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What are grudges?

Grudges are defined as a feeling of resentment or ill will someone may have towards another person they believe to have wronged them. These feelings of resentment tend to last a very long time. The individual may feel that they were maliciously harmed by the other person despite the actual intent (i.e., even if it was an accident). For example, a grudge might be held by someone who resents a friend who unintentionally hurt their feelings over two years ago. Despite the comfort or protection grudges may offer, they actually have negative and long-lasting effects on our mental health.

Why do we hold grudges?

We all feel hurt or angry when we feel wronged by someone, and we’re all capable of holding grudges. However, there are some things that make it more likely for some people to hold grudges. This includes things like having a low self-esteem, issues with trust, poor coping skills, or even the closeness of the relationship. In addition to this, holding a grudge may offer a false sense of protection, where the person feels that by holding the grudge they cannot be hurt again. The reality is that by holding the grudge, they are hurting themselves. When we hold grudges, we are essentially ruminating on the negative thoughts and feelings, which may cause you to feel consistently and perpetually angry and unable to move forward with your life. Holding a grudge does not solve the problem nor does it make you feel better; research has shown that holding a grudge will detrimentally affect someone’s well being over time.

How can we overcome grudges?

Grudges can have damaging effects on our wellbeing and mental health, so learning to let go of them is very important. Here are some tips to consider when holding a grudge: First, accept what happened (regardless of how difficult it may be). Second, consider your role in the situation (e.g., did you overreact or add to the incident?). Third, practice empathy (seeing things from other perspectives) for everyone involved in the situation. Fourth, practice forgiveness even if it’s just for yourself to be able to move on. Finally, before moving on, set healthy boundaries. Most importantly, make sure to practice self-care throughout this time; letting go sounds easy, but it can be very difficult. If you are in therapy, your therapist can also help you work through the grudge and learn to process your emotions.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.