Resentment is a Common Human Emotion

Resentment is an all too common human emotion. An addict is often full of this type of negativity as a result of perceived injustices against them. They will frequently use this as an excuse for their dangerous behavior. Once they become sober they will continue to have to deal with this type of emotion. This can be risky because too much resentment will lead to relapse, or at the very least take much of the enjoyment out of recovery. It is therefore vital that they develop tools for dealing with this type of negativity.

Resentment Defined

Resentment is a type of negative emotion that people experience when they feel they have been wronged in some way. This feeling of being harmed may be in response to actual events or it may be purely imagined. In many instances such feelings are irrational, but the individual will not be able to see this.

Resentment is said to be closely related to two other emotions; hatred and contempt. It is suggested that the individual tends to experience:

* Contempt when they feel wronged by somebody whom they view as inferior
* Anger when wronged by an equal
* Resentment if perceived harm is due to the actions of a superior

Common Reasons for Resentment

The most common reasons for resentment include:

* Attempts by others to control the life of the individual
* Failure of other people to react in a predicted way
* If people act as if they are superior to the individual
* Other people getting in the way of the individual’s attempts to satisfy their own needs
* People who say one thing but do another – hypocrites
* Superiors who abuse their power
* When other people say or do something that negatively impacts the individual’s self-esteem
* When other people lie
* When people behave in any way that could be considered unjust

In some instances these feelings of resentment will be based on real injustices. In a lot of cases they will have originated almost purely in the mind of the individual who is feeling resentful.


Typical Causes of Resentment in Recovery

The reasons why people in recovery will find themselves harboring resentment are most commonly because:

* Friends and family do not seem to give credit for the effort they are putting into their recovery.
* Friends and family continue to distrust them.
* Other people are trying to interfere too much in their life
* Resentment because life in recovery is more challenging than they expected. The individual may blame therapists, friends in recovery, or family members for this.
* Other people who seem to be doing better in recovery. The individual can view such success as reflecting badly on their own efforts in sobriety.
* The people in their lives do not behave in a manner that they expect
* People who seem to be getting in the way of the individual’s attempts at building a life away from addiction

Early recovery is described as an emotional rollercoaster and people tend to experience plenty of negative emotions during this time. It is vital that any negativity is not allowed to derail the recovery process – resentment is one emotion that is most likely to do this.

Dangers of Resentment in Recovery

Resentment is a particular dangerous emotion for people in recovery to experience because:

* By focusing on other people the individual ignores their own behavior. The only person that the individual in recovery can fix is themselves. The only one they hurt by feeling resentful is themselves. This negative emotion provides no useful purpose and only gets in the way of recovery.
* Resentment is a common relapse trigger. Such negativity makes like in recovery uncomfortable, and it can also be used as an excuse to return to alcohol or drugs. Those who are dealing with dry drunk syndrome will usually be experiencing a lot of resentment.
* In order to build a successful life in recovery the individual needs to let go of their resentments. If they are unable to do this then it will be almost impossible for them to find peace away from alcohol and drugs.
* Holding resentments has been described as similar to carrying a great weight around all the time. By letting go of this negative emotion the individual is able to lighten their load and life becomes a lot easier. It frees up energy that they can now put to more productive use.
* Resentment is one of the most common reasons why people abuse substances in the first place. In recovery they need to discover new ways of dealing with the world.
* One of the joys of recovery is rebuilding relationships. It is not possible for people to rebuild these relationships successfully if they still hold a lot of resentment.
* Those individuals who follow a spiritual program in recovery will not be able to progress while they continue to hold on to resentments.

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How to Deal with Resentment

Just because people have given up alcohol or drugs it does not mean that they will instantly become saints. They will still have to deal with negative emotions, and this is likely to continue throughout their sobriety. The goal is not to completely eradicate emotions like resentment but to learn how to deal with them more effectively. This can be achieved by:

* Feed positive emotions. There is the famous Cherokee parable about an old woman who everyone in the tribe loved. Her grandson wanted to know how she managed to be such a good person. She explained that she had two wolves inside her; one was good and one was evil. The reason why she was so well liked was that she put her focus on feeding the good wolf. The same is true in recovery. People can reduce their resentments by increasing their positive emotions.
* Those individuals who belong to a 12 Step Program will be expected to complete a personal inventory as part of step 4. They will then share this inventory with another person. This can be therapeutic and a great way to let go of resentments.
* Mindfulness meditation is a technique that allows people to become more objective about their thoughts and feelings. As they develop this practice they find it easier to deal with negative motions such as resentment.
* Journaling can work well for tackling negative emotions. When people write things down on paper it is easier to be more objective. A gratitude journal is a good way to focus on the positive things in life.
* Membership of a fellowship can make it easier for people to handle resentments and other negative emotions. They will be able to talk about their feelings with other people who have dealt with similar things. It is easier to talk about negative emotions in a support group because nobody is there to judge.
* Developing a spiritual life in recovery should make it easier to cope with this type of negativity. The individual learns that they can only change themselves, and that they are not helping anyone by holding grudges. They also come to realize that forgiveness is a key ingredient of spiritual growth.
* A recent REM song declared that, living well is the best revenge. Seeking vengeance is not something that that is recommended in recovery, but this song does still carry a positive message. It suggests that people should let go of previous resentments and just concentrate on living the best life they can. There is no need to worry about trying to punish other people for the wrongs of the past. That can only ever end badly.
* Sometimes it can be helpful to confront the person who is the source of resentment. This is only appropriate if the grievance is a legitimate one that can be remedied. It is vital to be tactful in such confrontations. Just going on the offensive will mean that the other person feels under attack, and they will act accordingly.
* If the individual finds that their resentment is leading to thoughts of once again using alcohol or drugs then they need to take immediate action. Their recovery is in danger. If they belong to a 12 step group they can [speak to their sponsor] or go to a meeting and share about their feelings. It might also be appropriate to speak to a trusted friend or make an appointment to see a therapist.