May 21, 2014
Getting Rid of Grudges: Just let it go - or maybe not.
Getting Rid of Grudges: Just let it go … or maybe not.
It’s spring and a lot of us are cleaning out our garages and getting rid of those toxic chemicals that have been lying around for years. Locally, OCRRA encourages us to safely dispose of household toxic materials and today we’re going to talk about how you can get rid of some toxic waste that’s been lying around in your emotional garage… grudges.
Research has shown that carrying a grudge around is not just unpleasant or socially awkward but that it can actually be bad for your health increasing stress hormones and anxiety. Unfortunately, much of the common wisdom regarding forgiveness is misleading. While some folks can, as the popular song from Frozen, advises “Let it go”, others can’t and there are important reasons which explain that difficulty.
The truth is, for some, recovering from a personal estrangement isn’t as simple as just letting go. Today we’re going to explain what is involved and tell you how to get over those grudges that you’ve been carrying around for too long.
- Is letting go and forgiving the best way to get over a grudge?
- Is it necessary to forgive to get over a grudge and if not why not?
- What are the keys to getting over grudges ?
- Not for everyone. That is because not all grudges are the same. Feeling angry after an insult or trauma is normal but holding a grudge years after an offense is not a normal grief reaction. Psychologically, a grudge is an obsessive feeling of ill will and resentment which lingers long after because a person feels that s/he feels permanently ruined or lost something which is vital and irreplaceable .
In fact grudges are misunderstood and under-appreciated. Logically, it makes no sense to feel resentment toward someone who did something in the past. And that is the point, some grudges are aren’t rational. They are in fact a symptom of an emotional wound which has not healed.
A grudge is sort of like a scab which forms over a wound. It is ugly but it protects the injury from infection. Grudges protect us from emotional vulnerability and from being further injured. Likewise, when the underlying wound heals however a scab falls off. The same with grudges. They go away.
Unfortunately, we’ve all been told to just “get over it “ or “let it go” as if we had control over these feelings of resentment. In fact we don’t hold on to grudges, they have a hold on us.
- No. In fact, while forgiveness and reconciliation are great, it is not possible in every situation. Further, putting the emphasis on forgiveness is like telling someone to pick off a scab from a wound.
In fact, in most cases, grudges, like scabs, fall off by themselves when the person’s emotional wound is healed. If the grudge doesn’t go away it means that the wound is not healed.
If the threat to the person is still present as it is sometimes in the families of abuse victims who continue to deny the offense or vilify the victim for “lying”, forgiving can put the person at risk for further emotional abuse and be psychologically dangerous.
What is critically important to focus on to get past a grudge is emotional healing. When a person feels healed and not ruined s/he will experience a release from the obsession and anger and be able to forgive and or move on.
Tips for Getting Over a Grudge
- Stop feeling guilty or blaming yourself and uncover the emotional wound you suffered. A grudge is caused by a distortion of perception and an emotional hi-jacking or our reason caused by the trauma of the offense. You are not to blame for either the offense or having difficulty getting over it. Step one is to find the emotional injury. Ask yourself, specifically, how and why do I feel so ruined ?
- Reality Test Feelings that one is still injured or at risk due to the person’s action must be rationally examined. A person may feel at risk or injured even s/he isn’t. Reality testing means asking yourself, is what you feel really true and assessing if the damage that you experienced is still present or permanent.
Discovering that one is not irreparably ruined is the most powerful factor in breaking free from a grudge.
- Decide Once you have evaluated if things have changed sufficiently to feel safe or not, you can decide if you would like to forgive and reconcile with the person or (and this is the option that many overlook) you can intentionally detach from and severe relations with the offending person. Either way, you will be free to move on in your life without being weighed down by the unnecessary burden of carrying around the emotional baggage of a grudge.
The Rev. Michael Heath, LMCH, Fellow A.A.P.C. prepared these remarks for Bridge Street 5 21 2014.