How to handle a grudge
“Grudges are really, really good for you.”
That’s what Sophie Hannah says. And she would know - because she’s been writing about grudges for a long time as a psychological crime fiction author.
Her internationally bestselling books - which include the continuation novels for the Agatha Christie series, featuring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot - have been published in 49 languages and in 51 territories.
Now, she’s added her first self-help title to her repertoire, making her quite possibly, the world’s first grudge specialist.
The book, ‘How to Handle a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment - the Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life,’ is a deep analysis of grudge-holding, complete with a grudge-grading system, a how-to guide for turning a grudge into a valuable object, plus Sophie’s favourite grudge stories from her own life (some of which will make you laugh out loud, others - cry.)
In HealthHackers episode 24, Sophie explained to me why we don’t need to view grudges as bitter, corrosive aspects of our psyche. Instead, we can use the power of a grudge to turn it into something “protective, life-enhancing and fun.”
“If your grudge eats you up with bitterness and resentment then that is harming you.
“You need to process that grudge,” she told me.
And it’s got nothing to do with thinking happy thoughts and telling yourself to move on after a friend/ colleague/ family member/ complete stranger did something horrible to you.
Begin by giving yourself permission to feel full-grudge-rage over the mean, hurtful or accidental offence-causing behaviour that happened, and don’t even label your angry feelings as bad.
“When you say to yourself; ‘This is grudge-worthy, this is not OK and I’m going to allow myself to create this grudge as a sort of symbolic commemoration of the fact that something not OK was done, it’s sort of a way of affirming to ourselves that we deserve to be treated well,” she told me.
Writing down your grudge story on to a piece of paper is also crucial.
“Then it’s an object that’s not in you, it’s an object that’s next to you.
“It makes a difference.
“It helps to give you a bit of objective distance.”
Making a list of the positive and valuable lessons within the grudge is also recommended.
It’s so you can change your thoughts and behaviour towards, say, a certain person, to protect yourself in future.
For example, you realise that this person could do this kind of hurtful thing to you again, so don’t be shocked and devastated if they do.
This process can feel empowering, she explained.
“Allowing yourself to hold your grudge as a commemorative justice object lets you know that the person didn’t get away with it.
“You are going to behave differently and protect yourself and weirdly, that enables you to forgive them much more readily and quickly.”
She doesn’t believe in cutting people off or rejecting them completely because, “that to me is just, like, the death of hope,” she said.
“Holding grudges in the way I’m suggesting enables you to reject a behaviour or a treatment… without necessarily rejecting the person.”
And her model seems to be working for her.
“Since I’ve been following The Grudge Fold Path, I barely put any energy into negative feelings at all.”