Understanding and Reducing Anger and Resentment
Many people seem to be carrying their anger and resentment wherever they go. Carrying these heavy, negative emotions weigh you down and demand considerable attention and energy. At times, this negative feeling can impact more than just ‘you’ – it can also impact your actions toward your career, your family, your friends, and/ or your romantic relationship.
Is it Wrong to Feel Angry?
The answer is no. Anger is a normal, natural emotion. In many situations, it’s a healthy and appropriate emotional reaction. Anger is an emotional response to a real or imagined “wrong” or injustice, but sometimes people get angry simply because things took a different course than they feel they should have. Anger can be destructive, as we can experience it as a push against present-moment reality. In a sense, we experience thoughts representing a refusal to accept what is.
Most often, anger is a secondary emotion. It can take shape instantly, and sometimes unconsciously, in response to feelings of being hurt, fear, and/or feelings of inadequacy. When most people experience these primary emotions, they feel vulnerable, and might withdraw, experiencing their feelings internally. This way, it is easy for most to avoid expressing these more difficult emotions, as they can make us feel ‘out of control’. For many people, this revealing of vulnerability creates so much distress that the underlying emotions are automatically transformed into anger, a feeling people are more comfortable with expressing externally/ outwardly. Expressing anger outwardly is often associated with a feeling of being ‘in control’, by projecting focusing on projecting feelings onto others, rather than processing the primary emotion.
Resentment is closely related to anger. Resentments are negative feelings, basically ill will, toward someone or something as a result of a past experience. Resentment is the re-experiencing of past injustices. Some people hold resentments for many years, and choose to not let go of them. The trigger for resentment has usually left, while we still may hold onto the emotion connected to it. It is important to note that the stronger the resentment is, the more time you spend thinking about it, caught up in the anger connected to it.
Ultimately, the person holding the resentment is the one who suffers most. If you allow yourself to become angry or resentful whenever situations do not end up how you want or expect them to, then you are effectively giving control of your feelings to others.
Here are some tips on how to address feelings of anger and resentment in more healthy and helpful ways:
1. Practice identifying and allowing yourself to feel the primary emotions underneath the anger.
2. Be conscious and present with your anger and resentment. Notice the thoughts, push and pull of different feelings and urges, and/or physical sensations.
3. Identify how you may have contributed to the situation(s) that you are angry or resentful about. Look inward and identify an alternative perspective of the situation which makes you feel anger.
4. Try an alternative method of expressing anger and resentment. Share these feelings with supportive individuals whom you trust. Journal or write about them. Choose a physical outlet, such as going to the gym, walking/ running, going to yoga, etc.
5. Learn and practice relaxation and self-calming techniques. Examples include deep breaths, mindfulness, meditation, and/or detaching from social media.
6. Although challenging, it can be helpful to create an opposite shift in urge and action. Try treating those you feel anger and resentment toward with kindness and compassion. This shift can create a circular effect in that it can also influence their actions in a positive way toward you.
7. Do not give into acting as an avenue for others’ anger and resentment. Try not to get stuck in the toxicity of interactions filled with negative emotions. Disengage from negative, unhelpful thoughts and actions.
8. Remind yourself that you cannot change the past. Acting in anger and resentment will not change or undo what has upset you. Accepting this will enable you to be more present and less stuck in the past.