June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

Recently I wrote a blog where I admitted to holding a grudge for two people in my life. Yesterday, while listening to Golden In Death by JD Robb, one of the characters said:

“What’s a momentary annoyance for one is a deep abiding insult to another.”

I’m left wondering if the two people I begrudge don’t even realize they’ve insulted me. With one of these people, it all comes down to an insult or a perceived insult. KG believes I insulted her when I missed a get-together.

She responded to the insult with an insult of her own. I was insulted – felt attacked – with the way she challenged me on this decision. I never meant to make KG angry or make her think I didn’t value the relationship we were building. I made a snap decision with long term consequences.

It’s a long story but I was supposed to have lunch with KG and she was waiting for me. As I was finishing my class before our lunch, one of the students started to tell me about her abusive father. I was the first person she’d ever opened up to and I didn’t think I could walk away.

Strangely, I actually thought KG would see me as a “good” person for offering comfort. Instead, she was angry and reminded me I wasn’t a therapist. After that, I received a few really angry emails. I tried to explain but I’m sure I got defensive and pissy. I let her have the last word and we haven’t spoken since. I think we both actively avoid the other.

Annoyance or Insult?

Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Was she simply annoyed at me, or at life, or because her coffee was cold? Was I the last annoyance in a morning of annoyances and therefore got the full force of her frustration? Or, like me, did she feel an “abiding insult”?

Have I spent over a year afraid to run into KG because I can’t let the insult go when there was no insult? Have I spent over a year feeling resentful and secretly hoping I become more successful as a little retribution (I hate admitting that)? Have I spent the time trying to understand what I did so wrong rather than just let it go?

Have I made this silly event all about me?

Why Do I Care?

What makes this even more strange is that KG and I barely knew each other when this all went down. We’d taken a class together. We’d met three times to discuss writing and complain about our mothers. I didn’t know her children’s names. I didn’t know where she lived. So why does this still bother me? Why am I still afraid of her (and that’s exactly how I’d describe it – afraid)? Is it because I feel guilty? If so, why would I feel guilty?

I’m constantly wondering if she’s bad mouthing me. First of all, she probably isn’t. We’re too old for that and she has bigger things to think about than me. Second, what do I care if she is?

I think “abiding insults” are exactly that – ABIDING. I bet she has not given me a second’s thought and I give her too many seconds. Why? And how do I let it go? This relationship was never that important anyway.

What I should be thinking about is abiding insults I’ve inflicted on others. I imagine I have many apologies to make but I’m not sure how to figure out who and what and when. If it was only an annoyance to me, then I’ve let it go with no understanding that I may have hurt someone more deeply.

Insults Require Remedy – Remedy Requires Conflict

One of the reasons I actively avoid KG is that I hate conflict. Conflict scares the shit out of me. I have lost more relationships because I run from conflict – it’s easier to drop someone than confront or be confronted.

I can’t even be a good mom because I hate conflict so much. Rather than have a healthy discussion with Brian or Sydney, I let Dave handle it.  His willingness and ability to confront and to listen and to compromise has built a closer relationship with the kids. I have let paralyzing fear build a wall between me and them. I have let annoyances turn into abiding insults.

Doing It Better

I’ve been worried and obsessed over my disordered eating, my weight and my appearance. I wonder how much I stuff insults and conflict under brownies? I’ve been working with my new therapist on body image. That’s important. But, as I’ve written this blog, I’ve learned that I need to understand my fear and avoidance of conflict more than I need to worry about big hips.

What does it matter if I’m thin but have no deep relationships?

This blog has made me very sad. I don’t miss KG, but I shouldn’t be afraid of anyone. I don’t miss KG, but I DO miss other people I’ve avoided because of unresolved conflict.

I see my therapist next week. I just hope I have the courage to talk about this. My abhorrence of conflict is so deep, so entrenched, so terrifying that I imagine she’ll dig around and uncover some very painful truths about me. And then she’ll ask me to face conflict head on.

She’s going to ask me what I’m afraid of and I don’t think I’ll like the answer.

Click HERE to download the Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog.

In my last post, Tit-for-Tat, I wrote this sentence:

“I defaulted to my pattern:  Avoid conflict -- hold a grudge that I pretend I don’t hold -- eventually run away from the relationship.”

When I wrote that sentence, the word ‘grudge’ seemed to glow and accuse.

According to the dictionary, grudge is a “feeling of ill will or resentment”. Digging deeper, resentment means a “feeling of displeasure or indignation”.

Based on the dictionary, we all have grudges. No one gets through life without being displeased or feeling resentment.

The difference between what we all feel (grudge) and what I do (hold grudges) is significant.

Lost Relationships

I have had many people cross my path. Some have become great friends. Many – most – of these are gone. I had believed – or convinced myself – that relationships ended because paths changed and no longer crossed. But I look at other people and they have been able to maintain friendships for years and years. Why haven’t I?

While I won’t share the initials because I don’t think it’s fair to call out people (passive-aggressive anyone?) I’m going to write down  the initials of true friends that I no longer have in my life.I made this list because in order to accurately assess the why of lost relationships, I have to be specific. Generalizations won’t be helpful.

Here is what I discovered:

Three of these people reach back to my church days. When I quit embracing Christianity, we no longer had common ground. As a matter of fact, I had a difficult time being around these women because I am angry at god, God, GOD. These ladies represented that. Do I hold a grudge: YES. I felt/feel that these women proved my point about the church. These ladies are great for cancer or house fires. But let the soul hurt and they no longer want involvement. I’ve been told they are ‘praying for me’. Those three words let them off the hook for really stepping into my pain. Yes, I hold a grudge because, of all people, I thought they would step into the gap and try to keep me from drowning.

One of these people, I burned the bridge because of resentment. There might be a chance of rebuilding that bridge but I’m holding tight to the resentments and expecting that person to start the rebuilding process. Am I proud of this? NOPE.

Most of these people were great friends from my job. When the job ended, so did the relationship. It has nothing to do with resentment. It was more about distance (physical and time). But I wish I had been a better caretaker. I don’t actively miss these women, but when I wrote that list, I realized that I wish I’d tried harder.

The final assessment: I can and do hold some grudges.

Some Other Grudges

I don’t actively wish ill-will on anyone. But there are two people from my past I am sometimes a tiny bit satisfied when I hear of a struggle they are having. I am able to force that tiny nastiest piece out of my heart almost immediately but it’s there. When I hear these two names, my shoulders go up and my anxiety rises. That’s a grudge!

Am I Alone?

Do others hold grudges (even if they don’t admit it)? Is there a way to stop holding a grudge? Can you just decide ‘I don’t want to feel this way anymore’ and the grudge just disappears?

Is grudge-holding a negative character trait some of us have OR is grudge-holding a part of the human condition?

Is grudge-holding about forgiveness? Is grudge-holding simply a different word for unforgiveness? But does everyone deserve forgiveness?

Can A Grudge Be A Good Thing?

The two people I hold a true grudge against really did something to hurt me – in words and in actions. The grudge for these two is deep and rock hard. This grudge forces me to avoid any connection – in person or on social media. There have been many times in my life, I’ve tried to re-ignite a friendship because I was the cause of the breakdown. But I’ve never considered that with these two. I think my grudge protects my heart.

Back Up

“I defaulted to my pattern:  Avoid conflict -- hold a grudge that I pretend I don’t hold -- eventually run away from the relationship.”

I focused on the word ‘grudge’ but I missed the most important component of this sentence. I wouldn’t have grudges if I didn’t avoid conflict. Rather than discuss my perceived hurts, I let them blaze – I add small, meaningless insults to the fire – when it gets too hot, I run. If, however, I addressed the conflict right when it happens, I wouldn’t need to hold grudges.

If I faced conflict, the hurts would burn off and, like a forest fire, I’d be left with a clean floor to grow new life in the relationship.

Conflict

I avoid conflict at all costs. The concept of conflict scares me. Seriously, I am not having any conflict while writing this blog. However, simply writing about conflict creates tension in my body. Imagine if I was having to actually deal with conflict.

Here are some of the reasons I avoid conflict:

  • When I get upset, my mind races and my thoughts/words become scattered and illogical. I lose any argument before I start.
  • If I confront someone on their transgression, then I open the door to hear my own transgressions. I would be told how I disappointed them too. I’m not sure I could handle this (and I’ll explain why in another blog).
  • When I try to face conflict, my emotions run wild. I cry and yell and shutdown. I can barely hear what the other person is saying.
  • The few times I’ve tried to manage conflict appropriately, I find that not only do I NOT resolve a thing, I actually add to my resentment rock. I assume this means I’m not actually managing the conflict appropriately but rather, letting the conflict manage me.

Needless to say, that’s just scratching the surface and I will delve into this much deeper within myself and with my new therapist.

Adjustments

My goal is to DISCOVER areas in my life I’d like to change. I have to ACCEPT the truth of the situation (specifically how am I behaving). Then, decide if this is an area I want to CHANGE. Change takes time, energy, resources and sitting in the painful truth. Some discoveries I make about myself, I choose not to change. For example, the two ladies I mention above – I have no desire to let go of the grudge.

I am not worried about grudge-holding. I actually don’t think I’m different from most. But the inability to manage conflict is a real problem that I need to address. I want to maintain the new friendships I’ve developed. I want to still be having lunch with these ladies ten years from now. That means I’ll have to face conflict.

I will face this fear (with support) and I’ll keep you posted on my discoveries, successes and challenges.

I realized my grudges are more about God than the people. I’ve learned my grudges are more about my inability to manage conflict. As painful as this blog has been to write, it was worth it if I can face my religious wounds and learn to speak before the grudge builds.

Click HERE to download the Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog.

Have you ever discovered something about yourself that you would have sworn wasn’t true?

Or has someone ever shown you something about yourself that you denied until the evidence was clear?

This happened to me two weeks ago and I, quite frankly, still haven’t decided how I feel about it.

Am I a “bad” friend or am I like everyone else?

She Was Right

Before you begin to read about my personal struggle, I wanted to remind you this is about ME and no one else. It’s going to sound like my friend did something wrong. She did not. She did what was best for her and that’s very important for a healthy life. This blog is always about searching MYSELF so that I can recognize when I’m acting/feeling/believing in a way I’d like to understand and adjust.

The Scenario

I need someone to read my first novel, Decide To Hope, and pull out “good” quotes to use on social media. I can’t do it because I’m too close to it. Either I think everything’s amazing or I think nothing’s amazing. In speaking with a friend, she -- without my prompting -- offered to edit my new book. I’m not ready for that yet but she mentioned that it was so cold, she was planning to spend her day reading on the couch. You can imagine what happened next – I asked her to read Decide To Hope and dig out quotes. She refused.

No biggie – right? Wrong. After I hung up, that part of my mind that likes to prove to me I’m unworthy, began to remind me of all the times I’ve bent over backwards to say yes to this friend. It also spun up all the other things she’s offered that didn’t get done. For example, she offered to edit my blogs. I sent her the first three. Never opened. Never read. Definitely never edited.

What my mind didn’t provide – and should have – was all the things she has done for me. She adopted my cats when we moved. She’s babysat my dog many times. She did not do anything wrong. We should all say ‘no’ when what’s being asked is not within our values or violates our boundaries.

And yet, even as I write these sentences, the scales still don’t seem balanced.

The Unbalanced Scales

I think I share my time, my resources, and my talents without wanting or expecting reciprocation.

I don’t look for balanced scales (or do I?).  

I don’t keep lists of “I did this for you” and “You did this for me” (or do I?). I know I don’t do this consciously. But subconsciously, I must.

Is it wrong to expect some level of a balanced give-take?

I’m not one of those that goes to a restaurant with a friend and has to split the check down the middle to the penny. I’m cool with paying more than my share and I’m cool with someone paying more than theirs. I was taught that ‘it’ll come out in the wash’. But do I subconsciously keep an account? I’ve been really digging into this question and here is what I’ve uncovered:

My subconscious definitely keeps records. I don’t notice any imbalance on a regular basis but at some point I start to notice. I think my subconscious keeps the score and starts to expose the imbalance when it gets too unbalanced. Once my subconscious opens the door, it spills out everything that could be construed as imbalanced. And sometimes my subconscious gets it wrong.

Is that right or wrong? Could I convince my subconscious to stop? Should I convince my subconscious to stop?

The Other Side of This Story

If I expect some level of tit-for-tat, do people expect that from me? The answer to that is a loud “hell yeah”. The next question is: Have I let someone down? Is someone enjoying their coffee reminding themselves of all the times I’ve not held up my end of the deal?

How do I uncover it and rectify it? Could I ask? I imagine if someone asked me, I’d say, “No, of course not. I’m happy to XYZ.”

My Fault, My Boundaries

I’ve always taught my kids that they are partly responsible for how people treat them. I’ve also counseled that they should not let frustrations catch fire. They should talk it out and if the situation doesn’t improve, then the relationship must change. Relationships can change without destructive comments and emotions. Bridges don’t have to be burned.

In other words, I have to establish my boundaries, but I also MUST maintain that fence. It’s up to me to maintain the balance. If I feel I’m being taken advantage of or unappreciated, then I need to find a way to fix the situation before it gets so unbalanced the whole relationship topples. It’s also up to me to say ‘no’ even if doing so causes an imbalance.

I failed at this. I defaulted to my pattern:  Avoid conflict -- hold a grudge that I pretend I don’t hold -- eventually run away from the relationship.

Toppled Relationship

The situation above is real and the relationship has toppled. I know one day I’ll regret that – be sad and lonely – be angry with MYSELF for following the same pattern and losing someone important.

But that day is not today. Today I feel justified in my anger and my withdrawal. My feelings are hurt, and my mind is still shoving in my face proof of the imbalance. Maybe writing this post – acknowledging the weakness in my character instead of focusing on what I perceive is a weakness in someone else – will help it to loosen and release. We’ll see.

Click HERE to download my Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog and explore your own thoughts around the notion of Tit-for-Tat.

June Converse with purple hair
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....
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