When I talk to people who struggle with walking away and staying away and who keep getting their fingers burned, there can often be this fear of appearing to hold a grudge. They don’t want to look like a ‘bad’ or ‘unforgiving’ person and their show of faith that they’re not carrying around resentment, hurt or hostility is to squash down their feelings, opinions, needs, expectations, and wishes, as well as excessive use of the Reset Button – erasing the past and conveniently ‘resetting’ your recollection of things to a point in the past that allows you to pretend as if what followed never happened.
What we fail to realise in these situations is that remembering the past or certainly having an awareness of the the types of situations and behaviours that ping our boundaries and are at conflict with our values isn’t the same as holding a grudge.
We can remember without ill will. We can gradually learn to let go of the hurt, anger and resentment, and hold on to the positive insights we have the opportunity to gain each time.
We also mistake the fact that we may recognise what does and doesn’t work for us and that we may actually be feeling relatively at peace about something that’s happened, as an automatic precursor to going for another round or even treat it as a court order from our inner critic. Our gut, our minds, and even our hearts may be signalling that we should leave things alone and apply what we’ve learned into moving forward but then our inner critic pipes up with, ‘Don’t be a heartless beep beep! You’re mean to not want to go there. You’re holding a grudge! Good people should allow a person to have as many chances as they ask for’ and when our typical mode is people pleaser who worries too much about what everyone else thinks and silences their true self to follow ‘shoulds’ laid down by the inner critic, we go against ourselves.
The trouble is that when we mistake being cognizant of the past and what another person may have said or done as ‘bearing grudges’ we lose a vital opportunity to acknowledge our feelings, our own path, and any lessons we’ve stood to gain from our experiences in general or with a particular person. We also stand to lose an opportunity to learn from who we’ve been at different points in our life because we keep squashing down truths out of fear of looking ‘bad’ and even a sense of guilt that we remember something. We also end up deeply compromised in toxic situations due to our sense of duty to not make anybody feel ‘bad’ and it gradually takes its toll.
In the end, when we continue to ‘go back’, the hardest thing will actually be to stop bearing a grudge against ourselves. When the anger, blame, shame and resentment dictates and we can’t shake it off because we’re caught between a rock and a hard place that on one hand says, ‘For fecks sake! Why do you keep pretending that all of this stuff didn’t happen in the past when it’s happening in your present?’ and on the other hand says, ‘A better person would have been able to move past that. What are you bearing grudges for? Sure, aren’t you making a meal out of this whole thing? Is it you that’s the problem?’ It then becomes that we’re running around ‘forgiving’ everyone else but that we can’t forgive ourselves and so we keep going back to pain sources to gain that forgiveness through validation, which only leads to more pain. If we keep listening to the ‘shoulds’, we just end up stuck in a cycle of lather, rinse, repeat.
The strange thing is that we actually feel better when we stop pretending that we don’t feel the way that we do or that we don’t have needs, wants, and expectations. If we take a good hard look at where we have even reasonably decent relationships with people, romantic or otherwise, they’re not with people who rely on us having selective amnesia, who don’t bear the responsibility for making right on something that they’ve said they’ll do after they’ve erred, who don’t keep trying to push the Reset Button, and who don’t keep using the past as a weapon on us. We don’t need to do any of these things for others or to ourselves. The irony is that people who don’t want you to remember are the most likely to use their own recollection of things to their advantage…
I used to believe that remembering the past only had anger and hurt in it but by remembering and processing it with a perspective that’s been increasingly informed by self-care, I’m at peace with me and because I’m not carrying a load of blame and resentment, I can choose what types of interactions I want to have with a person based on a healthier perspective and manage myself accordingly, safe in the knowledge that I’m doing my best to respect each of us in reality instead of being mired in BS.
If we keep acting like we just fell out of the sky into today or that we have to blank out the past, not only do we end up missing out on lots of valuable information and lessons that can help us to increase self-knowledge that helps us better navigate our journey through life, but we also end up having to forget the good too.
Ultimately, don’t let anybody make you feel bad about the fact that you have knowledge or awareness of something and are being responsible enough to ensure that your values and boundaries reflect this.
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