Existential Psychology

Holding a Grudge

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Holding a grudge is one of the stupidest things you can do because it creates negativity in your present. In an existential sense there is a difference between your underlying state of being and the fluctuations of emotion that make up your daily existence. Some days we feel positive and upbeat, while other days we feel down in the dumps and this is life. But people with a generally positive outlook weather the occasional storm with the belief that good weather is on its way while people with a generally negative outlook are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, even when things are going well. When you hold on to a grudge you run the risk of making negativity your underlying outlook and this perspective will bleed into all of your relationships and experiences, even though it was spawned by just one person.

When we are wronged sometimes our expectations about the way the world works are shattered, a phenomenon called just world trauma. A grudge is a way to regain equilibrium, combating the vertigo that comes from being forced to reevaluate the way you see the world. You take all of your confusing thoughts and emotions and focus them like a laser beam on one entity, instilling your life with meaning and direction once again. But the meaning derived from a grudge leads to spiritual decay rather than growth.

The idea I use that usually has the most impact on people struggling to let go of a grudge is, “If your grudge signifies that someone has hurt you deeply, you must see that holding on to your grudge allows this person to keep hurting you deeply. They had the power to bring negativity into your life in the past, and now you are handing them the power to bring negativity into your life in the present.”

If you can see your grudge through this lens you will become highly motivated to overcome it as you realize it’s a sign of your weakness not a sign of your strength. The paradox is that letting go of a grudge means grieving, and grieving at its deepest level means surrender, accepting that something irrevocable has occurred. This kind of acceptance can be terrifying for some people and unconsciously they prefer the grudge without realizing that like we said holding on to a grudge is already surrendering all their power to someone else.