I am a total grudge-holder… it is one of my biggest flaws. When somebody or something upsets me, I have a hard time letting it go.
Now when I say “letting it go” I mean it on a deep level. It is pretty contradictory but another one of my flaws is that I hate confrontation. This means, when I do run into issues with other people, I choose to try and move forward (rather than directly addressing it) and hope that it will all end up rolling off of my back one day.
But people like me don’t actually ever let things roll off their back… and that is what makes them grudge-holders. In the end, I go through my day to day with these feelings of anger or sadness or disappointment eating at the back of my mind. And that, my friends, is bad for your mental health.
So now that I have acknowledged and admitted my problem, the question is how do I work through it?
There are a few different ways that I have been dealing with my inability to let go in general. When it comes to my relationships, there are four specific strategies that I have been using:
- Therapy – when it comes to understanding yourself better, I truly believe that therapy is a great place to start. Not only is it helpful to have a completely unbiased person sit there and listen to you but they are able to help you attack your problems in a very realistic and constructive way. For me, it was important to vocalize my issues to someone and talk through why I was afraid to approach my feelings with others. From my therapy sessions, I have learned that the fears I have towards confrontation are rooted in the false belief that I would lose my relationship if I address my feelings directly. I have also learned that I perceive other people’s reactions or intentions based on my own anxiety… and that if I was actually willing to create an open dialogue, I would find that the situation never had to become an issue or problem in the first place.
- Mindfulness – I read a great quote once that said: “When we accept the present, we can forgive and release the desire for a different past.” Being more thankful for what I have in the present moment keeps my mind from worrying about what may have happened with others in the past. It isn’t about forgetting about what has happened but rather accepting that we do not need to carry our past with us. By staying more mindful and present, I am not allowing what may have happened yesterday to define what happens today.
- Empathy & Forgiveness – I consider these two to be one and the same because to me they both represent an important point: we can never truly know what anyone else is going through. These days, I try to put myself into other people’s shoes and question why they may have done whatever they did to upset me. Maybe they were having a bad day… maybe they have been working through their own issues and securities just like me. Whatever it is, taking the time to think about more about other people has helped me learn how to forgive. We all have stuff that we are going through in life – and if I ever did something to upset somebody else, I would want them to understand and be able to forgive me. Why wouldn’t I do the same?
- Communication – learning how to talk to the people around you is probably one of the most healing things that you can do. As human beings, we live in a social world and crave relationships with others. While the rise of technology has allowed us to hide behind screens, it is more important than ever to be able to have open and honest conversations with people face to face. This is something that has been very difficult for me, given that I hate confrontation. But what I am learning is that people appreciate honesty and being able to initiate difficult conversations can help to bring you closer to one another. So if someone hurts or upsets you, start being brave enough to tell them how they made you feel. It is not going to be easy but in the end, there is no better way to let something go than to address it head-on.