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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom: Three Ways Grudges Are Like Malignant Tumors


Thought for the Day: In light of the Days of Awe which I discussed on Tuesday, accounting for misdeeds towards others is on my mind. Today's quote came to me from years of work with individuals and couples in therapy.
"Grudges are like malignant tumors, left untreated, they will destroy any relationship."
Unlike tumors, there are no benign grudges. When people hold grudges, it always causes harm. A grudge is one way of expressing anger. We don't tend to hold grudges against strangers. We reserve the "honor" for friends and family members. What many people don't realize is that holding grudges can be harmful to your health. Here's three ways that grudges are like malignant tumors...

Over the past 50 years, we have made huge progress in the treatment and cures of cancers.  When I was a child, people would whisper the word "cancer" since it was a death sentence. The diagnosis was often kept secret, even from the loved one who was dying. Things have changed significantly. Actresses like Angelina Jolie have gone public to raise awareness of the importance of genetic testing for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations leading to a rise in rates of testing in the general population. One of the things we have learned is that early detection can significantly increase one's chances of survival and recovery from cancer.

What else do we know today? We know that lifestyle changes in diet, exercise and other habits, like avoiding nicotine can reduce the risk of acquiring cancers. The fact that although cancers grow at different rates, all malignant cancers if left untreated will do harm which may be irreversible harm.

Overcoming the stigma associated with mental health services and sustaining healthy relationships, has not progressed as rapidly as the change in how cancer is seen in our society today. Although psychotherapy is more accepted as a route to take if necessary, many people are still reluctant to seek help from psychologists and other mental health professionals. It baffles me that "life coaches" with less training in psychology are often being called upon by the general public as if they are qualified to treat all types of mental illnesses.

Grudges are not listed in the DSM-IV as a diagnosable psychological condition. However, I believe they are much like a deadly cancer. Grudges are anger held against a close relative or someone who was considered a friend before the grudge began.

Like a cancer, the anger may start with a minor irritation. The warning signs if left undetected can grow into significant hurt and resentment. Often, the hurt person does not even tell the other person how badly they feel. Just as with cancer, early detection of the problem could help avert the damage. Just as lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of cancers, learning how to talk about feelings can help prevent grudges and the harm they can cause to relationships.

Sometimes there is an argument which triggers the beginning of a grudge. In either situation if the anger is not resolved, it festers and mushrooms, taking up more and more negative energy. The anger eats away at the person holding the grudge, like a cancer. Anger turned inward can lead to emotional harm like stress, anxiety, or depression, or medical illnesses like high blood pressure or headaches. Although you may think you are punishing the person who you are angry with, you are actually hurting yourself even more.

Finally, if a grudge is not treated, relationships grow more and more distant and often end. It is always sad when couples have been holding grudges for years without reaching out for therapy until they are on the verge of divorce. Sometimes it is too late to repair the damage.

If you are angry or have a grudge you have been carrying, consider speaking with a therapist and asking to meet with the person you are holding the grudge against. Early detection may help you avoid the loss of a loved one's relationship. The sooner you get help, the better your chances of fixing the problems. Life is short and we all need the support of friends and family. Holding grudges reduces the number of people who will be there for you when you need them
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