si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: April, 2014

Holding A Grudge

Holding a grudge is one of the dumbest thing we can do.

That said, it’s also one of the easiest things to do.

In essence, what IS a grudge?

When we believe someone has wronged us, and we hang on to that memory.

Notice some key things here:

  • It doesn’t matter whether they did actually wrong us or not, just that we believe they did
  • It doesn’t matter what their intent was (or even if it was intentional)
  • Along with the memory, we hang on to a huge chunk of negative energy
  • All this colours any future interactions with that person

So why do it?

Generally, we hang on to grudges for some combination of the following reasons:

  • We feel justified (“It’s fair” or “They deserve it”)
  • We think it’ll keep us safe in the future
  • We think this is how we learn from the experience
  • We feel they owe us something (payback, restitution)

However, there’s some flaws in this reasoning (well, duh)

For a start, really what we’re doing is making ourselves feel crappier. Why even do that?

We’re carrying around a huge bundle of negative emotion/energy, such that every time we think about that person, we feel bad. Also not smart.

On top of that, it’s damaging our relationship with that person.

If someone has done something bad to us and we can completely remove that person from our life? Well, that’s great. Really though? Most people we interact with aren’t like that. We often don’t have that freedom (workmates, friends, family, lovers).

The final nail in the coffin? It’s never going to make the original pain go away. All it does it make it suck longer and harder (and not in a fun way).

Now, as well as the original hurt, we’re attaching all this additional negative energy on top of it.

Over time a grudge can and will take on a life of its own. The original hurt becomes more or less a footnote, but every time we’ve thought bad thoughts about that person, it’s added a little more to a giant pile of nastiness that is building in our minds. Witness how grudges between families (or countries) can survive long after the original participants have died.

Holding a grudge won’t help us accurately interpret a situation. Suddenly, every interaction with that person will be filtered through the pain of that grudge. Every possible word and action will be (mis) interpreted as similar to or adding to that pain.

All it’s doing is maximising our own suffering and damaging our relationship.

Why do this?

If we’re smart, we have to remind ourselves that we’re the boss. We are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings.

We need to re-assert ourselves over this noise and choose to let the pain go.

Obviously tools like EFT or releasing can help with this process, but even things like good old fashioned (genuine) forgiveness can do the trick. If you’re truly genuine about letting it go though, it’s important to acknowledge the pain we’ve caused that other person too.

Something as simple as imagining the person in front of you, and saying “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” can be enormously powerful for healing the damage we’ve done even by holding a grudge (let alone anything else we may have said or done).

Remember though – really, you’re not doing it for the other person’s sake. If they’ve hurt you that badly and they suddenly died, you wouldn’t be THAT bothered, would you? No, the real reason you’re doing it is for your OWN sake. To permanently get rid of all that crappy energy.

The real test is if you can think about that person, think about the situation, and feel nothing but calm and loving. Asking their forgiveness is a super powerful way to deeply and completely clear out the last vestiges of crappy energy.

We all carry grudges around. Some big, some small. Start with the biggest and work your way down the list. Every single one you can drop will result in your own life feeling and genuinely being better.

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    Secret Anger

    My family has a bit of a history with anger.

    Nothing too awful but the men on Dad’s side (and myself) are definitely of the work hard, play hard, kick ass and don’t take any bullshit variety.

    For years growing up I genuinely thought I never really got angry.

    Well (so I thought), I did get angry, REALLY angry, but only once every few years.

    The worst extent of this anger was twice ever, about a decade apart, I’ve punched a wall. I don’t recommend it. It’s more than a little stupid.

    Fortunately the last time I did this was about 15 years ago, and I haven’t come remotely close since.

    So anyway, I’d always seen THAT as “angry”, but other than that I thought of myself as fairly chilled (ha ha, oh boy).

    It’s taken a lot of healing but I can see things a lot more clearly now.

    See, I might not have been punching walls, but I was still angry, and I mean ANGRY angry. Pretty much all of the time.

    Looking back, I can see that many of my long suffering girlfriends (and my family) walked on egg shells so as not to upset me. (Yes, I have gone back and apologised to several of my exes for this).

    How did I not see it at the time?

    It was only after I’d got rid of the vast majority of this anger that I could see it for what it truly was.

    Turns out, humans lie to themselves. A lot. Not intentionally, but we all do. Nobody wants to feel like a bad guy.

    In this case, what was actually anger I had about a thousand euphemisms for:

    • Being annoyed
    • Being irritated
    • Being moody
    • Pissing me off
    • Getting up my nose
    • Someone being fucking retarded (and no, I didn’t mean mentally handicapped)
    • Stupidity
    • Being fucked off
    • Bugging me
    • Bothering me
    • Them being morons (of course, it’s always them, right?)
    • Irking me
    • … and so on

    All of these, in hindsight, were me being angry.

    The trouble is, if what you consider real anger involves punching a wall, then merely spewing invective for a few hours doesn’t even register.

    Interestingly, most of these come back to wanting control (ie feeling out of control). Someone didn’t behave the way I’d want them to, and I’d get angry.

    Of course, it’s much easier to see the small stuff once you’ve got rid of the big stuff.

    This week I noticed a new variation.

    “Things getting under my skin.”

    Subtle, very subtle.

    I may not be screaming about whatever-it-is, but I can definitely feel my energy shifting.

    I’m slightly tenser than usual and my thoughts are overly focused on the issue.

    Not the end of the world by any means, but since I’m fully committed to dropping ALL non-loving thoughts, this has to go too. Yes, I realise that’s an ambitious goal, but it’s worth aiming for. Every step improves my life and that of those around me.

    The way I figure it, if you’re automatically thinking about something you don’t enjoy? There’s something there worth looking at.

    Ultimately, anger is something that is primarily detrimental to the person feeling it.

    We often delude ourselves that anger can propel us into positive action – but the same action taken from a place of love is always far more effective. Even if the correct response is punching someone in the face (which I also don’t recommend), any tension in your body will radically reduce the power and speed of your punch. I’m serious.

    Same goes for everything.

    As the old saying goes – being angry is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

    Even this deep, subtle, secret anger is worth rooting out and removing, if you genuinely want a long, peaceful, happy life.

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      A Small Trauma Can Be A Big Trauma

      Often times, the largest traumas in our lives can grow from the tiniest incidents.

      Now, I’m not talking about things that are very obviously awful: death, violence, horror.

      I’m talking about the seemingly innocent things that happen to us as kids:

      • Someone doesn’t behave the way we’d like
      • We’re treated unfairly
      • Someone (typically a parent) says something we misunderstand
      • We miss out on something
      • … and so on

      Why is it that these trivial events can have such outsize effects on our lives?

      The key to understanding is to remember that we weren’t mature yet when these events occurred.

      Sure, we can look back now and see that “I wanted a special hat on my birthday but they’d run out so I got a regular one instead” really doesn’t compare to the horrors that many people have suffered. However, at the time, it was still a big deal.

      Why? Because we were kids!

      When you’re a kid, damn near everything is a big deal.

      I watched my brother cry for twenty minutes once because he lost 20 cents. Yes, 20 cents. It’s kinda funny now, but at the time he was a kid, so why is he expected to know any better?

      I had a conversation with my Mum when I was 4. Know what I learned? That she didn’t love me.

      How ridiculous (and wrong!) is that?

      Even more crazy is that I remember the conversation and can see that what she was trying to teach me was the exact opposite. That she did love me.

      How is it possible to get completely the opposite idea from a simple conversation?

      Easy. I was four. How much do four year olds know? Not a whole hell of a lot.

      The thing is, it’s too easy to look back at these kinds of experiences and dismiss them out of hand. Wave them away as the trivialities that we (as grownups) see them for.

      Shame will encourage us to do this, but it doesn’t mean these events aren’t still significantly affecting us, even today.

      When we were kids they seemed huge. Thus, their effect on us is huge. Therefore, if we wish to truly heal their effect (and our lives), we need to treat the situation as it felt at the time: serious and life threatening.

      Remember, we’ve spent decades reliving this trauma at volume 11. How awful it actually was is irrelevant compared to how much pain our memories have put us through reliving it, over and over all this time.

      Now fortunately, humans are generally pretty robust. There’ll have been dozens of situations as a kid that might have screwed you up, but didn’t.

      If you look back though, you’ll instantly know the small handful that have deeply affected you.

      These are the ones to heal. These are the ones to treat with the respect they deserve.

      These are the ones that, no matter how tiny they look now, will have a disproportionately positive effect on your life by resolving.

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