A question was posted on Quora.com which caught my attention. The question addressed the emotion of resentment and since my last post also discussed resentment, addressing this question gave me an opportunity to expand on my last post.
The actual question was:
How do I get rid of the feeling of resentment towards a friend? Throughout my whole life, I’ve been everyone’s therapist/babysitter/agony aunt, but no one has been there for me, so it makes me feel angry and alone.
What I liked about the question was that it touched upon many of the issues I discussed in my last post.
The short, and inadequate, answer to the question is that you don’t “get rid of the feeling”. Rather, you master it as a tool to improve your life and your relationships.
The more involved answer is……
The questioner clearly addresses the emotions of resentment, anger and “being alone” (more accurately, the feelings here might be lonely or abandoned).
Recall that all emotions convey a message to you about how you perceive what is going on between you and those with whom you are interacting.
The Emotions as Tools Model advises that once you recognize the emotional reaction of resentment, you need to determine whether the perception which led to the emotional reaction is accurate or not and then choose how you want to respond to what is going on.
The “head’s-up” here is that you should not take action on your emotional reaction. Rather, you need to assess the situation so that you can choose a response.
As I discussed in my last post, the message of the emotion of resentment is that you perceive the other person as hurting or wronging you by utilizing some advantage that they have over you.
So, in the above question, this person is saying she resents her “friends” who have relied on her to be their therapist/babysitter/agony aunt, but (have) not been there for (her).
The feeling of resentment appears to be elicited by the perception that she has been wronged by her friends who have taken advantage of (abused) that friendship in that they have not reciprocated and supported her when she needed it.
This reflects the message of resentment.
She believes that she provided these services to her friends because (emphasis added) they were friends and expected that they, again because of the friendship, would be there for her.
Aside: Is this a reasonable expectation? Yes.
The resentment reflects her perception that they used (or took advantage of) her based on the value of their friendship with her.
The message of anger is that she perceives a threat that she believes she can eliminate if she throws enough force at it. Anger prepares her for battle.
Again, an aside… I’m guessing here but her question about how to get rid of the emotion she is experiencing suggests to me that she does not want to take the action she is thinking about taking toward her “friends”. This could include telling them off, ending the friendship, etc.
In her case, the questioner seems to be saying that her friends are a “threat” to her beliefs about friendship and reciprocity. It could also be that she perceives a threat to her feelings of endearment. She may care deeply about her friends and her view of them as virtuous individuals and this “view” is now being challenged by their actions. While she was always available to them when they needed her, they abandoned her when she needed them.
That she feels “alone” is consistent with and related to her feeling of anger in that it expresses her perception that her friends (as I noted above) have “abandoned” her when she needed them.
Please note that I am not saying that her perceptions are correct. They may be. Mastering an emotion involves accepting the emotions as “valid” and then assessing the situation to confirm, or deny, one’s initial perception.
In my last post, I provided a list of several questions that should be asked in order to determine the validity of the perceptions which elicit the emotion of resentment.
There are three possibilities here:
- Her friends actually did “wrong” her and knew what they were doing.
- Her friends actually did “wrong” her but it was a misunderstanding.
- Her friends did not “wrong” her. She misinterpreted what they did.
The point is that she needs to determine what actually happened and whether her friends actually did “wrong” (and abandon) her.
And, also, whether she is, indeed, alone. Her friends may or may not be aware that she needs them for help, support, friendship, etc.
These are the questions:
- What is actually happening in your situation?
- What did the other person actually do?
- To what extent was I wronged, slighted, insulted or denied my “fair share”?
- To what extent did the other person take advantage of me? If they took advantage of me, what was involved (position, power, gender, our friendship)?
- Was I actually “wronged” or is there some other explanation for what they did including a possible misunderstanding (by you or the other person), poor communication skills, inadequate social skills, etc.
Once these questions are addressed, it is possible for the questioner to choose how she wants to respond to her friends.
If she misunderstood her friend’s actions or intent, she can admit this, apologize, renew her feelings toward her friends and move on.
It is, however, important to note that she needs to be specific when she talks to her friends.
In other words, while she could say that her friends “were not there for me”, it is far better for her to say specifically that her friends did not step up to baby sit for me, were not there when I needed to talk to someone, etc.. Being specific helps to avoid any misunderstandings and enables her friends to directly address her concerns.
She has options:
- She can express her disappointment regarding her friend’s (specific behavior)
- She can point out that she is hurt and does not understand the reason her friends did not (specific behavior)
- She can ask her friends what was their reason for not (specific behavior)
To summarize, the questioner clearly experienced and acknowledged the emotions of resentment, anger and “being alone”. Her question implies that she did not particularly like either the feelings or the actions the feeling motivated her to take and decided she wanted to “get rid of” the emotion.
My response, from an emotions as tools perspective, suggested that she master the emotion, which involves acknowledging what you feel, taking a physical and psychological step back from the situation, assessing her initial perception and choosing an adaptive response.