"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," your mom instructed you as a kid, and from that point forward, when you felt like something was out-of-line, you zipped your lip. Or when an authority figure said you couldn't do something without offering explanation or considering your feelings, mum was the word. While your mom may have meant well with this advice of staying quiet, new research shows that harboring resentment can wreak havoc on your health.
The Journal of Psychomatic Research found that the suppression of anger, often resulting in resentment, was the most common emotional characteristic shared by a pool of 160 cancer patients. Further studies confirm that this link may be possible. The Public Health Institute of California state that both hostility and resentment have a biological link to heart attack, diabetes, and yep, cancer.
We know resentment is a problem, and causes cancer, but how can we identify, and ultimately distance ourselves from the toxic mind state? Resentment is defined as: "the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult." Unlike it's cousin anger, resentment if often characterized by the emotion directed inward. Think about the times when you've experienced conflict directly, or at least conflicting views that others may or may not be aware of. You can probably imagine the feeling now: the tensing of your muscles, and the tightening of your throat as you opt to not express the distaste or displeasure that you feel. Alternatively, maybe you regularly tell others how you feel, but still feel resentment upon recalling the triggering events.
Clear, open, and conscientious communication, along with honing the ability to forgive, is crucial for overcoming resentment. Another study at Duke University showed that those who'd forgiven those who had 'done them wrong' experienced less physical pain than those who were more likely to hold a grudge, among a group of people experiencing chronic back pain.
So we know the value of forgiveness to lessening our emotional and physical pain, but how can one truly forgive, and move on after feeling slighted? Dr. Everett Worthington Jr. recommends an understanding that forgiving someone's actions doesn't condone them, and feeling the initial anger rather than trying to repress it, and writing a letter that you'll never send, showing compassion and taking on a learner's mindset. What will you do today to free yourself from resentment, and embrace forgiveness, and effectively safeguard yourself from a multitude of ailments, including cancer?