Resentment

Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about resentment. This is an emotion that I frequently hear people talking about feeling when they have a chronic illness. I’m not surprised that this is something we are feeling, but I am surprised by some of the ways that other people are talking about resentment. This is one of those big and complex emotions that is difficult to sort out. I feel that since many of us are feeling this that it is worth considering what this emotion is all about.

Let’s start at the beginning. What is resentment? Your Dictionary defines it as:

to feel hurt or offended by something or someone.

Your Dictionary

But, I think the example that Your Dictionary gives is more telling then the definition itself.

An example of resent is the feeling an older brother feels about the amount of attention paid to a younger sibling.

Your Dictionary

Alright, I think the first point that I need to make is that I believe that resentment is a form of envy rather then a form of anger. This is really an important distinction when trying to understand this feeling and what is driving it. Look at the example given. The younger brother didn’t do anything to the older brother. It is actually the action of their parents that is at issue here, but the feelings are directed towards the younger brother. That’s how envy works and it is this misdirection that often makes these feelings of envy confusing. And I wouldn’t say that the older brother is angry at the younger brother in this example.

There is often a sense of having been mistreated when it comes to the feeling of resentment. Again, looking back at the example here. I wouldn’t describe the older brother as feeling angry towards the younger brother, but rather as feeling envy for what he has. I think that the anger comes from the older brother feeling that he has lost something that he can no longer get back. He is angry about having lost some of the attention that he used to get from his parents because it is now being given to his brother. The younger brother did, in a sense, take something from the older brother, but I wouldn’t say that there was a wrong here.

Many times people associate feelings of envy and thus resentment with a wrong that has been committed, but if we are being honest with ourselves that’s not the case. Or the feeling has been mislabeled. Envy is not about a wrong that has been committed. Feelings of anger are provoked when there is a wrong involved. Those feelings are different. This is one of my personal issues with many emotion wheel diagrams that are out there. They depict envy as being underneath the category of anger and I just don’t feel that it belongs there. I believe that envy is its own category including resentment and jealousy.

Envy is about seeing something another person has and wanting it for ourselves, but for whatever reason are not able to obtain it. Those of us with chronic illnesses are often in a position of looking around at other people and wishing that we had their good health, their ability to work, their good genes etc. Envy makes sense when you are struggling and you look around you at those who are not. If there is a wrong that drives resentment it is a wrongness in the universe, rather then a wrong that people committed against us. Because it is wrong that the universe is such that there are those who are forever sick. But those are not generally wrongs that have been committed by people. No person gave me my illness. Not even my parents who gave me the genes that give EDS. It is not a choice that they made. They rolled some dice and I’m the result.

So, perhaps resentment is where envy and anger over lap? It is that emotional place of feeling envy for what another person has and also feeling angry in context of your lacking it. But I think that it is important that there is really two different emotions happening here and that they have two different sources. The envy is from seeing that others have things that we don’t have. But the anger comes from not having those things. The anger is directed at our illness not at the other person. It is the envy that is directed at the other person. By having both these feelings wrapped up together it can be easy to cloud the issue and believe that they are some how the cause of the anger as well.

I find the topic of resentment interesting, because I have spoken to many individuals that believe that resentment is anger driven and that there is always a wrong involved. And in truth, this is one of the biggest challenges for me when I am feeling big feelings. How are we supposed to label our feelings when the language we are using to label these feelings is completely inadequate to describe the feeling? What is the actual difference between feeling content and feeling peaceful? Or what about the difference between feeling embarrassed and ashamed? I’m not claiming that I have any great insight into what resentment is or isn’t, just wanted to put some thoughts out there and maybe hear what others think.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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