Amy Foster
July 15, 2013 1:00 pm

I used to be able to hold a mean grudge

Now, I’m the first to admit that nothing truly devastating has happened to me. But people have done some pretty horrible things. I’ve been betrayed, badly, by people I loved. Both family and friends have let me down in ways that are too personal to go into. Of course I was affected by these things. I was affected for a very long time until I got therapy and grew up a little. But, before I got help, here’s how I played it.. Can you recognize any of my go-to cray cray grudge holding techniques in your own behaviour? Be honest…

  • I used to imagine the person who hurt me being involved in a terrible, disfiguring accident. I had to be extremely creative in these musings because it had to be a situation where although the accident was ugly, it had to also, somehow be his/her fault. I couldn’t have anyone, even in my day dreams, feeling sorry for this person. Sadly, this generally meant I had to involve someone else being hurt BECAUSE of something the person who hurt me did (like he was drinking and ran them both into the wall of some acid producing factory a la the Joker). In my defence, no one ever died though.
  • Apologies meant nothing to me. Anyone can say they are sorry. Maybe they can even mean it. So what? Unless they had a time machine and could go back and change their choices, I wasn’t interested.
  • I found myself filled with such crippling anger at times that I lashed out at a lot of people who had nothing to do with the situation at all.
  • When faced with an encounter with the person who hurt me, I turned into a basketcase. This was especially bad when I knew in advance that I had no choice but to see this person, like a family event. Generally I had a panic attack; then, I drank. A lot. Often times for a quite a while after.
  • I brought the baggage of my own situation to other situations that had only the slimmest of similarities. I acted like an authority. I gave pretty crap advice that never helped anyone.
  • There were many times when I could have gone out and had fun, but my idea of fun was sitting home alone and brooding about how unfairly I was treated. Unsurprisingly, this was never as much fun as I thought it would be.
  • Somebody had to pay for how I’d been treated. I knew the other person wasn’t going to pay (regardless of whatever elaborate fantasies I had cooked up.) In some bizarre turn of subconscious logic, I figured I had to be the one to man up and suffer. This makes no sense.
  • I realized that others no longer used the adjective “nice” to describe me.
  • I thought it was absolutely fine to hate people. Like, to walk around attaching that strong of an emotion to someone was not only acceptable, but HEALTHY and COMMON SENSE.
  • I knew what the word empathy meant, but could not actually bring myself to feel it for very many people because obviously, my story was worse than almost anyone’s in the world.
  • Sometimes I would find myself feeling joyous or happy then I would deliberately remind myself what the person did to me and it would all come rushing back in a sick flood of misery. In it’s own way its the equivalent of cutting. I had to hurt, lest I forget and let my guard down or someone else was libel to do the same thing to me.
  • I assumed the worst of people.
  • I simply could not understand the fairness of it. Here I was miserable, cranky, carrying around this incident. And the person who did this to me, the person who was wrong, seemed not only to be fine, but happy! Good things kept happening to them! Where was the bad karma? Where was the Universal Justice?
  • No matter how hard I tried, no matter how many years went by, I simply could not let it go. I felt that forgiveness was weakness.

Okay, so here’s what happened. With the aid of an unbiased, third party listener (a therapist), what seems obvious to most of you reading this, finally became obvious to me. Yes I was hurt. But, the only person that was keeping me in pain, was myself. I never had control over this other persons actions or decisions and yes, that powerlessness was traumatizing. However, I did have control over how much more pain I willing to let this person put me in. We don’t always get closure. We don’t always get to understand exactly why we were treated so badly.

Of course it’s not fair. But, there is so much in this world that isn’t fair. I knew without a doubt that the person who hurt me wasn’t putting ANY emotional investment in me. They weren’t thinking about me like I was thinking about them. They weren’t wondering how I was doing or thinking about how terribly they treated me. And hadn’t they heard that I was an absolute bitch now anyways? (without connecting the dots that how I was acting might be because of how they treated me)It was nauseating for me to contemplate that the bitter person I had become would now somehow justify to them that they were right on some level to treat me so badly.

So I forgave all the people who hurt me, who lied to me, who betrayed me, who abandoned me, who mean girl’d me, who made me feel small or stupid or unworthy. How someone else feels about me is none of my business. I don’t have to live in their mind. I forgave them not because I’m this great magnanimous human being, but rather, as my sister Erin says, holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I forgave them for me, not for them. I was tired of being pissed off all the time. Hating someone is emotionally exhausting. How did I do this? I stopped wallowing. I now allow myself to briefly acknowledge how this person hurt me and that it wouldn’t be smart to let this person get too close again. After that, I say to myself, “what’s done is done and it IS DONE.” Then I distract myself with things that give me a lot of pleasure until the feeling passes.

Instead of focusing on the horrible things that the other person did to me, I choose instead to focus on the person I would like to be. Nicer, kinder, more patient, more empathetic. A person who is willing to acknowledge their own part in how the situation went down. Often times, after reflection, I was a lot more culpable than I would have ever wanted to believe. That is a bitter, but necessary pill to swallow.

Maybe you are in the same boat as I was. If so, it’s time to stop allowing this person to hurt you. Let it go. It’s not easy, but I promise, you will find yourself in a much better place.

Featured image via ShutterStock

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