Linda: For several years, this couple had a moderate level of satisfaction in their marriage even though they lived a financially marginal lifestyle. Pat worked full time, and Bob was in business for himself. Bob was not adept at handling the financial end of his business, and yet he longed to get ahead enough to own a home of his own. Pat’s father died, leaving her an inheritance. She decided to invest the money into a real estate venture with a trusted woman friend. Bob had said that it was Pat’s money to do with what she wanted, but he was seething that she did not use that money as a down payment for a home for their family.
Bob was hurt by Pat’s decision, and began to nurse a grudge against her. Pat felt that she had made a wise decision, but was shocked to find that as time went by, the resentment that Bob felt grew larger rather than diminished. Bob repeatedly made remarks about Pat’s selfishness, and began staying at work later and later, withdrawing emotionally. Bob’s resentment overwhelmed him and the Grudge Holder in his shadow began to leak out. He was pained about being an insufficient provider, but rather than expose his feelings of inadequacy, he held on tightly to his righteous anger, and sought relief from his own pain by blaming Pat.
Pat was no innocent victim in this scenario. She was unable to deflect Bob’s attacks because she knew that she had some responsibility in this breakdown. She had legitimate guilt. She didn’t trust him financially, due to years of mismanagement of his business. She didn’t want to be in partnership with him in any financial arrangement, because she did not believe that it would turn out successfully. She had much more trust in the judgement of her woman friend, but she had not been completely honest with Bob about this fact. Bob was also touching on Pat’s area of inadequacy. She feared that she was not a nurturing, supportive, and generous person. It was Pat’s guilt that allowed the vindictiveness to continue.
The grudge grew and grew and took up more psychic space. Grudges tend to expand to the point where there is leakage, and comes out in the form of spiteful words and a bitter attitude. Bob began to seek revenge for the hurt that he felt Pat had done to him. Unconsciously, he moved through the three stages of grudge holding. He moved out of Stage One where the resentment is concealed, into Stage Two where it leaks out in insulting remarks, and then into Stage Three where it showed up in Bob’s behavior, and he emotionally disengaged from Pat. Bob knew that distance and silence was the one thing that hurt his wife the most.
There is a saying about blaming and expressing anger at another person that it is like picking up a hot coal from the fireplace. Before you throw it, it sears your own flesh. When the hot coal is picked up and held on to, it is as if we are squeezing the hot coal. It is a ghastly process, one in which both the blamer and the recipient of the blame suffer.
Bob was largely unconscious to the process that he was going through. He was unaware that he was feeding the resentment, and that he was indulging in it. He was aware that he was in pain, but did not realize that holding on to the resentment, and holding it tighter and tighter, was the cause of his discomfort. He believed that Pat was the cause of his suffering. Bob did not experience that he had any choice in the matter, he saw himself as an innocent victim. He had no idea that it was a unfair to expect Pat to offer her entire inheritance to share when he had not built sufficient trust with her. They had always kept their money separate, and he was looking for trust he had never earned.
The quality that the grudge holder embodies is vindictiveness. The Grudge Holder projects his own self-hate on to others in an attempt to relieve some of the suffering that they live in. It is this misguided effort to relieve the suffering that creates more suffering, both for the grudge holder and the one that is being blamed. The Grudge Holder is making an attempt to vindicate himself. The blaming is entirely a projection of the person’s own guilt. Bob was attempting to prove that he was a good and worthy person. He wanted so badly to convince the world that he was not bad. Such a vicious cycle can literally kill people.
The choice to bring the painful material up to conscious mind is always present. The Grudge Holder, on a certain level, is choosing to keep this process in the unconscious. He will act out and deliberately provoke people into opposition, because that fuels his fury. Bob had no openness to seeing things differently. He only wanted to validate and justify his anger. He was not open to being reasoned with. When Pat attempted to speak in her own behalf, he perceived her as trying to control his life.
Bob’s unwillingness to stop squeezing the hot coal burned him very badly. As the therapy deepened, Pat got stronger, and stopped being caught in her own cycle of guilt and fear. She was able to tell Bob that she was unwilling to be blamed any longer, and she moved out. Until Bob becomes conscious of his own pain, and tells the truth about that, he is doomed to continue to project his pain on to other people, and even separated, the cycle continues to play itself out.
While recovering from grudge holding, the only thing that can interrupt the vicious cycle is awareness that leads to some sense of responsibility. Bringing compassion, both for self and other, is the way out of the suffering. It is Bob’s work to become aware that the Grudge Holder in the shadow is bloated with too much power. Then he would have to begin a regular practice of letting go. It is necessary to admit that holding grudges is a destructive pattern, and that it’s not people out there who have this pattern, but that “I do.”
Only then can we begin to see the prices that we pay for living in a mind that holds on, and won’t let go of past grievances. We need to see from our own experience, that it is possible to work with the mind that continues to chew on grievances from the past. . We lift off layers accumulated over many years. When we see from our own experience how much lighter we can travel through this life, the new pattern takes on a life of it’s own.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate