“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” – Nelson Mandela

Resentment is a powerful and often overlooked emotion that can silently erode our mental well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. As Nelson Mandela’s poignant quote illustrates, resentment is a bitter poison that we consume, hoping it will somehow harm those who have wronged us. In reality, it only harms ourselves. In this blog post, we will delve into the nature of resentment, examine its roots and consequences, and explore strategies for releasing its grip and cultivating forgiveness.

  • resentment anger psychology

Understanding Resentment

Resentment is a complex emotion that arises when we feel wronged, mistreated, or betrayed by others. It is a mixture of anger, frustration, and hurt that lingers long after the initial offence has passed[1]. Resentment can stem from various sources, such as unmet expectations, perceived injustices, or deep-seated wounds from the past.

At its core, resentment is a defence mechanism that aims to protect us from further harm. By holding onto our anger and bitterness, we create an emotional shield that keeps us from being vulnerable and potentially hurt again. However, this protective barrier comes at a great cost, as it prevents us from experiencing genuine connection, empathy, and forgiveness.

The Consequences of Harbouring Resentment

Harbouring resentment can have far-reaching consequences on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Here are some of the ways resentment can impact our lives:

Emotional Burden and Stress

Carrying the weight of resentment is an emotional burden that can lead to chronic stress and anxiety[2]. When we constantly ruminate on past hurts and injustices, we keep ourselves trapped in a cycle of negative emotions that can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Strained Relationships

Resentment can strain our relationships, both with the person who wronged us and with others in our lives. When we are consumed by bitterness, we may lash out at loved ones, push people away, or struggle to form deep, meaningful connections[3]. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Physical Health Consequences

The chronic stress associated with resentment can take a toll on our physical health. Studies have linked holding onto anger and resentment with increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and weakened immune function[4]. Releasing resentment can be a crucial step in promoting overall health and well-being.

Stunted Personal Growth

When we are fixated on past hurts and injustices, we may struggle to move forward and embrace new opportunities for growth and happiness. Resentment can keep us stuck in a victim mentality, preventing us from taking responsibility for our own lives and making positive changes[5].

Strategies for Releasing Resentment

While releasing resentment can be a challenging process, it is an essential step in reclaiming our emotional freedom and well-being. Here are some strategies for letting go of resentment and cultivating forgiveness:

1. Acknowledge and Validate Your Feelings

The first step in releasing resentment is to acknowledge and validate your feelings. Allow yourself to experience the anger, hurt, and frustration without judgement. Recognise that your emotions are valid and that it is normal to feel hurt when you have been wronged[6].

2. Practise Empathy and Understanding

Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider their perspective. While this does not excuse their hurtful actions, it can help you understand their motivations and humanise them. Practising empathy can be a powerful tool in fostering forgiveness and releasing resentment[7].

3. Focus on Self-Compassion and Healing

Instead of focusing on the person who wronged you, shift your attention to your own healing and self-compassion. Engage in activities that bring you joy, nurture your well-being, and promote self-forgiveness. Remember that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, not necessarily the other person[8].

4. Communicate and Set Boundaries

If the source of your resentment is an ongoing relationship, consider communicating your feelings and setting healthy boundaries. Express your hurt and needs clearly and assertively, without attacking or blaming. Setting boundaries can help protect you from further harm and create space for healing[9].

Seek Professional Support

If you find yourself struggling to release resentment on your own, consider seeking the guidance of a therapist or counsellor. A mental health professional can provide you with tools and strategies for processing your emotions, developing empathy, and cultivating forgiveness[10].

The Power of Forgiveness

Ultimately, releasing resentment is about embracing the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean condoning hurtful actions or forgetting the past; rather, it is a conscious decision to let go of the anger and bitterness that keep us trapped in a cycle of suffering[11].

By choosing forgiveness, we reclaim our emotional freedom and open ourselves up to the possibility of healing, growth, and renewed relationships. We recognise that holding onto resentment only harms ourselves, and that true peace comes from releasing the burden of bitterness.


Resentment is a poison that can slowly erode our mental well-being and relationships if left unchecked. By understanding its roots and consequences, and by embracing strategies for releasing its grip, we can cultivate a life of greater peace, empathy, and forgiveness.

Remember, the path to releasing resentment is a journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to let go. By taking small steps each day to acknowledge our feelings, practise empathy, and focus on our own healing, we can gradually release the burden of resentment and open ourselves up to the beauty and possibilities that life has to offer.


  1. VandenBos, G. R. (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. American Psychological Association.
  2. Worthington Jr, E. L., & Scherer, M. (2004). Forgiveness is an emotion-focused coping strategy that can reduce health risks and promote health resilience: Theory, review, and hypotheses. Psychology & Health, 19(3), 385-405.
  3. Klatt, J., & Enright, R. (2009). Investigating the place of forgiveness within the Positive Youth Development paradigm. Journal of Moral Education, 38(1), 35-52.
  4. Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2009). The association of anger and hostility with future coronary heart disease: A meta-analytic review of prospective evidence. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 53(11), 936-946.
  5. Luskin, F. (2007). The choice to forgive. Handbook of Emotion Regulation, 247-265.
  6. Enright, R. D., & Fitzgibbons, R. P. (2015). Forgiveness therapy: An empirical guide for resolving anger and restoring hope. American Psychological Association.
  7. Fincham, F. D., & Beach, S. R. (2002). Forgiveness in marriage: Implications for psychological aggression and constructive communication. Personal Relationships, 9(3), 239-251.
  8. Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 1-12.
  9. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7), e1000316.
  10. Wade, N. G., Hoyt, W. T., Kidwell, J. E., & Worthington Jr, E. L. (2014). Efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions to promote forgiveness: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(1), 154.
  11. Enright, R. D., Freedman, S., & Rique, J. (1998). The psychology of interpersonal forgiveness. Exploring Forgiveness, 46-62.