Conflict is an inevitable part of life. There is no denying that.
Many people come into counseling because of an ongoing conflict in their life that is causing them great pain.
Are you someone who is able to resolve conflict? When conflict is mismanaged it can cause great harm. If you are not comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them during times of high stress, you will not be able to resolve conflict successfully.
An unresolved conflict can eventually harden to a pathological grudge if you are unable to confront and process your OWN feelings.
I recently worked with someone on processing deep rooted feelings of a long-standing grudge towards her father. Watching someone process through a wide range of emotions–from love to hate and everything in between is fascinating work. It really takes courage to confront the more vulnerable feelings under all the layers of anger and resentment.
If a person is feeling vulnerable the quick fix is just get angry. Feeling sad, anxious, or vulnerable? Nothing is quicker to restore a false sense of power and control like anger!
Yet there is substantial collateral damage to our anger especially as it relates to our relationships. As a clinician, a grudge signifies to me a person who is not comfortable being vulnerable or losing that false sense of control.
A little vulnerability is a GOOD thing. Being able to be emotionally open takes great courage. It takes strength to process one’s emotions and come out on the other side with a better understanding of yourself. Good emotional health is just as important as a good physical health. I have always believed releasing emotional toxins is JUST as important as cleansing your body of physical toxins.
I have found when you fail to process your emotions and experiences, you create triggers and emotional wounds within yourself. This can manifest in anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, rage, etc.
As a culture, we place much importance on measurable intelligence through grades, tests, degrees, income. Yet we do not focus enough on building emotional intelligence—being able to recognize your triggers, manage your feelings, or be cognizant of how you treat yourself AND others.
Emotional intelligence is vital to be a well-rounded person.
The truth is some of people’s biggest wounds are from childhood–towards their parents or others who have hurt them. People carry these wounds into adulthood, impacting how they are able to manage their relationships with others. Childhood wounds are easily triggered in adult relationships.
Your level of emotional intelligence comes into play when you eventually get into conflict with others.
Let’s be honest. Most (healthy) people do not enjoy conflict. Most of us know it is a part of life and while we may not enjoy it, we can understand why it is necessary. We accept that being alive means sometimes getting hurt and sometimes hurting others. It is best to move on and not waste much of your time OR energy on relationships that at the end of the day do nothing for you.
Grudge holders cannot do that. They believe their is strength in holding a grudge.
There is a reason the saying goes refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for SOMEONE ELSE to die. Grudges are irrational in their very nature. You hurt yourself thinking you are in actual hurting the other person.
Grudges arise from unresolved conflict. The truth is conflict is inevitable but if the conflict resolution process cannot successfully play out, this can lead to a grudge.
Holding onto a grudge is essentially holding onto stress. It is also about disempowering yourself. You may be waiting on an apology or for the other person to do right by you. Yet when you are waiting on someone else to act, you are giving them person control over you. You are allowing that person to still effect your well-being long after the initial hurt has passed.
To a grudge holder, they feel holding a grudge gives them power when in actual holding a grudge is disempowering.
The fact is we ALL have been hurt by the actions or words of another. But if you don’t practice forgiveness you are the one who pays most dearly.
Forgiveness is to embrace peace, hope, gratitude, and joy for YOU and YOUR mental well-being, not the person who you were hurt by.
In forgiving another person, you are taking away the power the other person wields in your life. It has nothing to do with getting another person to change his or her actions, behaviors, or words.
Unfortunately for a grudge holder forgiveness is not part of their repertoire.
Just as haters are gonna hate, grudge holders are gonna grudge. Think of the Donald Trumps of the world—not only are they going to be SMUG about it, these personality types have a way of making their outright defiance a central part of their personality, wrapping themselves in self-righteousness. Grudge holders tend to be simplistic thinkers and childish. Remember as a kid, when you saw the world and people as good or evil? A person who can’t let go has never developed past this level of thinking.
To me, nothing was pettier than watching Donald Trump’s grudge against John McCain play out even after the poor man’s death. But at the heart of ALL grudges are pettiness and ego.
No matter how you slice it, it is not a good look. It means you have not developed a better way to cope with a trying life situation. It is an ineffective way of coping. It may be important to get yourself into counseling to process out those feelings and move past the hurt. A good clinician can help you take a more balanced approach in your thinking.
Do you ever ask what makes some people move on and other people hold onto a grudge for dear life?
I find people who hold grudges like the identity it gives them–of victim. Of someone who has been wronged.
I find grudge holders tend to be black and white thinkers—people who see people as ALL good or ALL bad, right/wrong, with them OR against them. Black and white thinkers cannot see people or life in a complex, more nuanced way. Often, they are what therapists refer to as “splitters.”
Grudge holders tend to think they are justified and their mistreatment of another is well-deserved and appropriate. Grudge holding is a very self-righteous state of mind. Grudge holders tend to like to PUNISH. Most times, both the grudge and the anger are disproportioned to the perceived wrong
Grudges tear families apart. Ruin lifetime long friendships. Destroy the people who keep them going because if you are holding a grudge that strongly against someone you are certainly not allowing peace, love, and happiness into your lives.
Grudges are not healthy. Yet being at the end of someone’s grudge is a whole other different beast.
The issue that can arise with being the target of someone’s grudge is that you may begin to think you did something wrong even when you didn’t. I have seen this play out in counseling where clients begin to doubt themselves because of someone’s extreme reaction. Experiencing the ire of someone’s grudge can be extremely painful—grudge holders can be no holds barred when they want to release their rage.
If you feel you are in a never ending conflict, I recommend getting yourself into counseling. It can help you process these feelings and perhaps create a new perspective on an old problem.
If you find you are struggling with conflict in your life or are the target of someone’s grudge, here are some ways counseling can help:
-A therapist can help you learn to recognize people who can turn into grudge holders/people who like to manufacture conflict. People who are spiteful, judgmental, bitter towards others tend to be grudge holders (does a certain leader of the free world come to mind?) If they behave like that towards someone else, it will be your turn eventually. Learn to be cognizant of risky people who run in your circle.
-Counseling can help you process painful truths. Remember people who hold grudges may be unable to see their own role in the situation or face the pain they caused. It comes back to being able to be vulnerable. Grudges are typically about harmed egos after all and protecting those fragile egos. Know that a grudge holder will lie, connive, and do anything to protect and elevate their image at your expense.
-Counseling can help you accept the grudge holder’s perspective. There is no right or wrong when it comes to perspective. Reality is different for all us–our thoughts color our perception and some people think faulty thoughts. As a counselor, I bear witness to this EVERY DAY. To a grudge holder, YOU ARE THE BAD GUY. That is just how it is–it does not matter how irrational or outlandish another’s perspective is. Knowing this may help you accept the end of the relationship (do you really want relationships with people who view you as a bad person?)
-On the other hand, counseling can help you to be open to a reconciliation. Down the road, a person holding a grudge against you may decide they want you back in their life. Try to keep an open mind—see if this person is truly capable of hitting restart on the relationship. While change is unlikely we should never give up hope people can change for the better.
-Therapy can help you to appreciate this person’s ABSENCE. Move on. At some point, you must accept things will not change. Some relationships are beyond repair. Be honest–do you really want someone in your life who thinks so lowly of you? Life is short. Surround yourself with people who appreciate ALL THE GOOD you have to offer.
-Lastly and most importantly, remember it takes much more energy to hold on to hate than to forgive. Counseling can help you put your energy into positive emotions like love, kindness, openness and not negative toxic emotions like resentment and hate. Focus on all the loving relationships in your life.
Counseling is a great avenue for processing negative emotions and gaining a more balanced perspective. If you are struggling with an ongoing conflict in your life, a good clinician can help.
To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):
Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC
Anew Counseling Services LLC
617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649