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Grudges: Who Really Suffers?

UnknownHow many times have you been on the receiving end of a grudge? It’s not an easy place to be. Generally when someone has a grudge against you, anger, blame, contempt, and other forms of hostility and aggression are being projected. Often, grudges are done in silence (passive-aggressive). For some people, being on the receiving end can be a stressful position to be in, especially if what people think of them tends to be a worry.  Some people, however, are just able to move on living their lives and let go of people who tend to hold grudges towards them.

While the relationship suffers for everyone who’s involved, what grudge-holders don’t always understand is how much strain on themselves holding a grudge causes. It takes a significant amount of mental and emotional energy to keep the steady stream of hostility and aggression (or passive-aggression) that supports a grudge. This kind of cognitive-emotional process is commonly seen in people who aren’t able to ‘let go’ of, or resolve issues that present in relationships.

Grudges are essentially an emotional process that becomes stuck and unable to move forward. As a result, people who hold grudges are often in a state of mental and emotional distress. So much energy is focused on negative and spiteful feelings that it overtakes the relationship altogether. What ends up generally happening is, the grudge-holders focus so intensely on negativity that it disables their ability to let go of the situation. This causes a vicious cycle: negativity causes more anger, and more anger causes more negativity. The result of all this comes the internal need to take a stand.

The hope for the grudge-holder is that the grudge will be a demonstration of anger — and that the length and intensity of the grudge will in some way teach the supposed offender that they were wrong, and will break them. The grudge is essentially the punishment for some form of perceived ‘wrongdoing’.

The problem is that the grudge rarely works out the way they hope. The grudge-holder usually becomes recognized as the one perpetuating the issue by the inability to let go and move on towards resolution, while they also end up holding the stress and anger within their inability to let go.

So, in hoping to teach a lesson to the person or people, the grudge-holer actually creates their own environment of stress and negativity to dwell in while the others generally aim to move forward with their lives.

It brings the question: Is it really worth it to hold a grudge?

I can’t imagine a situation that makes a grudge a healthy or effective choice. The real problem is that the grudge-holder can’t help it. It’s important to reiterate that people who hold grudges have trouble moving forward and become emotionally and mentally stuck. The reality is that people who tend to hold grudges don’t often know how to move forward. In their lives, the process has usually become stuck in the anger, and they never learned (or were taught) how to move forward from that point.

If you find yourself stuck in anger and negativity, and see yourself unable to move forward, I highly encourage therapy for this (whether it’s couples, family, or for yourself).

If we are not familiar with moving a frustrated process forward, then it’s hard to actually move forward without some help. Opening the process (loosening the emotional patterns that reinforce the grudges) and generating communication within yourself and with others towards a resolution helps relieve this relationship-buster.

In the end, there are no winners when a grudge is held. Everyone involved loses.

Grudges: Who Really Suffers?

Nathan Feiles, MSW, LCSW-R

Nathan Feiles is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He also provides online coaching nationally and internationally. In his practice, Nathan specializes in anxiety issues, relationship struggles, commitment issues, fear of flying (specialized method), decision-making, creative blocks, depression, and migraines. For more information about Nathan Feiles’s work, including a complete list of services, please visit his website at

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APA Reference
Feiles, N. (2013). Grudges: Who Really Suffers?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Sep 2013
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