The Power of Positive Thinking
When the mind is burdened by a perceived wrong for an extended period of time, the body automatically steps in to carry part of the load. We store many of our painful life experiences deep within the framework of our physical bodies.
If we don’t consciously feel and heal these hurts as they occur, they linger in our muscles, organs, and tissues long after the mind has consciously forgotten the specifics of the event.
The body is actually a repository that faithfully carries this load until the essence of the experience is cleansed “from the record.” Fortunately, a bit of conscious awareness focused on the simple exercise below can greatly help to release the baggage of past experiences.
Grudges take time to grow and getting rid of them is a process. You can follow these steps on your own, or a therapist can help you through.
Acknowledge the hurt. You were wronged, and that's real. Describing what happened and how it made you feel is a start – whether you write it in a journal or in a letter you might never send to the person at the center of your grudge. Telling these truths can be "an incredibly powerful process, when you get them in the imaginary chair and express anger," “Give yourself credit for what you've done to try to cope with the original offense.”
Decide to forgive. Forgiving someone who hurt you is a gift you give to yourself. It doesn't mean you have to forget the offense or reconcile. It's not about getting the other person to act differently. It might even be forgiving yourself for something you've done or how you've behaved, along with trying to make amends.
Realize forgiving isn't condoning. "Acceptance does not equal agreement. People may have a well-practiced sense of justice and fairness, and even though they logically get it – that it's going to be important for them to let go; that they can't control something – they fear if they abandon the fight or release the anger, the perpetrator will believe that they won, or that the victim agrees with what was done." What acceptance really means, "I can't go back and create a better version of the past."
Ask yourself: Why? People realize the grudge is a problem when they sense their own evolution being hindered. They're almost bored, and the grievance is starting to feel old and as if it doesn't matter as much anymore. And yet … letting go feels threatening, because it takes away the default of "Look what happened to me." You also might be anxious that losing the grudge will leave you empty. Instead, you're making room for healthier feelings to fill that space.
Consider the trade-off. "Connect to the benefits that will come to you when you make a commitment to forgive and let go," Harris says. "Often, those are peace of mind, regaining personal energy that has been squandered prosecuting your grievance over and over, a sense of freedom and the ability for trust to be rebuilt in a more genuine way."
Pay attention to feedback. Close friends and partners often serve as sounding boards as you rehash painful details of past grievances. Even the most patient listeners grow weary, however. When people in your life suggest you're getting stuck, it's time to find a new narrative.
Change the conversation. If you're the constant confidante to a grudge-holding loved one, you can deepen your curiosity and explore why the person needs to dwell on the past, and where they are at the present moment. But if you've just had enough, she says, be truthful. It's "totally acceptable" to say, with kindness and compassion, "I can't keep hearing that anymore. I'm not expecting you to move on, but I do need to self-care here as well."
Practice letting go. Empathy enables forgiveness. Recognizing the other person's perspective – that he or she has unresolved pain, too, or that acting in their self-interest may unavoidably conflict with yours – can help you deal with your hurt. Visualization, such as imagining a thick rope connecting you to the person you want to forgive, and then letting the rope go, is one exercise. Daily affirmations, journal writing, meditation and monitoring your thoughts and attitude will all help
Embrace yourself. Letting go of a grudge brings about revelation and transformation.
Build grace. Be encouraged to adopt an advanced form of forgiveness, “Grace”. "To practice grace is to prepackage forgiveness and set it on the shelf, in anticipation of a future hurtful action from someone who matters to you: a spouse, partner, child, parent or co-worker. When we've already forgiven others for future offenses, we bypass the formation of grudges altogether."