The Hidden Costs of Resentment: Insights from Modern Research and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Resentment is a powerful emotion that can negatively impact both mental and physical health. While modern research has delved into the psychological and physiological effects of harbouring resentment, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a holistic perspective on how such emotions influence specific organs. This blog explores the scientific findings and TCM insights on the detrimental effects of resentment.

Modern Research on the Harmful Effects of Resentment

1. Psychological Impact:
Resentment often stems from unresolved anger and perceived injustice. This persistent negative emotion can lead to chronic stress, anxiety and depression. A study published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine found that individuals who hold onto resentment exhibit higher levels of psychological distress and lower overall well-being.

2. Physical Health Consequences:
Resentment and chronic anger have been linked to various health issues:

– Cardiovascular Problems: Research indicates that chronic anger and resentment can increase the risk of heart disease. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that individuals with high levels of anger were more likely to experience heart attacks and other cardiovascular events.

– Immune System Dysfunction: Chronic stress from unresolved resentment can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses. According to a study in Psychosomatic Medicine, stress-related emotions like resentment can impair immune function.

– Digestive Issues: Resentment can also affect the digestive system, leading to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Stress and negative emotions are known to disrupt the gut-brain axis, causing gastrointestinal problems.

3. Interpersonal Relationships:
Holding onto resentment can strain relationships, leading to social isolation and loneliness. This lack of social support can further exacerbate mental health issues, creating a vicious cycle of negativity and emotional pain.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Resentment and Organ Health

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) provides a unique perspective on how emotions influence physical health. According to TCM, emotions are deeply connected to the body’s organs and prolonged emotional states can lead to imbalances and diseases.

1. The Liver:
In TCM, the liver is closely associated with the emotion of anger. Resentment, being a form of suppressed anger, is believed to directly impact liver health. Prolonged resentment can lead to liver qi stagnation, a condition where the flow of energy (qi) is disrupted. Symptoms of liver qi stagnation include:
– Irritability and mood swings
– Digestive issues like bloating and indigestion
– Menstrual irregularities in women
– Tension headaches

2. The Heart:
The heart in TCM is not only responsible for pumping blood but also for governing the mind and emotions. Resentment can disturb the heart’s function, leading to symptoms such as insomnia, palpitations and anxiety. Chronic emotional disturbances are thought to deplete the heart’s qi, affecting both mental clarity and physical vitality.

3. The Spleen:
The spleen in TCM is associated with processing thoughts and emotions. Excessive rumination and dwelling on negative emotions like resentment can weaken the spleen, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, poor digestion and a weakened immune system. The spleen’s role in transforming and transporting nutrients is hindered, impacting overall health.

Integrating Modern Research and TCM for Holistic Healing

Combining insights from modern research and TCM can provide a comprehensive approach to addressing the harmful effects of resentment. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Mindfulness and Meditation:
Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help individuals process and let go of resentment. Studies have shown that mindfulness reduces stress and improves emotional regulation.

2. Therapy and Counselling:
Seeking professional help from therapists or counsellors can aid in resolving underlying issues that contribute to resentment. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) has been particularly effective in changing negative thought patterns.

3. TCM Practices:
Acupuncture, herbal medicine and qi gong are TCM practices that can help restore balance to the liver, heart and spleen. Consulting with a TCM practitioner can provide personalised treatment plans.

4. Healthy Lifestyle Choices:
Regular exercise, a balanced diet and adequate sleep are essential for maintaining both physical and emotional health. Exercise, in particular, has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood.


Resentment is more than just a fleeting emotion; it has profound impacts on both mental and physical health. Modern research underscores the importance of addressing resentment to prevent psychological distress and chronic diseases. Meanwhile, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers valuable insights into how resentment affects specific organs and overall well-being. By integrating these perspectives, individuals can adopt holistic strategies to release resentment and foster a healthier, more balanced life.


Journal of Behavioural Medicine
Journal of the American College of Cardiology
Psychosomatic Medicine