a psychology textbook, particularly one dealing with
abnormal behavior, and you'll see a lot about "handling
hostility." Hostility is defined as "emotional
reaction or drive toward destruction or damage of an
object seen as a threat or a source of frustration."
have that feeling when we want to clobber somebody for
something he's said or done. Much of the time we can't
clobber him, and we would probably feel bad or go to
jail if we could and did. So all we get for our troubles
is a festering, burned-up feeling which we call "a
is really the AA term for the emotional reaction that
goes by the name of hostility in other circles. Our
use of the milder word may have something to do with
our day-at-a-time program. Resentment, after all, is
only an attack of hostility that you happen to be having
purpose of this essay is to make the point that all
resentment, and therefore all hostility, is unnecessary.
That should be self-evident, but unfortunately it is
not. A surprisingly large number of people, even AA
members, seem to feel that it's necessary to blow your
top now and then, to get good and mad over something.
And if they need justification for it, they can point
to the time long ago when a man became angry and chased
some money-changers from a temple.
resentment may benefit some people, but I can give personal
testimony that it's done precious little for me. Remembering
my last attack of resentment is like remembering my
last bout with alcohol. It was an experience colored
with self-deception, blame cast on others, mounting
discomfort, and poor self-control. It even produced
its own kind of hangover. The only good thing to be
said for such an attack is that I felt good when it
was all over. So who needs resentment?
of course. And most of us probably realize that. Our
inability to kick the habit may be like the inability
to stop drinking; we just don't know how. So here is
my second point: It is possible to put an end to resentments
if one has an honest desire to give them up.
key to ending resentment, however, is to put an end
to the very first one the moment it makes any
kind of appearance at all. This is like staying sober
by staying away from the first drink. One drink couldn't
possibly harm anybody, if he stopped right there. And
neither could one little old resentment. But those of
us who have a problem with drinking or resentment. can't
stop with "just one."
about "justified" resentments, the times when
somebody has really handed us a dirty deal, often without
any asking for it on our part? "Justified"
resentments are the worst kind, because the individual
feels he has a right to be burned up and therefore does
nothing to bring himself under control. Who is to say
whether a resentment is justified or not? Practically
every angry person feels justified in his anger; one
such individual even went to the trouble of documenting
his "justified" resentments under the title
so-called justified resentments in the bud sounds like
difficult work, but it really isn't if we mean business.
It becomes a matter of practice, of getting into the
habit of not letting anybody or anything make us mad.
It's easy to tell whether we're making progress; we
can just check to see how we're responding to things
that once made us blow sky-high.
way out of resentment is to give up resenting with
anybody. There are a lot of people in AA and elsewhere
who waste considerable time and energy by getting together
and grousing about their mutual resentments. This useless
activity only makes things worse; it helps to reinforce
the dominion resentment has over us by making it appear
respectable. Perhaps this practice, too, is a bit like
the delusion some of us had concerning drinking; we
felt that it was under control as long as we were drinking
with somebody and not alone.
up resenting with people may change our social
lives a bit, because some of our acquaintances won't
like it if we no longer wish to nurse grievances with
them. But we have to let that particular cookie crumble
in its own way; in any case, we find new interests to
out, also, for "back door" resentments. Like
"justified" resentments, they often go unrecognized.
For example, an old-time town drunk who swears off alcohol
and then becomes terribly vindictive towards all drinkers
is probably guilty of "back door" resentments.
we get too intense about a cause or an idea, we should
be careful to examine our own feelings closely to make
sure that we're not just holding new resentments in
disguised form. Such a development is no healthier than
giving up alcohol and then taking on the pill habit.
last point to be made here is that resentments--again
like the compulsion to drink--yield completely to the
spiritual approach if we are sincere about wanting to
get rid of them. We don't really have to "handle"
hostility in any way except to get rid of it by turning
it over to a Greater Power. The older AAs called this
"praying for the other guy." If no individual
seemed to be involved as a target of their resentment,
they would just pray for guidance in their particular
situation. If praying didn't answer the problem, getting
busy helping others or going to a meeting helped solve
has always been good, also, to discuss a resentment
with a person in whom we have confidence--if we make
sure, however, that such a discussion is constructive
and doesn't degenerate into one of those mutual-grievance
are probably a number of ways to end resentments, just
as there are no doubt several ways to stop drinking.
Any way that works is worth following. Resentment is
the great killer, the powerful destroyer of human health
and happiness. It is a barrier to sobriety and a blight
on social relationships. We need it like we need the