22 Jan 2023

Steven Dromgool: How to let go of a grudge

From The Weekend , 10:05 am on 22 January 2023

Are you holding on to a grudge against someone?

Resentment towards someone we felt hurt by serves a protective function, but in the long term it can be stressful for our bodies, says relationship therapist Steven Dromgool.

Woman of Indian appearance looking thoughtful

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto

"Resentment is your brain or your body's way of trying to prevent you from getting hurt again ... but holding on to it for a long time is incredibly stressful for the body and contributes to you dying faster," he tells Evie Sharpton.

Relationship therapist Steven Dromgool

Relationship therapist Steven Dromgool Photo: Relate Counselling

When you've been hurt in a relationship, it's easy to send all of the blame in the direction of the other person, positioning them as a persecutor and yourself as a victim, Dromgool says.

Part of letting go of a grudge against them involves taking responsibility for how our own hopes or expectations for the relationship played in the experience of hurt or loss.

"Being a victim is a crappy place to be. Shifting to the persecutor position - and talking shit about someone - can make you feel powerful but can alienate you from your values."

Letting go of resentment towards someone you feel hurt by does require forgiveness, which isn't the same as forgetting or condoning whatever happened, he says.

"In simple terms, forgiveness is letting go of vengeance 'cause that's essentially what a grudge is.

"A grudge is saying you did this thing, you hurt me, I'm gonna treat you like shit at every possible opportunity.

"Forgiveness is saying you did this, this hurt me. This is how I feel about it… and this is what I'm going to do about it."

He encourages people empower themselves by transforming a grudge into a decision.

Instead of focusing on the other person and what they think, think about what would now make the situation better for you.

"Take a moment, and acknowledge the loss that you experienced. Make a decision based off your values and what you want to do about that loss and implement [the decision]. Then you don't need to resent [the person] anymore because you've worked through that emotional process. Then it's a decision, not a grudge."


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