In the Hollywood blockbuster "The Grudge," a supernatural curse kills people with anger. While real-life grudges don't involve scary special effects or ghostly apparitions, they can have negative health consequences. The Mayo Clinic warns that holding onto bitterness has been linked to increased blood pressure, increased anxiety and a higher risk of alcohol abuse. If your girlfriend has made a mistake and wronged you, several relationship tips and pieces of advice can help you find forgiveness and release her — but more importantly, you — from the curse of the past.
Often when we hold onto a grudge, we are overtaken by an almost blind anger and feel upset with little clarity on the specific reasons we're upset. Give yourself a moment alone to relive the past and explore what your girlfriend did to you and why that makes you angry. Be self-aware enough that you are able to verbally explain exactly what happened in the past that hurts you or makes you feel frustrated. Then share your story with someone. By opening up and articulating your hurt, you help avoid the bitterness that can build up when you hold everything inside. Dr. Ned Hallowell tells Oprah.com that the pain is more bearable with someone to confide in. "Talk to someone you trust ... about how hurt, sad or angry you may feel," says Dr. Hallowell. "Don't withdraw or isolate yourself. Stay connected and feel the pain, even though it hurts."
Find Empathy in the Situation
You're not perfect, and your girlfriend isn't perfect either. Try to find empathy in the situation. Attempt to understand what happened through your girlfriend's eyes and her rationale. In general, people find it easier to forgive others when the wronged person tries to see the situation or decision from the other person's viewpoint.
Get a Bigger Perspective
When we are hurt, we often spiral inward and see the situation from a very painful, but very narrow, viewpoint. Ask an outsider for perspective on what happened and the role that your girlfriend played in that. Also, put it into a time context and try to separate what you're feeling right now from the original troubling encounter. "Get the right perspective on what is happening," says Dr. Marilyn Mitchell in "Psychology Today" magazine. "Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago." An additional activity that can help you widen your perspective and can make forgiveness easier is focusing on the good things about your girlfriend, as well as the good things you can envision in your future with her.
Reframe Your Pain
A big part of forgiveness is reinterpreting your painful emotions of anger or bitterness. After all, your girlfriend may have been responsible for the situation, but you're responsible for how you feel and how you react. "You can't change the things that happened in your life," writes celebrity therapist Dr. Phil McGraw, "but you can decide how you interpret and respond to them." When you start feeling angry or frustrated toward your girlfriend, practice stress management techniques like yoga or deep breathing. Additionally, look for positive things that have come out of this situation. "Instead of mentally replaying your hurt, seek out new ways to get what you want," writes Dr. Mitchell. "Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you."
A Special Note on Timing
Remember that forgiveness is a deeply personal, often painful, sometimes beautiful process that is unique for everyone. While some people can find forgiveness instantly, others may discover that forgiveness is a journey that takes weeks, months or even years depending on the situation and how hurt they feel. Don't try to force your feelings or fake your emotions. By being self-aware, trying to see the situation through your girlfriend's eyes, expanding your perspective and finding the positive outcomes in your pain, you can allow forgiveness to unfold naturally in your life.
- Mayo Clinic: Forgivenes - Letting Go of Grudges
- Psychology Today: 9 Steps to Forgiveness
- Oprah.com: 4 Steps to Forgiveness
- Women's Health Magazine: How to Forgive a Friend
- Oprah.com: 4 Steps to Forgiveness
- Dr. Phil: Making Peace with Your Past
- University of California-Berkeley: The New Science of Forgiveness
- The Internet Movie Database: The Grudge
- Chris Clinton/Lifesize/Getty Images