Resentment, The Silent Killer


From my research and from my many years of clinical experience, I define resentment as a chronic residual of a once fierce anger, often hidden in the unconscious and triggered in the present.

Anger like acute stress, causes the adrenal and thyroid glands to secrete hormones that over time, if not relieved, will seriously damage organs, increase our risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, and many other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and allergies. It will taint one’s beliefs, behaviors, and assessments in the world, and in personal relationships. Resentments, even unacknowledged ones, will do the same.

Stephen Porges is famous for his Polyvagal theory which says that anger, resentments, and unresolved traumas affect our gut, which affects our bodies, our minds, and thus the quality of our lives.

My clients show up with anger and buried resentments, and they report all kinds of health problems. Deep, traumatic, unresolved issues will plague people’s lives long after the experience. I can attest to that.

I allowed a horrific situation to torment me for over three years. It was a crippling deep pain that lived within me haunting my sleep, my conversations, and my thinking. Someone misrepresented me and assumed that it was I who hurt a friend of hers. It was absolutely the opposite, however. Because of “cognitive dissonance,” which means it didn’t fit with her belief about this friend, she blamed me for what were her friend’s ugly, outrageous lies. This was an injustice that ripped at my insides. I let her opinion of me matter and gave away my personal power.

So what happened? My health suffered. I had serious stomach problems, my heart was broken both metaphorically and physically (I had a heart attack), my hair started falling out, and my list went on. Today, I have successfully let go of ever convincing this person of her wrong judgment.

I am fine. I know – and so do the people who know me – that I am incapable of the things her friend described as my doing. And, now I sleep, and breathe, and love, without that painful scourge of injustice ruining my daily life.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has changed my life as well as the lives of my clients. In 1991, I trained with Francine Shapiro, the research scientist who developed the concept of alternating bilateral stimulation as a way to eliminate the physiological and emotional reaction to trauma. Years of research validate its efficacy in innumerable situations. Today, I integrate an adaptation of that process into my work; and, I am impressed with its ability to heal in the core of the pain, anger, resentment, trauma, distortions of beliefs, and more.

There are couples where an infidelity happened ten years or even decades before, and the residual resentment that went underground came up every time someone was unhappy about something in the present. The “perpetrator” was periodically reminded of his/her “sin” and thrown back into shame, guilt or anger. The “healing” had never been complete.

Talking about the pain of it, the shame of it, the rationalizations for it happening, the costs involved – will not eradicate the wounds that go so deep in the self. That is where EMDR comes in and does a remarkable job of eliminating the triggers that keep the incidents from coming alive in the present.

Therapists can teach many effective coping skills for clients to use in daily life. When adverse situations hit them between their eyes – or in their guts – people need to be capable of dealing with them. If there are residual resentments or reactions that are uncomfortable, that is when a visit to a seasoned clinician who is also an EMDR practitioner makes sense.

Continuing to learn and implement new approaches to working with troubled clients, I remain firm in my belief that EMDR is the path to the deepest recovery possible. Clients on the verge of divorce, having suffered the agony of betrayal, clients who crossed boundaries and now live in regret and shame, and survivors of all kinds of trauma have the opportunity to cleanse themselves from residual resentment and anger, and move into a new realm of being.
Important life choices can and should be made from clarity – not anger. After experiencing EMDR as part of the therapy process, relationships are open to healthy conversation with an ability to really hear and understand each other. This form of communication opens a way back to loving and acceptance. It opens the way to emotional and physical intimacy – even in the face of years of emotional estrangement. The result may be a level of connection and intimacy that did not exist to this degree in the romantic stage of falling in love. EMDR facilitates growing into their potential beyond their dreams.

Once wonderfully happy relationships can be decimated over time, because of those resentments that erode the love that was once there. They are silent killers that can be eradicated by EMDR in the hands of someone who has the training, heart, and skills of a good therapist.

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About Paula Susan

Paula Susan, MSW, LCSW, Masters in Clinical Social Work & Psychology; specialist in Trauma and Relationships since 1982. In 1991, I integrated the powerfully transformative process of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Research demonstrates that it facilitates life-altering changes more efficiently and effectively than talk therapy alone. I teach skills such as communication and anxiety relief to improve connection with others. Over the decades, I’ve come to respect how much damage even small traumatic experiences inflict on our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. I consider it a privilege to help my clients understand and change what has undermined their happiness and their relationships. I do it with warmth, integrity, humor, and profound respect for those who care about the quality of this small piece of time we have on

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