The negative impact of bearing a grudge
Grudges, like all things that trigger stress, are eventually destructive to our bodies as well as our minds
By Dr Samineh I. Shaheem
Published: Thu 14 Jul 2016, 8:01 PM
Last updated: Thu 14 Jul 2016, 10:19 PM
It might be bad experiences from our past or little things that irritate us on a daily basis. Regardless of the context, sometimes we find it hard to let these ill feelings go, bury the hatchet, put the past behind, for-give and forget, kiss and make up. need I continue?
This psychological act of hanging on to hate, resentment and anger is referred to as bearing a grudge. There are those people who permanently hold grudges against anyone who has hurt them. They might think that remaining bitter is a show of strength or victory over the disagreement. Unfortunately, this couldn't be further than the truth.
Grudges, like all things that trigger stress, are eventually destructive to our bodies as well as our minds. This lagoon of pent-up emotional poison can lead to anxiety, self-doubt, confusion, depression, an inability to concentrate, sadness, hopelessness and a whole host of other negative emotions that cripple our everyday existence.There is a clear difference between forgiving and forget-ting, though the two are closely intertwined. Forgiving does not mean you have accepted the act of injustice.
Rather, it means that you have made a conscious decision to gradually release the anger and resentment you feel toward some-one who has done you wrong or hurt you. It is the act of untying yourself from thoughts of retaliation and revenge and choosing to embrace peace and happiness instead.Forgetting, on the other hand, means that you ultimately don't remember the event. This may not always be useful because it is the memory of a hurtful situation that will protect you and prevent it from reoccurring. Once you forgive, the emotional grip is less, leaving only the lesson of the experience to be remembered.According to Mayo Clinic, if you can bring yourself to for-give, "you are likely to enjoy lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and a drop in the stress hormones circulating in your blood. Back pain, stomach problems, and headaches may disappear. And you'll reduce the anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, and other negative emotions that accompany the failure to forgive."Letting go of a grudge transpires when we have gone through four important stages:
1. Allowing enough time to pass.
2. Talking to the person who hurt you so that they admit their mistake and, perhaps, through this, make you aware of your contribution to the problem. If you don't feel comfortable communicating directly, write them a letter.
3. Empathising with the person, allowing you to think that everyone makes mistakes and maybe their actions were not entirely intentional.
4. Witnessing a change in their behaviour. If the person has genuinely taken on board your reaction to their actions and is making an effort to change, this helps dissolve the strong emotions you once felt, replacing it with compassion and mercy.
The absence of any of these stages can prevent us from moving forward.Sabrina, a 36-year-old lawyer, hadn't talked to her parents for years. "Why should I?" she asked. "All they did was criticise me - I couldn't do anything right in their eyes. I thought I was better off without them until I realised how bitter I was becoming. There was this lingering anger that wouldn't go away. I became suspicious and sarcastic and saw the world through horrible lenses. Finally, I decided to go see a therapist and discovered the reason for it was my alienation from my parents and the heavy grudge I was holding against them. I wrote them an eight-page letter, be-cause it was always a bit hard for me to talk to them directly - and it was the best thing I've ever done! We now enjoy a healthy relationship, with boundaries and mutual respect. The psychologist made me realise that between being connected and not having any contact, there are multiple ways we can shape our relationships so they don't have to be an 'either-or' scenario which is quite limiting and damaging in the long run." Being unforgiving is an expensive emotional and physical practice. Research through the International Forgiveness Institute has shown that there are signs we should watch out for when it's time to try and let go of grudges, such as:
> Dwelling on the events surrounding the offence
> Hearing from others that you have a chip on your shoulder or that you're wallowing in self-pity
>Being avoided by family and friends because they don't enjoy being around you
> Having angry outbursts at the smallest perceived slights
>Often feeling misunderstood
> Turning to vices to cope with your pain
> Having symptoms of depression or anxiety
> Being consumed by a desire for revenge or punishment
> Automatically thinking the worst about situations
> Regretting the loss of a valued relationship
>Feeling like your life lacks meaning or purpose
> Feeling at odds with your spiritual belief
The emotionally intelligent individual understands that rebuilding a worthwhile relationship is much more of a mature option than harbouring rage and bitterness. Now, if all of this other information isn't enough to convince you how damaging holding a grudge can be, then perhaps you can tap into your selfish dimension and acknowledge that the only person being damaged is you. Actively holding on to a grudge is psychologically and, sometimes, even physically exhausting and it prevents you from focusing on the more positive aspects of your life. As the saying goes, to err is human; to forgive, divine.
Dr Samineh I. Shaheem is a professor of psychology, and a learning & development specialist.
Contact her on OutOfMindContact@gmail.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @saminehshaheemInstagram: @wellbeing.psychology.awake