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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Understanding Resentment

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 21st 2012


"He is 40 years old. In every way, the indicators were that he would have a personally and professionally successful life. However, his Bipolar Disorder, left untreated from adolescence until the present time, left him feeling unfulfilled in every aspect of life. What he felt as a result of his failure was a deep seated resentment of his parents, particularly his father. Every time he speaks to them and sees them, something that has become increasingly infrequent in recent years, he harangues them with all the injustices they committed against him. Still, he refuses medication for his Bipolar Disorder despite the fact that he admits he has. He also refuses any type of psychotherapy. It seems there is no limit to the blame he puts on his parents and the world for not treating allowing him to be the success he should be."

This is a young man who is wasting his life being resentfulUnderstanding Resentment

According to the Oxford American Dictionary, resentment is defined as indignation or anger about having been treated unfairly. It's a complicated emotion because it involves feeling humiliated, shamed and, ultimately, wanting revenge. In wanting revenge, the other must suffer a much worse fate than was caused to happen. By its very nature, the reasons for feeling resentful cannot be forgiven. In intimate, family relationships, love among people is broken. Feeling such a negative emotion often stems from feeling unseen and misunderstood by the other. It does not matter how trivial or serious the injustice might be. To the one who feels being treated unfairly, it's all the same, whether something slight or major.

Resentment is corrosive

However, resentment is corrosive because it involves thinking obsessively about the insults and injustices committed against the self. Because the nature of life is such that there is plenty of injustice going around for all of us, there is no end to the amount of anger we can perpetrate against ourselves. In other words, in the end, the feelings of resentment become turned against the self because maintaining such a high level of negative emotion takes a toll on physical and mental health. It seems that the resentful person cannot let go of this negative emotion and move on with life. There is a constant reliving of the injustice that was committed. This reliving pops into consciousness at any time and for no reason. Then are the feelings of anger and the fantasies of revenge which are as focused and draining as are the memories of the injustice.

Under the worst of circumstances, resentment can turn into full blown hatred and even fanaticism when it comes to groups of people resenting other groups. It was fanatic hatred that gave rise to the Nazi party in World War II. It's simmering resentment that gives rise to religious and racial hatred.

To sum this up, the resentful person is convinced that the only role they can play is that of the victim.

If you are one of those who is afflicted with this sense of always being mistreated then it's important to get therapy in order to change. It can be done but it's hard to get rid of resentment without the help of others because it becomes a way of thinking and feeling that is almost addictive in nature. However, it can be changed and should be in order to improve one's quality life.

Are you resentful or do you know someone who is?

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Understanding resentment - Rory brown - May 25th 2012

Pride is the seed of resentment. Often our pride will not allow us to over come an injustice we have experienced. This fixation with inequality eventually develops into obsession. However, although it is a bitter feeling and one which brings shame, I do believe it is natural in modern day society. Self improvement/accoplishment and equality are huge aspects within our society. However, self improvement and accomplishment often walk hand in hand with pride. This imbalance has caused me to isolate myself from institution and made it unbearable for me to try integrate myself again. I feel very lost now, as if I've been cut of. What should I do?

Resentment is self defeating - posh - May 22nd 2012

Self loathing




This is precisely how emotions go in a cycle. Circular and self defeating.

To others my life would seem almost perfect and having the physical comforts that few get ,  overshadowingthe psychological pain that goes unnoticed and is diffcult to explain. The hurt over being misunderstood just multiplies.And i am lonelier than ever.

The insight that this is every bit the life is going to offer, and i need to appreciate today and expect the best form tommorow but at times i cant get over the past. The past has now blurred and evolved into a hazy memory of something in between the actual and the imagined.I

I feel eaten from inside. something sapping away my mental sanity and fair judgement. At the same time I know and reallise how self defeating resentent and sense of failure can be, pushing me into further self islolation and therefore cannot stop from making an effort everday.The insight annot help alone, its beyond me now to do this alone and i am actively seeking help.




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