Resentment – the #1 happiness killer

I was working with a client recently, let’s call him John, who was angry and resentful that a business partner stole some business, working with one of John’s clients.  Naturally they had talked about the offer together, but the partner had put in, and won, a rival bid.

It’s easy to imagine John’s frustration, at the loss of face as well as business . Yet this is something that happens all the time, out in the real world. It’s just part of doing business. When John chose to take it personally, it’s not surprising he became angry and resentful. He reported that his mood adversely affected the morale and work of the whole team all that day.

Resentment, anger, frustration, irritation and impatience all arise from judgement. When people don’t act the way we want, we have an impulse to judge, try to control the situation and often retaliate.

But what if it was just business? What if it didn’t reflect on John at all? What if it was just other business people doing what they do, to make a living? If John believed this, he would be released from his anger and could take productive steps to ensure it didn’t happen again. No blame game.

When we judge people, two dynamics are at play:

1. We want others to behave in a certain way, because of how we think we will feel.

So, we’re putting them in charge of our happiness. Luckily other people don’t control our emotions. We do. In the example above, John could be angry or just accept and move on, depending on his thoughts – what he made it mean that he lost the business.

2. We don’t approve in others what we don’t approve in ourselves.

It’s good information for us, when we can see this. Resentment is always self-resentment. Subtly we blame ourselves for the outcome internally, then blame others externally because that’s more comfortable than taking full responsibility. We are irritated with ourselves. Impatient with ourselves. Disappointed in ourselves.

Communication and Rejection

When others don’t do what we want, have we contributed to the problem?

Has our communication been unclear?

If so, why?

Were we avoiding something?

People Pleasing

People-pleasing is basically lying to avoid another’s disapproval and ultimately rejection.

It’s often part of our communication problems.

For example:

  • Telling people you like something, or someone, when you don’t
  • Telling people you’ll take on a commitment, when it really doesn’t work for you
  • Agreeing that others can have the outcome they want, when you don’t really agree
  • Completing tasks that others don’t get done, rather than telling them to finish them

Fear of rejection is just fear. When you are afraid of rejection, you will not set boundaries. You won’t dare say No. And that makes you really mad, huh? It cultivates resentment, anger and a feeling of helplessness.

Turning control of your happiness over to others doesn’t feel good. Everything becomes a bit riskier. You lose your sense of security.

Then you resent them for that, too.

Taking Back Control

On the other hand, when you acknowledge that your thoughts give rise to your feelings, you take back the power to support yourself. You can choose to think anything you like about a situation, and therefore you can choose not be crushed by the words and actions of others.

Think of the wisest person you know, and ask yourself if they do this. I use the Dalai Lama as a representation of the unflappable. He cares deeply, but doesn’t take things personally. He is the master of his own emotions, by the way he thinks about difficulties. He doesn’t make China his enemy.

Universal wisdom or natural law suggests that you, as an adult, can look after yourself by managing your thoughts, beliefs, desires and needs. We’re designed, but not taught, to do this. It yields the inner strength you’re missing.

If you have this gap in your education, as I did, the good news is it’s quite easy to learn now.

I highly recommend it for reducing social friction and negative emotion in your life.

Save your blood pressure for another day.