Those of us who live with chronic illnesses (like diabetes, congestive heart failure, fibromyalgia, etc) may sometimes feel resentful towards those who don't experience such limitations or conditions in their lives. This is a natural human response, but what do you do with such feelings if they become stronger and more prevalent?
An article on PsychologyToday.com characterizes resentment as "a mental process of repetitively replaying a feeling, and the events leading up to it, that goads or angers us." Now, this is one way of looking at resentment, but it's not exactly what I'm thinking of.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary offers a more general definition that's much more useful to our cause: "a feeling of anger or displeasure about someone or something unfair."
Thus, in the context of feeling resentment towards others who don't have diabetes, we may feel the relative unfairness that they don't have diabetes, and we do. This is understandable, but it can also be a toxic feeling if left unprocessed.
In the aforementioned PsychologyToday.com article, it is said that "living with resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other guy to get sick." Resentment towards the general unfairness of life may be natural, but hanging onto it for long periods of time doesn't necessarily do you any good.
In a previous blog post entitled "Radical Acceptance", I wrote the following:
Radically accepting yourself means acknowledging the ways in which you want to change or grow, but also accepting yourself fully, including all of your foibles, warts, fat, pimples, lack of experience, or low income. It means using self-love to overcome self-hatred, and to ward off the pressures of the wider culture by maintaining unconditional love for yourself, no matter what.
Your diabetes (or other chronic illness or condition) could be added to that paragraph, and fully accepting your diagnosis and its ramifications is an important step towards taking responsibility for the reality of your situation.
You see, accepting that you have diabetes (and all of the limitations and inconveniences therein) is very important. It's also important to accept that others don't have it, and that they have their own personal struggles and challenges.
Now, if another person without diabetes lords it over you that they're not diabetic, you may have cause for some resentful feelings. And if that person either tempts you to stray from prudent self-care practices (like avoiding alcohol or unnecessary sweets) or berates you with health advice that you don't want or need, that could be yet another cause for some resentment or negative feelings. Having said that, resentment is not something to hang onto, so clear communication of your feelings will help immensely in times like these.
If you have resentful feelings, learning how to communicate them effectively is key. This article offers some helpful tips, and making those feelings known is often a first step to healing them.
Non-Violent Communication is a popular and time-tested system of communication, and the organization behind these techniques offers many excellent resources for learning some of the most up-to-date and effective communication techniques available.
Let It Go
Letting resentments go is important emotional work. And if we use the hypothesis that resentment is a form of anger, then we can see that holding onto anger does no good for your mental and physical health.
Find ways to let go of your resentments, and you will add quality (and maybe even quantity!) to your life.