How to Hold a Grudge, From Resentment to Contentment – The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life by Sophie Hannah
Best-selling crime novelist Sophie Hannah explains how to hold grudges happily. A self-confessed “grudge guru,” Hannah provides a grudge grading system and a way to process the frustration of a grudge into life lessons. With creativity and tongue-in-cheek humor, Hannah shares many of her own grudge-worthy moments and her pathway to healing. She also includes input from experts in the field. Even if you might handle some scenarios a little differently, Hannah provides a healthy way to react and to identify and process your frustrations. Her approach seems particularly helpful for business- and work-related grudges.
- Examine how and whether you hold grudges.
- Explore myriad, wide-ranging types of grudges.
- Follow the rules of the “Grudge-fold Path.”
- “Convert negative grudge energy into positive grudge energy.”
- Avoid certain types of bad or invalid grudges.
- You can manage all your grudges and create “gratitude grudges.”
How to Hold a Grudge Book Summary
Examine how and whether you hold grudges.
Traditional definitions of a grudge are negative, but grudges don’t have to be. Holding grudges can increase your ability to forgive. A grudge is a true story of something that happened to you and caused you pain or injury. It springs from an event that you continue to hold onto for some time. After the first spike of emotion ends, don’t fill your head with ideas for revenge. Valid grudges should help you feel wiser and more powerful and – if you’re lucky – make you laugh.
“A grudge is a true story from your past, involving a negative, hurtful or suboptimal experience of some sort that it feels important to remember now and into the future.”
Follow the “Grudge-fold Path” – whereby you “hold a grudge, and then forgive and move on while still holding your grudge” – to learn how to use grudges to make your life healthier and more positive.
Taking the grudge test can help you determine whether and how you hold grudges. The way you respond to certain scenarios shows which of four types of grudge-holders you might be. Consider this scenario: You tell a friend that her sister (also your friend) scratched your car, lied about it and refused to pay for damages. Your friend implies that it doesn’t matter because your car is “hideous.” Your options are:
- Cut off your friend and her sister.
- Believe the sister’s behavior embarrassed your friend and caused her to lash out, but you’ll talk to her about it.
- Intuit that your friend felt contrite about getting angry and forgive her instantly.
- Continue your friendship with both while understanding that neither cares about how you feel or about taking responsibility for their actions.
“Secretly we all hold grudges, but most of us probably think we shouldn’t, and many of us deny we do.”
If you select the first option, you may be “The Cut-Off Queen (or King)” and too forthright when situations require subtlety. The second option indicates that you’re an “Empathetic Analyst” and ready to give people the benefit of the doubt. But some people may not deserve it. The third option shows that you’re an “Easy-Lifer” who doesn’t want to rock the boat. And, the last option means you’re a “Grudge Guru” who has the ability to create and define grudges. You can take care of yourself without removing people from your life. When necessary, you might even pretend to like people whom you don’t particularly like at all.
Explore myriad, wide-ranging types of grudges.
Grudges appear in a range of types, including the “unprovoked attack grudge,” the “unreasonable imposition grudge,” the “ill-judged joke grudge,” the “betrayal of trust/dishonesty grudge,” the “underestimation grudge,” the “political grudge,” and the “invalidation” and “ingratitude” grudges.
“If you’re someone who finds it impossible to say how you truly feel because of fear, you’re far more likely to acquire a large grudge collection.” ”
A “lack of support grudge” may manifest as hard feelings against a group of friends who don’t validate your emotions after you confront a group member for making unkind comments to you. A “selfie grudge” is a grudge you hold against yourself for something you did. Treat yourself as fairly as you would other people, and forgive yourself after processing your distress. For example, perhaps you told a lie to escape a confrontation instead of standing up for yourself.
Follow the rules of the Grudge-fold Path.
The Grudge-fold Path acknowledges the wrong done to you and helps you process it. You needn’t repress negative thoughts. Acknowledge what happened and, after following the path, you’ll be able to move on. This path follows 10 principles:
- Realize that some people will always make you feel angry or betrayed.
- Be upset about this, and acknowledge it without feeling guilt.
- Don’t let negative thoughts consume you. Realize that such thoughts will move on.
- Recognize the need to commemorate what occurred, but know that you won’t take action against the person who harmed you and you won’t continue to feel bad forever.
- Understand that you need to make something enduring of what happened to you. Decide to create a formal grudge.
- Before you create the actual grudge, prepare your grudge cabinet – a physical box, drawer or special place to store your grudge stories and lessons learned.
- Create the grudge and document it in a way that doesn’t harm anyone so that you acknowledge and commemorate it.
- Rank and categorize the grudge, and put it in your grudge cabinet.
- After these steps, your anger will naturally evaporate. You can then forgive the person who committed the offense without fearing that it will be lost to the fog of time.
- Repeat the process as necessary when new incidents occur. Keep your grudges responsibly until you decide not to keep them anymore – which could be never. See your grudges as a source of power and insight.
“Convert negative grudge energy into positive grudge energy.”
An unprocessed grudge is like a teenager and likely to wreak havoc. You can shepherd any new or old still-stinging grudge through the grudge process. As you tease lessons from the process and remove bad feelings, you will become more efficient at processing grudges.
“I’m grateful for my grudges because they have taught me, more than anything else in my life, the way I do and don’t want to live.”
Identify your grudges in one of three de-escalating categories of grudges. For example, think of a grudge you currently hold – old or new. Ask yourself if thinking about the grudge brings up strong negative emotions? Does it make you want to hurt the person involved?
If so, it is a “P1” grudge that can harm you and others. It’s a “P2” grudge if it no longer ignites strong emotion. Although you may have ideas and judgments about it, you don’t want to harm the person involved. “P3” grudges have faded enough to be instructive now or to make you laugh because you’ve internalized their lessons. You can process all your grudges to turn the P1s into P2s and the P2s into P3s.
“When we welcome and accept our negative emotions…pouring kindness and positivity all over them…they will soon be incentivized to move toward positivity, or else they will disintegrate naturally and vanish.”
You can choose to work first either on yourself or your grudges, but often it’s better to work on grudges first. Grudges focus on what other people have done to you, so leading with the idea that you need fixing belittles your experience. You are just a tiny part of the problem. Pick one unprocessed grudge. Your first processing session will take about two hours. With practice, the session can take about an hour.
- Write a story about why you hold this grudge. Your story can be long or short and in either the first or third person. Detail how the person who harmed you and the incident fit into your world. Your writing can express your emotions, but it shouldn’t be just paragraphs full of anger. Simply tell the story of what happened.
- Leave it overnight or longer. Either completely process each grudge individually, or write up initial descriptions for several grudges in one sitting.
- Read the story, and find places to add humor. By inserting humor, you change the energy to positive, which softens angry feelings.
- After you add humor – which will sometimes be difficult – consider which of your actions you would change and how.
- Save a copy of the original story, then rewrite it with the changes and the new results. Your story is fiction now, so end it anyway you’d like.
- Read your original story and the fictionalized version, consciously noting the differences. Question whether your anger stems from feeling powerless to go back in time or from not doing the “Right Thing to Do” (RTTD) at the time. Knowing this will further dissipate any hatred for the harmful person and help your desire for revenge fade.
- Recognize and accept that you can’t change past actions, and you can’t change other people.
- Internalize the RTTD principle. Let go of what you may have done or should have done. Concentrate on the present.
- Search out and act on current RTTDs. Take this action with the intention of “righting a wrong” – not of making someone suffer.
- Learn something from your story.
- Be grateful for what the event taught you. You may feel grateful that it happened or, at least, you might be able now to identify how it made you stronger or smarter.
- At the end of your two stories, write how the situation benefited you. If the other individuals or groups paid a price for their actions, write it down.
“If you approach the practice of grudge-holding in an enlightened way, you’ll find [that] it makes you more forgiving.”
If your processed grudge still feels like a traumatic P1 grudge, keep reading the two versions of your story and reflect on the RTTDs that you did as a result. Highlight the things you wish you had done but that are no longer possible to do, and let them go. Review the lists of what you learned and the insights for which you are grateful. After you promote your grudge to a P2 or P3, ceremoniously fold the paired stories and put them in your grudge cabinet. If you still have strong feelings regarding the incident and want to yell names at the miscreant in the privacy of your home, do it. Never take further action on your grudge. When you acknowledge and honor your negative feelings, you bathe them in love. They become more positive or they disappear. If they aren’t moving quickly enough, therapy may help.
Avoid certain types of bad or invalid grudges.
Grudge holders should follow the “First, do no harm” rule of the medical profession. On the Grudge-fold Path, your grudge shouldn’t cause harm to you or another person. Your goal is to reduce the negative feelings connected to the grudge. If retaining a grudge makes you want to act out, process the grudge or throw it away. Anytime you can do something to negate the grudge instead of clinging to it, you should.
“Holding grudges is the ideal route to being a more forgiving and happier person.”
Processing grudges is important, but many people hold invalid grudges. If you do, process them or try to understand why they aren’t valid. Invalid grudges come in various types. One type is the “Scrudge” – which deals with anger about things in the past, present or future – but holding a grudge against what someone might do in the future makes no sense. You carry a “Shield Grudge” if you decide not to like someone even though you don’t have a valid reason.
“If a grudge is causing you any sort of stress or discomfort, then it is either an unprocessed, bad or invalid grudge.”
A “Toxic Grudge” causes you or other people harm even after you process it. For example, negative feelings can remain after you process a grudge. A toxic grudge creates anger within you whenever it comes to mind. With a “Group Grudge,” you paint all members of a certain group with the same grudge. You can’t hold a group grudge against everyone named Jemina just because one Jemina did you wrong. However, you can hold a group grudge against people who aren’t grateful enough since – by definition – their behavior includes them in the group.
“If you have not consciously processed your grudges, it’s quite likely that at least some of them…might still be making you feel bad, and you might be using them in the wrong way.”
A grudge handed down in your family is not an heirloom; being transferred from one generation to the next makes a grudge invalid. Your grudges should be your own, not those of your family. The “Scapegoat” (or “Inappropriate Extrapolation Grudge”) occurs when you transfer a grudge onto an innocent bystander because you fear being angry at the person who deserves it.
You can manage all your grudges and create “gratitude grudges.”
As you write and process each new grudge, look through your collection and remove the ones you no longer need. Maybe the person you’re holding the grudge against has apologized, or perhaps you realized that your perception of the incident was incorrect. Write and keep gratitude grudges that retell wonderful things that people have done, kindnesses worth commemorating. Offset all your grudges by adding something positive that you know of – whether someone did it on your behalf or for someone else.
About the Author
Books by award-winning crime novelist and poet Sophie Hannah have been adapted for TV and published in more than 50 countries. She was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize in poetry.
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