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I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end
I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.
- William Blake
This is one of a series of lesson-4 articles
on howtoevolve satisfying relationships. The series builds on the
concepts in Lessons 1 thru 3, so read them first. This article offers
perspective on "resentment," and practical options for (a) reducing it in
yourself, and (b) responding well to it in other people.
This brief YouTube
video offers ideas on relating to "difficult people. It mentions eight
lessons in this self-improvement Web site - I've reduced that seven.
assumes you're familiar with...
the intro to this nonprofit
Website and the
this perspective on self and
mutual respect; and...
options to irritating
How would you describe the normal human emotion we call
resentment? How would you finish this sentence: “I really resent
_________!" Do you feel that resentment can be helpful or constructive? Stay tuned…
To see if this article is relevant to your situation, try this…
Status Check: T = "true
enough;" F = "false;" and "?" = "I'm not sure," or "I don't care."
I feel a mix of calm,
centered, energized, light, focused, resilient, up, grounded, relaxed,
alert, aware, serene, purposeful, compassionate, and clear, so my
true Self is
probably guiding me now. (T F ?)
I’m clear enough onthedifferencebetween resentment, envy, frustration,
distrust, disrespect, anger, and dislike now. (T F ?)
I feel that
is a normal, useful human response that can help people identify
unmet needs, and promote more satisfying relationships among adults and
kids. (T F ?)
I know what causes resentment in
me or other people. (T F ?)
I often feel significantly
resentful toward one or more adults or kids now. (T F ?)
I know how to
dig down below resentment to discover
primary needs that cause
it, or I’m interested in learning how to do that. (T
comfortable (a) expressing my resentment to others, and (b) reacting to
people who resent me. (T F ?)
The adults who raised me knew how to
express resentments constructively. (T F ?)
I can improve the way I
respond to significant resentments (T F ?)
reflect: if you just learned something useful or interesting, what is it?
What are you aware of now?
Consider these premises…
are natural physical, psychological, and spiritual discomforts. They cause most animal behavior. (Reflexes
and instincts cause the rest).
emotions are valuable signs that some current needs are unfilled. Some are
uncomfortable, but none are
“problems” are caused by conflicting and unmet current needs.
for respect is present in all solo and social situations and
relationships, and shapes all communications. And…
able adult is
responsible for identifying and filling her or his own primary needs.
Reflect: how do you
feel about these opinions?
I suggest that
resentment differs from dislike,
distrust. Do you agree? Often, these emotional responses bloom
together. Distinguishing between each of them can help identify and fill the
primary needs causing them. The learnable skill of
awareness can help you
make these distinctions if your
Self leads your
other subselves (personality).
Contemptsays “I don’t respect something about you.”
Frustrationoccurs when someone or something blocks an important
current need, and you feel unable to remove the block. Envy suggests
another person has something you feel you deserve and/r wish you had.
the need to feel safe.
Resentmentis an instinctive reaction to feeling disrespected by
a person or group. Common triggers for this reaction are feeling
used, ignored, betrayed, misjudged, lied to, interrupted, and/or being
treated "unfairly." Reality-check: think of the last person
you resented, and see if you felt any of these.
resentment says “I need to feel respected by (someone).”Notice the
important distinction between “You need to respect me more,” and “I
need to feel more respected by you.” A common reflex is to blame
the disrespectful one as being wrong or bad. For some people,
this can include blaming God, “Satan,” or other spiritual targets. Your true
Self knows “I am responsible for my self-respect, and for
asserting my needs and feelings to other people who disrespect me.” Notice your reaction to that
Believing “I deserve
(someone’s) respect” is an illusion. Like trust, love, and
friendship, respect can only be spontaneous, and must be earned. In
other words, you are responsible for earning others’ respect, and
telling others what you need in order to respect them.
think of someone you don’t resent: do you usually feel respected
enough by them? Have you requested or demanded their respect, or have you
Resentments range from
acceptable (no action needed) to significant (action required). I propose that excessive
resentment (and other relationship stressors) clearly…
lose-lose competitions in or between people and families, and…
line: if significant resentments stress you, the real
issues are you or someone (a) feeling too ignored and disrespected and (b) not knowing what to do about that,
and/or (c) not taking responsibility for changing that. If you agree with
aren’t acting on it, you're probably controlled by a
If you disagree with these ideas, what do you believe? Which of your
subselves is answering?
Surface and Secondary Problems
As you know,
a “problem” (unfilled needs) between two people can cause a web of
(secondary) problems with other people. For example, a child “forgets” her mother’s
request to pick up her toys from the living room floor. The Mom's primary
needs might be to feel...
a sense of order in her home,
teaching her child,
self-respect for asserting her needs, and...
impactful, vs. being a passive victim in her own home.
If she chastises her child
or gets angry, the girl can run to her father (or someone) and claim
her parent “is mean,” “yelled at me,” or “doesn’t like me.” If her dad
questions or criticizes his wife (“Aren’t you over-reacting a bit?”),
all three people are caught in a loyalty conflict and a persecutor-victim-rescuer
resent the child for ignoring her needs
(disrespecting her) and enlisting her father “against
her.” The child can resent her mom for “being too mean,” and the dad can
resent both of them for “not handling their own problems” or other things.
All this can happen in less than five minutes. The original set of unfilled
needs sparked behaviors that caused a mosaic of secondary needs among all
three people. Note that the girl and her father had their own sets of
primary needs which fed into these secondary problems.
How many times
a day or night does this kind of chain reaction happen among your
family members? When it happens, how well can the people involved
separate primary from secondary problems (needs), and stay focused on resolving the
former? In this example, resentment signaled that each person needed
to feel self-respect and
enough by the other two people.
if resentments hinder your personal serenity and/or your family harmony,
what can you do?
1) Ensure that your
true Self is
of subselves. Signs that this is true are (a)
your feeling mutually respectful despite significant conflicts; and (b) your accepting that you
may be causing half of the first two “resentment” (disrespect) problems below.
2) Reframeresentment as disrespect,
andadmit you have one or more of these three problems:
(feel disrespected by) one or more people, and/or…
someone resents (feels
disrespected by) you; or…
another person resents someone,
which causes problems
for you - like catching you in a stressful loyalty conflict or
Check to see that you have a genuine
mutual respect attitude toward yourself and the other person/s. If you don't, a false self controls you.
If the other person seems psychologically
these ideas to your situation.
Stay clear: converting
blame into compassion for a Grown Wounded Child doesn’t mean you
have to endure the person's behaviors! It means that
you can assert your boundaries
with them firmly and respectfully ("We're of equal dignity") rather
than disdainfully or critically
("I'm 1-up"). It also means you can choose to avoid pitying them, which
inherently sends provocative "I'm 1-up" verbal and non-verbal R-messages.
Does this look complex and difficult?
At first, it is! So was driving a car, or doing your job, when you
first began. You can do these
steps, over timeif your Self is
Here’s how these options might sound in
Your ex (sarcastic false
self): "Well, how are you enjoying the
mega-thousand dollar multimedia center you bought with my money?"
Your Self (calmly recalling
your perception that s/he's wounded, not rude, insensitive,
stupid, or bad as your Inner Critic declares): "You sound really
resentful." (an observation, not a criticism);
Ex: "Me resentful? Just
because you and your jerk lawyer walked off with 90% of our assets after you
dumped me, you think I shouldn't feel resentful?"
Your Self: "You
feel hurt and angry because you feel the whole process and the outcome was so unfair,
and you feel justified in resenting me and the process." (this is
empathic listening, not agreeing!);
Ex (false self confused by
your calm respectful response): "Well, uh... you finally got
"Pat, I can't change your perception or rewrite our history.
I'm truly sad you're burdened by so much anger and resentment."
distrusting your sincerity): "Yeah, sure you are.
And pigs can fly, too..."
Your Self: "It's hard for
you to trust that I mean that." (More genuinely-compassionate
Ex (again startled by your
reaction): "Of course it is, after all the crap
you've dumped on me."
Inner Critic’s reflex to counter-blame, and your
instinct to fight): "Pat, I need to know what you need from me so you'll
start to bring down your resentment over past things we can't change. Our
kids really need us to get past this together. I know you want what I want
for them..." (clear assertion, based on your common co-parenting
"Huh? You want to know what I need?" That's a first!"
Your Self: "I guess you
haven't heard that question from me very often, have you?" (genuinely
respectful affirmation, not defending, explaining, groveling, attacking,
"That's for sure..."
Your Self: "Well, I mean
it now. What can I do to help lower your resentment of me and our past, so
we can give the kids the best we've got in the present?"
(reasserting what you need, with a genuine mutual-respect attitude. You calmly expect
an attacking response now).
Ex: (angrily) "Well you
might start by admitting that you gave me the shaft! I know this is too much
to hope for in my lifetime, but you need to apologize to me."
(Expectation confirmed: your ex seems ruled by an angry
subself, and isn’t aware of this).
Your Self (calmly, with
steady eye contact): "You're saying you'd let go of some hurt and
resentment at me if you heard me acknowledge how hurt you've been by my
actions." (Note: this a
hearing check, not a question. It tests to see if you're hearing your ex mate clearly,
vs. agreeing with them! Hearing checks set the stage for possible
+ + +
How does this
example of using the seven communication
skills (with your true Self
holding a genuine mutual-respect attitude) compare to how you usually
think, feel, and respond to a resentful person? If some protective
subselves give you thoughts like "This is unreal. I could never talk like
that...",challenge them: why not?
In teaching the seven skills,
I’ve seen many average adults learn to speak their version of this
example. With commitment, patience, and willingness to learn from mistakes,
can learn to communicate like this. Then you can teach your kids how to do
Lesson-2 guidebookSatisfactionsoffers concepts and
effective tools, and shows you the way...
Lesson-4 article focuses on identifying and reducing excessive
resentments to improve relationships. The article begins with a status
check and five premises, and
proposes that resentment is a normal (not shameful or
"negative") response to feeling disrespected. The rest of the article outlines a set of preparation options, and
then key ideas for identifying and resolving the real reasons for
excessive resentments (disrespects) in three social