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Beyond the Conjunction

Resentment/Empathy

 

BLERGH resentment. I struggle with resentment A LOT these days. The last few years have felt like an immense struggle against certain large forces in my life and, if I’m being honest, I haven’t really dealt with them all that well.

It was nice to talk through resentment a little, if anything so that I can better identify it when it comes up in my own life and so I can start to be better about dealing with it in a healthy way. Unless drinking big glasses of wine every night counts as healthy?

It’s Cersei-approved!

I also enjoyed Diane’s brilliant suggestion of us talking about resentment and how it relates to empathy. I hadn’t considered the two of them together before, and I thought it brought out some rich insights into both emotions. For one, I tend to think empathy is always good whereas resentment is always bad.

But of course, if I have learned anything this season, it’s that no emotion is bad. It can become bad over time if not understood and approached in a healthy way, but no emotion is bad in and of itself.

i think that also means no emotion is necessarily good in and of itself.

We mentioned Paul Bloom, and his book Against Empathy is worth a mention here. His title is appropriately provocative, I think. He is arguing against a very particular kind of empathy — a pretty narrow definition, actually — but I think it’s helpful as we try to grapple with the realities of unfairness, injustice, and how we best go about fixing them.

Image from Amazon.com. Purchase  here  or at a fine independent bookstore near you!

Image from Amazon.com. Purchase here or at a fine independent bookstore near you!

I think the philosophical and psychological work done with both resentment and empathy show that emotions are not purely good or purely bad. They are tools. They help us understand what we are experiencing or what we have experienced, and they can help us see the world and people better.

Just as I agree with Bloom that we need to be cautious about relying too much on the narrow kind of empathy he defines, I think that we have an obligation to deal with our resentment, both for our own well-being and for the well-being of our relationships. At the risk of being too self-helpy (though I do love me some personal growth self-help lit!), I found this article from PsychologyToday.com to be a helpful resource. Dan Mager lays out eight strategies for working through resentment. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  1. Practice identifying the emotions underlying the resentment — is it fear? anger?

  2. Practice being present with the anger and resentment, with being ok with having those feelings.

  3. Identify ways you may have contributed to the situation. (Self-awareness and balance!)

  4. Treat those who mistreated you (aka, the causes of your resentment) with kindness and compassion. Think about them charitably and act compassionately towards them.

  5. Accept your current circumstances and commit to making the best out of what you have.

And if after those you need a burst of positively-valenced emotion to get you out of the hole of resentment, just take a moment to watch this clip of Keanu Reeves answering an impossible philosophical question in away that makes the whole world go awwwwww.

HE’S THE BEST. Thinking we should rebrand our podcast to now be All Things Keanu — thoughts??

Thanks so much for listening (to our talk about resentment and to our love fest for Keanu). Leave a comment if you have any helpful ways to move through resentment to a healthy acceptance of our circumstances and a charitable view of the people in our lives. Or feel free to tell us we have empathy all wrong! Either way we’d love to hear from you.

See you next week with our Interlude capping off our season on Emotions. What will we discuss next?! You’ll have to tune in to find out! (Gotta end on a GoT cliffhanger, ya know? ‘Tis the season.)

xoxo, Jana

 
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