A deep case of the angry blues

We don't always remember why we feel the way we do, but there is always a reason (which may not be what we think) and always an antidote for overcoming stress, anger, resentment.

Shelley Audette Settles

7/14/20233 min read

What do you do when you feel bad?

It’s subtle, but as kids, we’re taught to stuff down those feelings, dry those tears, ‘suck it up’ and move on. We get scolded, shamed, or teased if we don’t.

As these bad feelings accumulate over time, they can fester into a low self-worth, stress and depression which can make us ill, angry, or ready to cry at any moment without realizing why. Our self-image continues to suffer if we don’t deal with these thoughts and feelings properly.

Have I described you?

“Research shows that 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical, and behavioral illness comes from one’s thought life," according to Dr. Caroline Leaf, in her book Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health

Ruling out medical issues like overdosing on thyroid or other hormones, if you feel like crying all the time, or like you’re ‘water on a low boil’ or a volcano ready to ‘blow’ at the littlest thing, then you have resentment you’re not dealing with.

This manifests as an angry disposition towards others or turned inward, anger at yourself. Either way, it can eat you up and create physical or mental illness if left unchecked. Even more acute, it can bubble up in road rage and ‘going postal.’

What to do? Take an anger management class? Maybe, but you aren’t looking for mere coping skills. You want a long-term solution.

A long-term solution includes revisiting your resentment to release it, and to learn to address these feelings so that you don’t stuff them as before. Stuffing is a way of putting off having to deal with the problem, but it won’t stay stuffed forever. It eventually manifests one way or another.

How do you avoid resentment? That’s the $64,000 question. The answer requires you to think differently, to process information differently.

Learning to be ‘self-aware’ is one of the most important skills you can develop and is perhaps the least practiced. You can see and hear it more easily in others. You’ll notice that if they were really thinking, they wouldn’t behave or say some of what they do.

Here’s a simple example:

I have a friend who is overweight which was likely connected to both her diabetes and to Hashimoto’s disease (a thyroid condition). She would buy donuts for the office and of course, always took one for herself. She was living out of an automatic script. She didn’t need the donut, nor did anyone else. She intended this to be a ‘thoughtful’ gesture, yet it wasn’t ‘thoughtful’ at all, meaning that she was operating only on a surface awareness.

So how does being ‘self-aware’ combat resentment? Resentments come when we believe others did or did not do something we expected and wanted. When we aren’t self-aware of our own true feelings and responsibilities, we ‘twist’ the meaning of something and make it about ourselves. Rarely are things truly about us. Usually, people react on their own automatic pilot or with their own self-interest first; it’s human nature.

Imagine saying ‘hi’ to your boss at work and she walks right by you, ‘ignoring’ you. If you are ‘self-aware’ then you have the option to believe your boss didn’t hear you.

If you aren’t self-aware, that same exchange might suggest to you that “She doesn’t like me” or, “She thinks I’m not doing a good job.” You’ve made it about you. Worse, that self-talk continues in a loop in your mind all day as you recall the ‘snub’.

Not only are you marinating in stress chemicals you could have avoided, your memory records the twisted interpretation. You resent way the way she treated you. Six months from now, you may not remember the incident, but you feel that “She’s definitely out to get you. You’ll never get promoted.”

Since we don’t tend to question our own assumptions, no one will be able to tell you that you read the situation wrong. You’ll discount another’s opinion because you’re certain you’ve judged the situation correctly.

Being self-aware helps you stay ‘neutral’ when circumstances come against you, which they will from time to time. Being self-aware also clues you in to when you’ve been running a negative self-talk script without even thinking about it.

When we become aware, we can flip our thoughts to something more positive. This is important because our thoughts create our feelings, our attitude and outlook, and our ability to see opportunities. It also lets other people respond to the ‘new, improved’ version of ourselves, so that they aren’t operating by automatic response either.

Resentment, not healthy. Self-awareness, very healthy, just not as common as we think!