Friday, April 27, 2012

Entitlement - Resentment (Part 4 of 5)

Stress gets a bad press in America.  Blame for stress-related health problems is everywhere: time pressures, insecure jobs, congested commutes, information overload, fragmented social schedules, complex financial worries, and so on.  It's certainly a tough world out there.  However much of what is labeled "stress" is actually resentment for not getting what we believe we are entitled to.

Resentment enhances stress by breaking down concentration and draining off energy that would otherwise serve the task at hand.  The report you need to write will take longer and have more errors if you feel that it should have been assigned to someone else.  It might have been an interesting assignment, if you didn't regard the quotas placed on you as unfair. You might enjoy driving your kids to the soccer game, if you didn't mummer about your spouse expecting you to do it.  Traffic congestion would be easier to bear if you enjoyed the music or audio book you're hearing.

I have borrowed a little test to see if your stress is inflated by resentment. It actually is very simple; the problem of course comes in requiring you to be honest with yourself. 

Write down the five main things that cause stress in your life.  
On a scale of 1-10, rate your average ability to cope with each item on your stress list.

Now take a moment to imagine that all traces of resentment have been removed from your stressors - there is no unfairness or injustice involved.  Everyone pulls his or her weight; all live up to their responsibilities. You have all the help, understanding, appreciation, consideration, praise, and reward you deem appropriate.

Now reevaluate your capacity to cope with the stressors you listed.  On a scale of 1-10, rate your average capacity to cope with each item on your resentment-free stress list.

Once resentment is removed from the mix, most people notice a significant increase in their capacity to cope with their stressors. It is Resentment that increases stress by lowering your capacity to cope with it.  Chains of resentment, not stress, overwhelm and ultimately dispirit you.  

Living a life of resentment is the complete opposite of living a life of gratitude.  It’s the persistent feeling that you're being treated unfairly - not getting the respect, appreciation, affection, help, apology, consideration, praise, or reward you believe you deserve.  It keeps you locked in a devalued state, where it is extremely difficult to improve or appreciate or to connect positively with people in general. It carries fantasies of retribution, which stimulate small doses of adrenalin and cortisol for temporary increase in energy and confidence.

Resentment never goes away on its own, simply because it doesn't produce enough adrenalin for the amphetamine/crash effect of stronger forms of anger.  While exhaustion limits the duration of rage, you can stay resentful for years on end. Without the exhaustion factor, the retaliatory fantasies of resentment persist long enough to become habituated.  Thus resentment is more of a mood than an emotional state, and the behaviors it motivates are more habit than choice, with disastrous effects on you, your family, friends and community.

The habitual nature of resentment means that it is never specific to one behavior - nobody resents just one thing - and that its content is rarely forgotten. Instead, each new incident of perceived unfairness automatically links onto previous ones, eventually forging a heavy chain.  Eventually it projects itself into the future.  That's when you hear things like, "It's going all right now, but she'll find some way to screw up the weekend," or, "It's fine at the moment, but the ‘real him' will come out, just wait."

The tremendous effort required to drag the chain of resentment through life makes us makes us look for things to resent.  This creates frequent sour moods and an atmosphere wherein no offense is too trivial or too unrealistic to be added as yet another link on the chain.  We'll find things to resent in the news, traffic patterns, a dearth of parking places, the temperature of drinking water, and in other people's tastes, thoughts, opinions, mannerisms, and feelings.  All this because you jumped on the entitlement bandwagon.

A friend of mine who helps counsel those in an anger management class has a colorful way of describing the effects of resentment. He said that dragging the chain of resentment through life is like carrying around a bag of horse manure. (Okay, he didn’t say "manure.")  You want to smear the bag of horse manure in the face of the person you resent. So you carry it around, waiting for the opportunity, and carry it around, and carry it around, and carry it around.                  
And who stinks?
Previous Post Entitlement The Enemy Within (Part 1 of 5) 

Just a quick note to mark that this is the 100th post of this blog and it seems that with each one I find two more topics that I feel compelled to address.  So it is safe to assume that there is not a lack of topics that need examination.  Because at the very genesis of this blog, the intent was to help those who call themselves Christians examine themselves to see if they truly are.

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