In part one of this guide, we looked at what it means to have a grudge against somebody and why humans form feuds. We learnt how easily grudges are born, and how much mental energy they consume. If you read part one, you should hopefully have a solid grasp on how to manage the anxieties of any friends or relatives caught in the middle of your feud. We will talk more about this now, as this step is all about facing the reality of your grudge and its effects. It is only going to get tougher, the longer your grudge is held.
For the benefit of clarity this guide will assume you have followed all advice given in Part 1 . We will assume you have been holding your grudge. It is also assumed you have, per this guide’s advice, cut the person it is against out of your life completely. We now need to talk about maintaining your grudge.
If you have followed closely, this person should now be as distant as a far off planet, and you are no longer in their orbit, absorbing their toxic rubbish. That’s a good example of how you remind yourself why you started this in the first place. It sounds ruthless but you need to keep it in mind. Any time you feel yourself wavering, any time you feel perhaps now is the time to throw down the wall. After all, maybe they’ve suffered enough. But have they? Remind yourself why you took this course of action. Ocassionally speak aloud thoughts to yourself to reinforce the memory. Use words like ‘toxic’, ‘poison’, maybe even ‘evil’ – if you should feel strongly enough. Obviously, it would be wise to use less abrasive words in the company of the good people still caught between you (the rock) and your ex-associate (the hard place).
Your maintenance of the grudge will help you keep control over its effects. This approach will keep you grounded in reality.
Even though you may have succeeded in establishing a perputual ‘conversation red card’ regarding the person this grudge is against, the reality is they are bound to be mentioned from time to time. This is unavoidable and must be handled correctly. When the person’s name inevitably comes up, be ready to be seen to be looking as forlorn as possible. Those in the middle will be suffering to a degree too, remember, but it would not harm your case for them to see how much the grudge pains you to maintain and how much angst it causes.
As we approach the end of this guide we move onto to the final steps on how to manage your grudge and guide you over the many pitfalls.
After a degree of time has passed you may feel the grudge is on its last legs. The will to maintain it may slowly ebbing away. Unfortunately, the way in which the human brain behaves when threatened means grudges can’t simply be “switched off”. Fear, resentment and the desire to reach a specific goal all get different parts of the brain working simultaneously. After a while it simply becomes second nature – but it’s still going to consume a lot of energy! Knnowing this can often serve only to increase feelings of resentment. It’s time to let this guide unpick some of the conflicting emotions your grudge is causing you to feel, and help you navigate the sometimes difficult times ahead.
So, let us now assume your grudge has been in place for a minimum of one year. A lot may have happened since this grudge began. After all, time doesn’t stand still. People change, lives change. If you feel your grudge is truly justified, it must stand impervious to time. The only way your grudge can truly survive is wilful selective amnesia. You must forget the other person ever existed.
This sounds harsh, painful even. Not only are they no longer part of your life getting out the cookie cutter and removing them from your personal history too seems like a big step. It may be helpful think of it as cutting the face of an ex-lover out of a photograph. You must perform a similar operation upon your memory. It’s the only way to stop yourself reminiscing about the ‘good times’. It will strengthen you, harden you.
At this time it’s natural for you to find yourself again thinking about the people caught in the middle. They will not have performed an operation on their memory to cut out the person that has wronged you. You might one day over-hear them reminisce about the ‘good times’, the times when you could all sit and laugh in the same room together without your grudge to separate you. But if you follow this guide’s advice, you will barely flinch at such things.
People learn to live with grudges, they become acceptant of them, just part and parcel of the relationship they have with you. Although it no doubt pains them, it sits in the background. Your friends or family or whoever may be in the middle, should by now routinely jump through hoops to ensure the two of you are not brought into contact.
Very few social relationships can continue like this indefinitely. Sooner or later, you may find yourself faced with an ultimatum – make up or split up. In other words, you have to choose between the grudge and your social circle. What do you do then?
You must ask yourself some questions. What did you want the result of the grudge to be? Is it worth sticking to when you stand to lose so much?
There is a way you can maintain the grudge; beneath a facade of friendliness. The secret grudge.
A ‘secret grudge’ is the kind of grudge that is never spoken, yet it is forever beneath the surface, bubbling under but never boiling over.
Again, thoughts of ending the grudge may resurface. Remember the reinforncing behaviours that form part of ‘grudge maintenance? Ask yourself; why should you? Remember you were the one that was hurt the one that has to endure the agony of maintaining a grudge. At this point there are choices.
You could indeed end the grudge – with no malice or ill will. Forgiveness without the merest hint of rancor. Or, you can do what we already discussed, and maintain a silent, private grudge.
There is one other alternative. Insist the grudge holds and challenge those posing the ultimatum to do their worst. Chances are they’re decent people, and chances are you’re too much of a good egg for them to carry out their threat to cut you out of their circle. After all, does what your doing really mitigate such harsh treatment? The point of the ultimatum (if you’ve followed my earlier advise) was to get you all back together.- if those in the middle cut you out of the circle for failing to drop the grudge they still won’t get what they want.
So, to recap. At this one-year point (or perhaps longer) of your grudge the experience will start to test the psyche and people you know may tire of being caught in the middle. You can all intents and purposes end it – forget or forgive, whilst maintaining a secret, private grudge. You can throw in the towel, end all the bitterness between you and the person your grudge is against. Or stick to your guns and use all those maintenance tools to double down on it.
Now our guide begins
Now this guide takes you further into the future for the final step of holding your grudge.
In our scenario the grudge has been going on for years, decades. At this point, it is even more important to hold firm. If this thing has lasted the distance, it has surely come even further than even you, as the grudge-holder of our scenario thought was possible when it began. By now it’s taken on a life of it’s own and then gradually allowed to blend into the background of everyone around you. They’ve stopped trying to change your mind, resigned themselves to the fact that talking about it is a waste of time. In short, everyone’s got on with their lives. You’ve got what you wanted, and your grudge is now everything you wanted it to be – it’s been acknowledged, and has earned a degree of immortality.
The misdemeanor that caused this thing to kick off is by now so far in the past they person your grudge is against has probably forgotten all about it. Forgot about it – and you too. But you must be careful.
If the person you have held a grudge against should die, with the grudge still in place, the focus of bad and unjust behavior is going to be on you. Basically, you’re going to look like the bad guy. Don’t falter.
Go back the reinforcement exercises. Say it again. They were wrong. You are right. All they had to do was apologise when they had the chance. Don’t back down now, because despite everything that stood in the way, you have continued on. The grudge has been borne and should remain until you both pass.
Remember this isn’t the ‘Softie’s Guide to Holding a Grudge. This is how you really bear a grudge and make it stand the test of time. And if other people can’t live with it? Well, sadly, tough!
t takes a strong backbone to remain this moral for this long. It isn’t something for your average namby, pamby, touchy-feely, psycho analytic. This is solid and unbreakable.
As this guide draws to a close, here is your last line of defense against the inevitable, encroaching feelings of guilt; Hopefully you will recall what we talked about at the very beginning of this guide – the ability humans have to hold a grudge is ingrained. It’s in our genes, remember.
If you’ve been reading carefully, your grudge will last years, until the person you held it has passed away. But it’s not quite over yet.
Of course, it is only right and proper to attend the funeral and mourn them. Over the years, whenever their name is mentioned.and the subject arises, be sure to take the time to point out your disagreement “was never a grudge” .
Vindictive? Sadistic? Not at all. You have now finally won the war.
But a war isn’t what you wanted, was it? Wasn’t it about validation – vindication of the wrongdoing that had been done against you.
Was this ever truly about protecting yourself from future pain and hurt? Was this really about punishment for crimes against you? Or was this really just a way of holding up a sign to show everyone what a truly horrible person that person was? To gain some small measure of sympathy to boost your own feelings of resentment?
It doesn’t matter.
Congratulations. You are now a total asshole.
READ MORE IN THIS SERIES
Resent Resentment (A poem specially written for the third part in this short series looking at grudges)
Part One of the Asshole’s Guide… is available HERE
Copyright Martin Gregory 2019