowed others and what they do to affect our mood. They have the ability to make us feel angry and resentful. That’s why we are furious and bitter. It’s not about what they do or not do. It’s because we have given them the power and responsibility to make us feel good. We are depriving ourselves of our sense of power and our alignment to joy, love, and peace.
When you know what you want from others, first ask yourself, “How can I satisfy my own needs? How can I feel good no matter what they do?” All of us have control over our emotions if we take full responsibility for how we feel. Don’t wait for others to change or provide you with what you need. Thinking that they should do something different but they don’t only make us feel more resentful. We cannot dictate their actions, we can only dictate ours.
4. Take note of what triggers your anger and resentment.
Usually, our emotions such as anger and resentment can tell us a lot about our past. We have a tendency to repeat our old dramas, especially those that we have with our parents so that we can re-experience the drama. Doing so can either help us to validate our existing, limiting beliefs or help us to heal our past.
For the former, we acknowledge that we cannot change our past. We remain as victims as we keep abusing ourselves with our stories of anger and resentment. For the latter, we are mindful of the patterns and we take note of what triggers our emotions so that we can be more conscious the next time the same thing happens.
We intentionally choose how we are going to respond to these triggers
instead of reacting unconsciously.
When you feel angry and resentful, ask yourself, “Is this something from the past? This is how I had reacted in the past, how can I respond differently now?” This is also part of taking responsibility for your emotions and your growth.
Most of the time, people that are close to us do not have the intention to hurt us. But they tend to hurt us the most because they are close to us and we have higher expectations for them than people who we do not know that well. If you are constantly feeling angry and resentful for the same things, perhaps it’s time to revise or let go of your expectations for others. It might be difficult for others to meet your expectations.
Also, separate the person from the event. They might have done something that you don’t like but that doesn’t mean that they are a bad person. It just means that they have their own preferences, opinions, habits, and personalities, which are different from yours.
5. Pivot and transform your anger and resentment.
Sometimes, if your loved one hurts you, communicating with them directly can help to dissolve the resentment you have for them. But this is easier said than done. When you are resenting someone, you don’t trust them and you don’t look at them the same way you used to. So how can you be vulnerable and trust them with your emotions?
Also, when you express your anger and resentment, people might get defensive. It might sound like you are blaming them for your hurt feelings and they would not want to take responsibility for your emotions. It might also trigger their anger and resentment because they feel that you are judging them.
Many of us like to vent and complain to our friends. It makes us feel better when people validate our mental position. But what we don’t realize is that we are actually spreading our pain to others. By expressing your pain, you can activate other people’s pain in their bodies, especially those who aren’t conscious and centered enough. That’s how protests and riots work. One person feels indignant and starts sharing how he or she feels, then more people get triggered and join their movement. Subsequently, collective anger is formed.
Don’t spread your anger and resentment to others.
Process your emotions before expressing them.
The monks have emotions too but they don’t call their friend and say, “I need a punchbag. I need to vent. Are you free?” They know that expressing their anger and resentment to each other doesn’t help process the emotions. You only light up other people’s anger and resentment. You have to transform your emotions within before you express them to others. Otherwise, nothing will change. Anger will still remain as anger. Resentment will still remain as resentment. You don’t get less angry or resentful.
To transform your anger and resentment, pivoting or shifting your perception is necessary. Imagine you are watching a concert and someone is standing in front of you. You can be angry at the person for blocking your view, scold them and let it affect your joy of watching the concert. Or you can simply take a sidestep and continue to enjoy the concert. It’s your choice.
If your thoughts are making you feel angry and resentful, change your thoughts. Don’t repeat the same stories in your mind. When you are expressing your hurt feelings to another, you are not demanding an apology from them or asking them to admit their mistakes. You are going to them for help. As the Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, suggests, you can tell them, “I’m feeling hurt, angry and resentful with what you have done but I don’t want to hate you. Please help me with it.”
When you process your emotions and approach them in such a manner, it will not trigger their anger and resentment and you are more likely to resolve your conflict with them.
Featured Photo Credit: Craig Adderley