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How Resentment Works

Published July, 2024

Introduction

Resentment is one of the most important elements of our interior world relevant to our practice. With sustained practice, it is possible to experience resentment-free states of consciousness. Once we find that this is possible—even if initially unstable— our attention will naturally turn toward reverse-engineering how a resentment-free way of being even came about, and how we can stabilize it. For this, we need to see how resentment works in some detail.

Definition and Manifestation

The dictionary definition of resentment is “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” In Eros, this is only one way resentment can show up. Some other ways include heavy emotionalism, fragility, withdrawal, or confusion. Resentment shows up in all these ways, because they signal a lack of available attention for what is happening now.

Resentment's Persistence

Long after the original event that triggered resentment has ended, we continue to ruminate, either consciously or subconsciously, and we begin to feel progressively more violated by circumstances that are not occurring in the present moment. Our consciousness has the capacity to revisit experiences from the past.

The Role of the Tumescent Mind

When it is co-opted by the tumescent mind—which wants to lock down experiences—we fixate on a moment in time where a dynamic memory continues to circle. The effect can be anything—a background sense of being stuck on something, morbid rumination, obsession, and finally, compulsion to act out against what is being locked down inside.

The Illusion of a Single Cause

Though the tumescent mind will say otherwise, there is no one moment in time that can be pinpointed where we can say “this is the cause.” We may arbitrarily choose to name one moment, but in order to do so we must isolate it from all of the other moments that surround it and distance ourselves from our own agency in the viewing of it.

Resentment's Mechanism

Resentment can only be experienced by passive attention. It occurs at the moment the tumescent mind locks down and then begins to act as a dam, collecting experiences that hold a similar charge, like a magnet, until enough moments in time have accumulated.

The Buildup and Explosion

Magnetized together, these moments become a seemingly solid object; this is what gives resentment the illusion of being something real. Resentment never dissolves of its own accord. Unless we discharge the central energy of resentment, it will continue to build.

Reactivity and Severity

Eventually, this is what leads to disproportionate responses. The buildup becomes so great that this concentration of charge turns to something almost like gunpowder, and one moment—related or unrelated to the resentment— can be the spark that causes the concentration of charge to explode.

Effects on Consciousness

The explosion can be either internal or external. In an open-loop system, it is more noticeable as reactivity. In a closed-loop system, it occurs as an internal severity. In both cases, consciousness—be it other people’s or our own—wants to withdraw in the moments of these explosions.

Present Moment Availability

The long-term effect is that we are less available for the present moment, because as open-loop creatures, it is both connection to our own consciousness and the system of others that draws us into the here and now. Retraction anywhere draws us out.

Concealing Resentment

Often, out of fear of these explosions, we will attempt to conceal resentment and perform connection, accessibility, and warmth, all while the coldness of resentment seeps through. Or, we dump the weight of it—in the form of processing, sharing feelings, and subtle complaint—onto a person we have determined will not exit if we do so.

Resentment as a Norm

Resentment is the water most people swim in—a background feeling of discontent that we either grow accustomed to or convince ourselves will disappear on its own. Or worse, convince ourselves it can be concealed. This is the best we can hope for in an unnatural world.

Eros and Conversion

If we had a world of cars with no trees, we would simply find ways to live in pollution and smog in the same way we have learned to live in the smog of resentment, but Eros can convert resentment when it is used appropriately.

Internal Communication and Harm

The bottom-line internal communication of resentment is, “I have a right to live inside a world of smog, even when those around me are subject to my secondhand smoke.” Eros says that not only do we not have a right, but our refusal to allow our smog to be converted is harmful to ourselves and others. It makes no difference whether we are poisoning ourselves or others because Eros does not see a difference between the two.


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