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Why We Hold Grudges and What to Do When Someone Has a Grudge Against You

Leah comes from of long line of grudge holders. She came into treatment because she was determined to learn how to talk about anger and work through conflicts.

“My house growing up was ALL drama. My older sister, younger brother and mother would constantly bicker and then not speak to one another for weeks if not months! They’d make up eventually, but a few weeks later it would happen all over again!”

When someone close to you has a grudge against you, it can make life miserable. And on the flip side, if you’re a person who is the grudge-holder, life can be even more miserable. Numerous studies and reports have shown that holding on to anger is bad for our emotional and physical health. Toxic anger contributes to cardiac illness, high blood pressure, substance abuse disorders, an inability to form and maintain relationships, loneliness, depression and anxiety just to name a few.

The All Good/All Bad Conundrum and Grudges

Why someone is more likely to be a grudge-holder than others is a complicated matter. But generally speaking, this behavior is based on multiple factors such as innate personality characteristics, childhood experiences with conflicts, hurts and anger, family dynamics and a tendency to see situations and people in an “all good” or “all bad” manner, all of which influences our behaviors, emotions and reactions.

All good/all bad thinking doesn’t recognize the complexities and nuances of people and situations. So a person with a tendency for holding grudges is likely to draw the broad conclusion that whoever made them feel hurt or anger is responsible for the conflict, making that person completely wrong and totally “bad” from the grudge-holder’s perspective. Once the grudge-holder sees himself or herself as the victim, it creates deep feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness leading to a vicious cycle of hurt and resentment.

The Power of Acceptance

Is someone holding a grudge against you? It’s important to remember that the grudge-holder’s degree of anger and hurt can often be disproportionate to the actual event. The anger and hurt they feel about a present conflict is usually compounded with deep-seated hurts from the past. A simple apology usually isn’t enough smooth things out.

Here are some tips to help if someone is holding a grudge against you:

  • Accept that you can’t change a grudge-holder’s perspective no matter how much you state your case and attempt to defend or explain yourself. Avoid going over and over again and in-depth discussing the situation that created the conflict in the first place with the grudge-holder. The less engagement around conflict with a grudge holder the better.
  • Apologize. Although you may not agree with the grudge-holder’s beliefs, he or she is holding a grudge because of hurt feelings the person cannot articulate and work through. Ultimately, the emotionally mature and right thing to do when we hurt someone’s feelings is to apologize.
  • Forgive. It’s important to forgive a grudge-holder for your own benefit. Holding on to toxic anger is not only emotionally unhealthy, but toxic anger also contributes to physical illnesses including high blood pressure, cardiac disease, and substance abuse.
  • Move On. Letting go of the grudge-holder’s grasp and moving on with your life is imperative. This can be achieved by fully accepting the reality that what will be will be. The serenity prayer stated at the end of 12-step meetings perfectly sums up this point. This prayer emphasizes “accepting the things/people we cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.” We can’t change other people, but we can change our reactions and the way we live our lives.
Why We Hold Grudges and What to Do When Someone Has a Grudge Against You

Paula Durlofsky, PhD

Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She specializes in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and treats a variety of disorders. Dr. Durlofsky has a special interest in issues affecting women throughout the lifespan. In addition to her practice Dr. Durlofsky is a workshop facilitator and blogger. Follow her on Twitter @DrPDurlofsky or on Facebook.


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APA Reference
Durlofsky, P. (2018). Why We Hold Grudges and What to Do When Someone Has a Grudge Against You. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 24, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/why-we-hold-grudges-and-what-to-do-when-someone-has-a-grudge-against-you/

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 May 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.