Following on from April’s Sulking column, let’s talk about taking a sulk to extremes and holding a grudge. The term ‘holding’ a grudge is interesting because we hold the feelings of resentment, hurt and anger in our bodies. According to A. Cabotage from UWMedicine.org, participants in studies asked to recall a grudge performed more poorly in physical and cognitive exercises than the participants who had overcome their grudge. The grudge holders also perceived hills as steeper than the non-grudge holders. Interesting!
What is a ‘grudge’ exactly? It seems it’s the holding onto ill feelings for a person or event. Grudges can range from mild to severe, however the situation has usually been quite distressing to the person to cause them lasting feelings of hurt, anger and enmity. Grudge-making examples are listed below, however are endless:
• A friend stands you up for drinks (again).
• A house sitter does not take good care of your belongings.
• Your boss overlooks you for promotion or a wage rise.
• You know or suspect your partner has been unfaithful. In this instance it is usually easier to focus the grudge on the third party.
• Your offspring neglect their chores 99.5% of the time.
Is it healthy to harbour a grudge, or do we let it go? Obviously, it is better for our mental health that we can let go of the stress of a grudge. What are the steps to be able to let go of the grudge?
Firstly – allow yourself to acknowledge this thing you are feeling is a grudge and that you are holding onto animosity towards another.
Secondly – examine the circumstances and see if you can attribute (fairly) who was responsible for what. Once you are clear on this then you can acknowledge what exactly has been done to injure you.
Thirdly – Allow yourself to feel the hurt and the anger or whatever it is you do feel about the other person. This is important, as when a thing is named and felt then it allows the energy of it to dissipate. Talking this through with a trusted other will help to clarify your thoughts.
Fourthly – Decide if and how you wish to continue a relationship with the person who hurt you. This is usually reasonably clear:
1. Have nothing further to do with them.
2. Decide you will continue to have them in your life but on your terms. Probably time to put a boundary in in this case.
3. Keep things as they were and pretend you were not hurt. Warning – this option continues the grudge energy and can magnify it.
If the situation was severely hurtful then options 1 or 2 maintain your integrity. Option 3 feels more appropriate to a minor infraction that is lingering on.
Just like sulking, grudge holding impacts relationships in the long term, and it is better for all concerned to deal with the situation than bear that grudge. Your heart, blood pressure and mental health will thank you for it.