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Holding grudges and bitterness because of pain, hurt, and resentment affect us all at some time in life.
It’s an inescapable part of the human condition. Yet, despite that, we are still at choice as to how we journey through life’s hurts, resentments, and upsets. Do we allow them to be an opportunity for inner growth and healing, or enable them to destroy our inner peace?
The world pushes and demands actions, but sometimes all we need is a little space to broaden our perspective.
This is where expanding our viewpoint can be a powerful tool to face life’s challenges, because it provides insight, understanding, and appreciation of our experiences.
While this allows us to look at things from a different angle or perspective, we must remember broadening our attitude will not solve or answer every problem. In many ways, it comes down to how we manage our thinking.
Holding onto grudges and bitterness can lead to a multitude of negative emotions. And this makes it necessary to acknowledge and confront these darker emotions healthily to support you in a more positive outlook.
By learning to face unpleasant feelings head-on, we can begin to let go and embrace peace and happiness.
Some tips include:
Ask yourself, what’s the point of grudges?
So why do we hold grudges and bitterness, even though they usually don’t get us what we truly want?
And why do we continue to keep wounds open and active that add pain to our lives while preventing us from moving on?
What keeps us stuck in the past when all we want is to be able to let go?
Holding onto a grudge can make you feel like the “victim” of a wrong done to you. But allowing it to continue festering can damage your mental and emotional well-being.
The best way to overcome this sense of wrong is to let go of the identity attached to being “wronged” and instead focus on accepting yourself in this present moment, not what has happened or been done in the past.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but knowing who you’d rather be feels much better. I know from bitter experience!
Who do you want to be?
I know someone who is a first-class grudge master. He holds regular grudge fests, including those from the distant past of childhood.
Someone denied him something. The grudge is still there, and the self-poisoning continues, though the transgressor has long since forgotten, no doubt.
He is not a happy soul.
No surprise there. If you think of life as a journey (hopefully a long one) and you’re constantly adding to the heavy luggage of grudges you carry, it would be surprising if you ever made any headway towards a brighter, happier future.
Holding grudges is incredibly detrimental to your well-being and sense of self-worth. It might seem as though you are in control of the situation, but ultimately it is only steering you away from achieving true peace and fulfillment.
And granting yourself the liberty of letting go will free you from the burden of holding onto those long-standing grudges, allowing you to focus on progressing forward and reaching the life you seek.
How grudges are formed
If you have deep-seated feelings of bitterness and resentment, it may help to learn how grudges are formed.
Through interviews with those who held grudges, social psychologist Elizabeth van Monsjou discovered that the cycle begins with actual or perceived wrongdoing, which leads to feelings of hurt or inadequacy, followed by a need for validation.
Grudges and bitterness cause deep-rooted hurt and resentment. I know firsthand how these thoughts can take up energy and space in our minds.
Making a smarter decision on a grudge
I recently faced a situation where a close friend suddenly broke off our friendship; I was hurt and held onto the bitterness for far too long.
It wasn’t easy to let go. And sad to say, it isn’t easy for any of us; otherwise, we’d let go a damn site sooner because it feels much better.
Reflection was vital to help me do this, as it allowed me to recognize my part in my life experiences, shift blame away from others, and find peace within myself.
By doing so, I could operate at a higher vibrational frequency, allowing me to be happier and let go of this grudge.
My experience has been if you find yourself stuck in a grudge, putting the event into some other context, rather than obsessing about it, allows you to minimize the pain and hold on less tightly to hurt or resentment so that you don’t let it control your life.
Try using the practice of self-distancing
Letting go of grudges can be more effortless if you view the situation from an outside perspective.
Psychologists Özlem Ayduk and Ethan Kross suggest trying self-distancing to achieve this, which is the practice of viewing a past event as though you were watching it as a bystander.
This approach helps to objectively analyze the matter’s facts rather than emotionally attaching meaning to them. (Hard to do, I know)
By responding this way, we can see the events more objectively and move on with our lives from a problem-solving perspective, which really helps.
Practice the technique of revision
It can be hard to push past the anger, hurt, and disappointment that come with feeling wronged by someone else. One way to accomplish this is through a technique called revision.
Revision is mentally reimagining events that took place in the past to shift the vibrational energy connected to those experiences because the most important part of a grudge isn’t the actual event itself but rather the feelings you remember.
And through your imagination, you downplay any negative or unwanted events and then instill the idea of a preferred outcome or experience into your subconscious mind and the feelings that outcome evokes.
This isn’t about denial or pretending the situation never occurred. Because, of course, it did.
It’s simply about altering the feeling energy of the experience, not the physicality of it. The purpose of revision is to change your thoughts and feelings about the past , not the past itself.
Some would likely say this technique sounds like a load of rubbish. I know I did when I first read about it over twenty years ago. So please don’t take my word for it. Instead, try it and experience it for yourself.
I would warn you, a little persistence is required.
The goal is to improve how you manage grudges – improve being the operative word – because letting go of everything that has hurt you or left you feeling resentful one hundred percent is unlikely.
And since you only have so many minutes to live a life, you have a choice. Hold grudges or move forward?
You want to be a happy person, so walk the walk and find healthy ways to express negative feelings instead of lingering over them.
According to The National Institute of Mental Health, holding on to negative emotions can create chronic stress, leading to anxiety, sleep issues, immune system problems, and digestive and cardiovascular health challenges.
If you’re feeling burdened by grudge, it’s time to let go of at least some of them.
Don’t keep lying to yourself and pretending you don’t have the power to make a change. Instead, do what you can with what resources you have.
Should you use any of the above thoughts on ways to let them go remember to take pride in what you did. Give it your best effort no matter the circumstances, even if it sometimes feels too much.
You know what to do; now is the time to do it!
Encourage one another.
Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash
Very helpful information, Elle. I like the revision suggestion. It’s not rubbish at all. When we recall events and change our thoughts, emotions, and perspectives, science has confirmed that it actually changes the way the memories are stored in our brains. It has worked for me with various things – not necessarily grudges, but painful experiences.
Thank you for sharing the scientific perspective on revision Debbie. It certainly adds to the discussion. And I’m happy to know that the technique has worked for you with various things.