Anger and Resentment
Dr. Lissa Rankin, holistic physician and former ob/gyn doctor, in a recent article, makes a clear distinction between anger and resentment. I thought it might be helpful to discuss this in this space.
Anger is an emotion which is necessary to protect our boundaries positively, while resentment results when anger is suppressed. When not expressed in the moment, it can linger, lead to passive aggressive behavior, and is damaging to relationships.
Political correctness and new age philosophers lead us to believe that anger should be dampened and avoided in order to avoid the negative aspects of conflict. In reasonable, emotionally healthy people, anger is protective. In a healthy response, we become angry when someone crosses our boundaries, and threatens our safety. In this way, it helps us define protective limits and sends a clear message to others who may threaten us.
Resentment, on the other hand, is a much less healthy emotion, stemming from us violating our own boundaries. By not respecting our boundaries, examples include saying “yes” when we really mean “no”, or letting others walk all over us time and time again because we don’t want to be “mean”, offensive or we have not clearly defined and set our limits for others. Letting someone violate our boundaries long enough and we become resentful of these intrusions, and what might have been useful anger, becomes much more damaging resentment. We are disappointed that someone cannot read our minds to know the behavior we expect in a certain situation. This is not fair to the who are objects of our resentment.
While anger can act to bolster our defenses and our individuality, resentment may eat away at us, leading to brooding, seething, frankly ugly behavior, rendering us unpleasant to be around.
Anger, however, can be clean, sharp, well defined and clearly directed when a definitively set boundary is violated, whether intentionally or accidentally. It is honest, in the moment, and then over with, allowing us to move on and then clearly define our relationship. with the possibly offending party.
So, to preserve your health, embrace anger as an honest defense of your boundaries, so that when someone crosses those boundaries, you can let them know immediately, and do so without resorting to violence. To bottle up, avoid conflict and surpress honest anger will lead to resentment which, when unattended can be very damaging to your health, relationships and well being. When appropriate, let yourself feel your anger, and then moe on!
Peace and love,
Dr. John Monaco