Why We Hold Grudges and How to Let Go
Are you holding onto a grudge you just can’t seem to let go of? If so, you are not alone. Many people hold grudges, some so deep rooted they can last a lifetime. However, failing to let go of a grudge can take a big toll on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. To clarify, holding a grudge is when you harbor anger, bitterness, resentment, or other negative feelings long after someone has wronged or hurt you. Letting go of a grudge is not easy, but it is worth giving yourself the gift of letting those negative feelings go. You will feel lighter, happier, and more peaceful. Continue reading for more clarity on why we hold grudges and how to let go.
Harmful Effects of Holding a Grudge
Holding a grudge is a natural human reaction to being wronged or harmed. It is your body’s way of reminding you, “it is not okay to be treated this way”. While at first this may be a healthy feeling and reaction, when resentment festers it can transform into unhealthy anger that is doing you more harm than good. Nursing a grudge may be comforting to you, give you a sense of purpose, and it reinforces a victim mentality. Afterall, you have been wronged! Yet, harboring negative feelings erodes one’s health while forgiveness enhances it. Again, this is not to say the initial negative feelings you have shouldn’t be felt. Rather, what we are saying is that instead of holding on to those negative feelings, you should learn to resolve your issues, thus allowing you to move forward with your life.
Grudge-holding can negatively impact your mental health in a variety of ways. Most notably, harboring negative feelings makes you more susceptible to experiencing further unpleasant emotions and thoughts. In other words, your whole mindset shifts towards negativity, making negativity more prevalent in your life. Constantly expecting, experiencing, and reliving negative events can be exhausting, frustrating, and painful. Built-up resentment and internal fury can add stress, worry, defensiveness, aggression, and negativity to your life. This ultimately can increase your risk of mental health concerns such as anxiety, aggressive behavior, depression, emotional dysregulation, self-harm, suicide ideation, and other mood disorders. Additionally, the chronic stress of holding onto a grudge can have profound physical health effects as well. You may experience cardiovascular health issues due to high blood pressure, digestion issues, headaches, insomnia, reproduction issues, and/or a decreased immune system response. Bottom line, finding productive ways to release your anger and resentment will benefit your mental and physical health.
Tips for Letting Grudges Go
So, how do you start to let grudges go? First, acknowledge the hurt you have been through. It is important to be clear with yourself about what happened and how it made you feel. You must know what the problem is to be able to work toward solving it. After clarifying your feelings about the situation, decide if this is something you will work on in your own heart or if you feel the need to contact the other person involved. Do not force yourself to communicate with the other person, only contact them if you are ready to talk about the issue in a productive, clear manner.
To get a better understanding of where the other person is coming from, try to put yourself in their shoes. This can help you understand why they may have acted the way they did. This does not mean you are justifying or excusing their behavior. Understanding and accepting the other person really means that you have come to terms with the fact that you cannot go back and create a better version of the past. Being able to stop fixating on the past will grant you the freedom to move on. You can choose to heal with or without an apology. The truth is, it is up to you! Once you have decided to move on, keep moving forward. Don’t put too much thought into the situation or continuously discuss the situation.
At the very least, this negative situation can be a learning experience for you. Learning to understand yourself, others, and your grudge inducing situation better can, again, help you let go of your resentment and anger. Letting go opens up more room for peace and happiness. Choose your own health and happiness. After all, you will be the one who suffers if you continue to hold onto your grudges. It is important to note, forgiving does not mean you are forgetting the issue. Furthermore, forgiving does not mean you have to welcome the other person back into your life. Instead, forgiveness means you are acknowledging the problem, accepting that it is what it is, and learning to move on for your own benefit.
Therapy Can Help
If you are still struggling to let go of your grudges and wish to seek additional guidance, therapy may be right for you. Therapy can equip you with the skills to better cope with uncomfortable, painful situations from your past. Additionally, therapy can provide you with a safe space to openly talk about why you may be holding onto a grudge without shame or judgement. Chriselda Santos, licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach, is passionate about helping her clients process their emotions so they can get back to feeling hopeful again. She is here to help you reframe your way of thinking and develop coping skills that can help you for the rest of your life. To learn more about Chriselda’s approach to therapy, or to book an appointment, visit her website.