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Resentment Keeps the Tumescent Mind Alive

Published July, 2024

Pain as Power

To the tumescent mind, pain is an aphrodisiac. It is such an alluring sensation because there is a seemingly endless supply of it. The tumescent mind, in its endless search for power, sees pain as a reliable means of survival. Resentment is what allows it to remember and amplify the pain as a way to relate to the world.

Foundation of Resentment

At the foundation of resentment is the unspoken thought: I have fear I will not get something I want, or will lose something I need in order to have desirable conditions. These fears, experienced in the tumescent mind as pain, consume our attention, having it keep a vigilant eye out for any and all threats to its goals, leading to a sense of helplessness. The tumescent mind then sees itself as incapable, under siege, or otherwise at the mercy of something, and withdraws consciousness from what it is experiencing. The effect is itself painful, as it has now cut itself off from power.

Externalizing Pain

Resentment works by associating this pain with external forces— people, situations, or conditions—that have led to the helpless state. The tumescent mind cannot see the world as inherently interconnected nor see its own behavior as having any role in what it is experiencing—the two things that would shatter the separation and identification it depends on—and so it must look for causes outside itself. Any outside force that validates this sense of perceived victimhood is fuel for resentment if we double down on the perception of our situation and steep it in blame.

Victimhood Narratives

For instance:

◆ I feel tired during the day because I can’t sleep well

◆ I can’t exercise or stay in shape because I have asthma

◆ I am shy and don’t take risks because my parents criticized me

◆ I am overlooked at work because I am a woman

◆ I can’t leave my job because I get paid so well

◆ I’m not attractive to women because I’m overweight

◆ I won’t be accepted or get ahead in this country because I’m an immigrant

The tumescent mind feels entitled to what it wants, but cannot take any responsibility for undesired outcomes. This is how it operates. In order to separate, it must maintain its sense of innocence, where it played no role in what happened.

Justifications for Resentment

◆ My wife won’t let me go hang out with my friends, so I don’t feel like talking to her

◆ I have had a hard life of suffering, so I deserve some slack

◆ People ask too much of me and I feel overwhelmed, so I withdraw

◆ I have a health condition and I feel angry my doctor hasn’t figured it out

◆ I am not smart enough to get promoted, so I’ll just do my job and not share my opinions

◆ No one tells me anything so it’s not my problem if something goes wrong

◆ People always let me down so I don’t expect much of anyone

Avoiding Responsibility

These responses create a sense of pain and powerlessness that result in collapse. The tumescent mind, always looking for shortcuts, quick fixes, and low-hanging fruit, is not interested in putting forth the effort and presence required to handle challenges and adversity.

Power of Resentment

Nor is it interested in working with its own internal persecution, guilt, shame, feelings of worthlessness, or responsibility for the situations it finds itself in. It is looking for an easier, albeit fleeting, payoff; that the world is cruel, uncaring, uninterested, selfish, and otherwise not likely to provide rewards. These viewpoints make resentment such an effective tool because they are myopic.

Resentment's Myopia

They depend on only seeing supporting evidence. Were we to include any consideration of the circumstances surrounding the situation we feel resentful about, we might inadvertently notice our own intentions, agendas, and selfish behaviors. Thus, we actively avoid the broad type of attention where we could stumble upon them, and so resentment collects power by only seeing what suits its agendas and identifying what gets in the way.

Entitlement and Blame

Resentments need not be about people. They are often about circumstances we imagine prevent us from experiencing a state of happiness we feel is possible or are entitled to. We imagine the burdens that are in the way, the limitations of those around us, our sorry lot in life. If only these sources of pain disappeared, we would be immersed in unending joy.

The Trap of Resentments

They can also be about our past experiences and how they have limited our options, sealing our fate as it were, imprisoning us in frustration, disappointment, and compromise. If only we had not made this life choice, taken this wrong turn, or had this happen “to us,” things would be better.

Preloaded Resentments

Resentments can also be preloaded, meaning we lay traps ahead of time in the places where we expect someone or something to get in our way, anticipating precisely how they will block us, reject us, prevent us from feeling peace. Then we lie in wait, and when they do in fact cross the tripwire, we are ready to attack and blame.

Entitlement's Pain

Beyond making others responsible for causing pain directly, resentment also finds ways to make them responsible for the pain resulting from an expectation not being met. The tumescent mind, entitled and demanding, looks to life for a handout—that we should be awarded or offered pleasure, the objects of our desire, or the love and attention of another is a given—and when we do not get them, or do not get them in the specific way we are expecting, we feel pain.


The most deeply entrenched resentments are grievances. These are resentments that start with the idea that we have been wronged by someone or something in the past, and pin all our subsequent suffering on them. Not only do we make them responsible for specific pains resulting from our not getting what we wanted at one point, we make them responsible for the pain of our lives ever since.

Resentment's Rationale

The tumescent mind uses resentment to stay alive because resentment is so very good at providing the rationale, evidence, and sense of indebtedness we feel in our relationship to the world and others that secures a steady stream of energy. By identifying the causes of our pain, we can use anger, frustration, and rejection to extract more energy from the people we hold responsible.

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