Can you hold a grudge?
Do you stand by your decisions even if they cause you pain?
Have you internally rehearsed a whole script about why you’re right or how this thing, event or person has held you back?
Yup, I’ve been there too.
Sometimes we hold onto so much anger or even hate for someone who has wronged us that we sabotage our own lives and happiness over an event that happened way too long ago. And in doing so, we allow our past to determine our present and even our future.
We make a big show of pointing the finger and saying “look what you did to me” or at least “Don’t think I’ve forgotten what you did to me.” We replay things in our minds and remind ourselves of why that person or thing is BAD and therefore why we’re justified to feel right about it all.
The problem is, our memories are not always as accurate as we think they are. Our recollection of what happened is never the factual version.
Let me explain…
Have you ever been in an argument with someone and felt really hurt by what happened. Then as you told someone else a little while later, even as you’re telling an animated version, you realise that it doesn’t even sound that bad?
Or, have you been witness to other people having crossed words and heard one of them relaying the events to someone else and thinking “that’s a slightly more theatrical version of what actually happened”?
It’s not always that you or the other person is lying or over-dramatic, most of the time, it’s just what they actually recall had happened. When we observe events in life, they create personalized emotional reactions within us. So when someone humiliates you, you feel embarrassed. When your kids pick you flowers in the park and give them to you, you feel love. When someone crosses your personal boundaries, you feel hurt or angry. We remember the emotion more than the event because we don’t actually care what was said or done, we care how it made us feel.
Here’s the thing:
You brain embellishes your memories in accordance with the emotion attached to that memory.
In other words, your brain alters the memory for justification of the emotion.
This is why three people in the same scenario can all have a different recollection of that event. Their brains have adapted the actual event to justify whatever emotion was brought up in them.
Also, this is a great time to mention when things get lost in translation. Whenever you say or do something, you intend it to be a certain way. This is the message you’re sending. However, just because you know the way it was intended, doesn’t mean it’s always received in that same way.
Here’s an example.
Have you ever sent an Email or text message that was taken completely the wrong way? Or you’ve been so busy that your replies are short and blunt and the other person thinks you’re in a mood or are off with them?
Our brains are problem solving machines. They try to look for answers and patterns, even if they only have half the story. Also, our egos love to make everything about us. Which is why:
Text message + short = they’re mad at me.
God forbid they actually have a life and are just really busy trying to multitask, our egos find all this false evidence that will convince you it’s about you.
This means then that the anger or hate you hold for someone might not even be justified at all.
Now, I know that’s a tough pill to swallow but all those memories you have to remind you of why that person was bad or hurtful, will be altered to justify that emotion.
By the way, I’m not suggesting that no one has even been intentionally hurtful towards you, because some people hurt others to feel better about themselves, but even those people, do they really deserve to dictate how you feel, how your life plays out or what you can or can’t do?
It is so liberating to finally be free of a person or event that weighs you down. (Actually, there’s a great exercise in my course, I Am Enough, to help you release and move on from the things that hold you back and weigh you down).
Whenever my ego is trying to hold onto a story I have to stop me from being free (and keep me being right), I always think of this quote from Buddha:
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison, but expecting the other person to die.
More than likely, the other person has completely forgot about whatever happened, meanwhile, we’re over here drinking poison, willing them to suffer the same same pain they made us feel.
The good news is, you can release that anger. First, by understanding everything I’ve told you in this blog and understanding that your brain, as well as your ego, may have been misleading… just a touch. Next, try this exercise:
Now that you understand that your brain zoomed in and amplified the emotion of the memory more than the event, try to zoom out a bit. Look at the whole situation again. Can you see it from another perspective? Remember, the ego loves to make it all about you, but is this actually the case? Was you just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is it possible that the other person had had a bad day, bad week or bad life beforehand and you was just unfortunate to experience actions caused by their pain? (This doesn’t justify or make it OK, but sometimes it can help to understand or stop us from blaming or shaming ourselves or holding onto the anger.) Try to observe through impartial eyes and throw around a few different possibilities, this helps to break down the foundations of the certainty of the belief you’ve held.
Once you’ve thrown around a few different ideas, get a pen and paper and write a letter to that person or event.
Explain exactly how it made you feel and any pain or upset it caused you. Be brutal and be honest, don’t worry no one else has to actually see this letter.
Explain all the ways you’ve held yourself back because of it and express anything else that your subconscious mind is telling you to in order for you to move forward.
Now, tell this person or event that even despite everything that has happened, you have decided to forgive them, to take back your power and are no longer allowing what happened to limit you and explain why (even if they don’t deserve it, YOU do.)
Once you’ve expressed everything that you’ve been holding onto and suppressing, I want you to take that letter and scrunch it, rip it, throw it, stamp on it, scream at it, burn it (safely!) or do whatever feels good to release that built up emotion.
Now, to replace that negative energy with something that will benefit you, take another piece of paper and write a list of all the things you’d like to be, do or have within the next 6 months. Is there something you can set into motion right now?