How to Deal with Grudges and Anger During the Holidays
Updated: Feb 6
The holidays can be a magical time to reconnect with your friends and family, right? Well, that’s mostly right. For some, the holidays are filled with happiness and joy, while for others, it can be a time of anger, resentment, and grudges—in most cases it is a combination of both. While it is common rhetoric to force happiness and forgiveness during the holidays you may feel very differently. Something could have happened in the past that simply makes faking happiness near impossible. It is difficult to confront someone who has offended and hurt you when you are ‘supposed’ to remain joyous with the family that you haven't seen all year. Here are a few tips that can help get you through the difficult holiday season that isn't telling you to “forgive and forget”. Because in all honesty, one should never forgive and forget without fully understanding the complex emotions and feelings tied to being hurt and wronged by someone close to you.
Acknowledge Your Grudge
Be 100% honest with yourself and your emotions. A crucial aspect of anger and grudges is recognizing where the pain stems from and who caused the hurt. Being able to articulate the offender's actions that caused the anger, as well as recognizing your own actions (if applicable) will help to move forward or accept the nature of your pain. Attempts to ignore or “forget” about the anger will only silently build up over time and drain your energy even if you do not realize it.
Speak Your Pain
Whether speaking your pain means to a journal, a close confidant, or an innocent bystander (highly do not recommend) it can be extremely beneficial and freeing to acknowledge the pain aloud. Speaking about your anger can help validate it in the first place as well as allowing you to see the circumstances from different perspectives. Seeking out a close and supportive friend can make you feel better and possibly give you a new perspective.
Avoid Forcing Anything
My dad once told me “you can’t force a triangle block into a circle hole,” and at first I thought it was just a stupid phrase that parents say because everyone knows that a triangle block will never fit into a circular shaped hole. However, as adults we unintentionally try to force many things that in reality shouldn’t be forced, i.e. forcing happiness during the holidays when you are weighed down by sadness and hurt. While you may already be forced to spend time with a past offender think about avoiding having to spend more time around the person. The holidays don't mean that you have to confront and force forgiveness, the holidays simply mean you may encounter the person more than normal. If you are not ready to confront the offender than don't allow the pressure of others holiday happiness into forgiving or forgetting an issue.
Recognize the Toxic Environment
The holidays may force you to go to environments that in reality are toxic to your mental health and can remind you of your grudge and anger. While it may be unavoidable it can be beneficial to prepare yourself before that you will be faced with a toxic place. If it is possible to avoid the toxic environment then take every advantage during the holidays to do so, but if you cannot simply try reminding yourself of why a place is toxic and mentally preparing yourself for it can make the ordeal a little less taxing.
Is This Something That Can Be Solved During the Holidays?
Everyone's grudge and point of anger are different, there is not a “one size” fits all way to confronting an issue. But for the holidays it is important to consider if this grudge can realistically be solved within the time frame that you have. Resolving a grudge can require time and energy on the offender and your behalf, time that may be available to fully talk through and discuss pain and anger. While you won't want to completely ignore it, weigh the outcome of publicity addressing the grudge during a holiday gathering. Instead, consider setting up a time in the future with the person to then speak with them about the issue if that is something you would even want to discuss or solve.
Be the Stronger Person
I have always hated the saying “be the bigger person,” in my opinion it attempts to absolve the offender of any wrongdoing while placing all the responsibility on the person who has been wronged. I like to think about being the stronger person, not in the sense of simply letting go of a grudge but rather recognizing all aspects of an altercation and choosing, for my health, to be stronger and wiser to not allow others weaker actions to determine my life. Everything is easier said than done, but try to think of a grudge and anger as something that is mentally weakening you. Being stronger by either confronting the offender or by accepting that their actions were wrong can be a healthier way of dealing with a grudge.
*You* Choose When to Forgive Someone
‘Just get over it and forgive them,’ ‘the holidays are for forgiveness,’ and every other cliche line into guilting someone into forgiveness during the holidays are just ways for people that don't want to deal with tension. Dealing with a grudge during the holidays can also mean not really dealing with the grudge. Dealing can be presented in whichever way makes the season easier for your mental health if you don't want to forgive someone just yet then don’t. It can be that simple, you are the only person who decides to forgive and move on.