Note to readers: I didn’t realize until Tuesday morning that I wrote about this same topic almost exactly four years ago, and with the same headline, though that column was totally different. Funny how that works sometimes.
Having spent five hours watching Hamilton twice (and I will again because it’s simply amazing, earworms be damned), I’ve again been considering grudges and why people carry them.
Apparently the ugly things are a comfort to some, which is why we have people with grudges against the media (at least the media that don’t parrot their views), exes (would Taylor Swift have a career without them?), and reality/science (how dare facts not reflect beliefs!).
Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were longtime political antagonists, and Hamilton saw Burr as a political opportunist (a view which seems to be fairly accurately portrayed in the musical). When Burr ran for president in 1796, Hamilton wrote, “Mr. Burr is bold, enterprising, and intriguing, and I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.” Burr obviously felt the same, and published confidential documents in which Hamilton criticized Federalist president John Adams, causing a rift in Hamilton’s Federalist party.
In 1804, Burr, by then vice president, ran for governor of New York, first for the Federalist nomination, and then as an independent when that failed. Hamilton and others attacked Burr’s character during the campaign, and Burr lost the election, leading him to challenge Hamilton to a duel so he could restore his honor (in the musical, it was after Burr’s failed 1800 presidential bid).
Though Burr was charged with murder and other crimes, he was never tried and fled to South Carolina. The charges were dropped on technicalities, and he returned to the vice presidency; his political career, though, never recovered. (It didn’t help that afterwards he seemed to look for trouble; in 1807 he was arrested and indicted on treason charges, accused of planning to start an independent country in the Southwest U.S. and parts of Mexico. He was acquitted, owing to the Constitution’s specificity on treason.)
Thomas Edison feuded with young engineer Nikola Tesla over alternating current (Tesla) versus direct current (Edison), and after Tesla sold his patents, with George Westinghouse. “While Tesla’s ideas and ambitions might be brushed aside,” Gilbert King of Smithsonian Magazine wrote in the Oct. 11, 2011, issue, “Westinghouse had both ambition and capital, and Edison immediately recognized the threat to his business.” Edison set about promoting the idea that alternating current would kill homeowners, “proving” this by electrocuting numerous animals in front of crowds, as well as using it in the first electric chair (the execution of William Kemmler was not pretty). In the end, though, Westinghouse came out on top, was awarded the contract to light the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and alternating current became the industry standard.
Burr and Edison both were so consumed with their grudges that they let common sense fall by the wayside, and I’m betting neither of them was much fun to be around when in high dudgeon. I know I’m no font of sunshine when I’m ticked off.
Anger is a natural reaction when you feel you’ve been wronged; once that hostility starts to fester, a grudge can take hold.
“Having a grudge here or there isn’t necessarily abnormal or even problematic. The problem is that, sometimes, grudges can take on a life of their own,” wrote Wendy Wisner on The Talkspace Voice. “Grudge holding can be a cyclical pattern—and once we get sucked in, it can be hard to find our way out.”
Rachel O’Neill, Ph.D., a licensed professional clinical counselor in Ohio and Talkspace provider, told Wisner that someone might feel they’ve been wronged, and the person who wronged them attempted to apologize or take responsibility, but it was found to be insufficient. When that happens, O’Neill said, “grudges can deepen and individuals can feel more entrenched in feelings of resentment or bitterness toward the person.”
Paging Aaron Burr and Thomas Edison … and anyone else letting someone live rent-free in their head.
“Of course,” Wisner wrote, “the more angry and bitter you are toward someone, the harder it becomes to work through any issues you have with them. Grudges can easily spiral into a never-ending cycle of blame and rage, which is why it’s important to work toward resolution internally, or with the other party.”
Wisner noted that, “Most of us will only hold grudges against a few select people; others seem to collect grudges readily and with vigor.”
That … sounds familiar … it’s right on the tip of my tongue …
And when politics get involved … yeesh. Well, you end up with something like what we have today, with campaigns focused not on what a candidate can do but on how scary the other guy is, and how unrepentantly evil the other political party is as a whole (they eat babies!!!).
Is it any wonder I prefer to deal with politics in small bites on a purely psychological/sociological basis?
There are, of course, many legitimate reasons for anger, especially regarding widespread societal actions, and when that anger is channeled positively, it can change the world.
But for everyday ills, holding on to anger and resentment and the accompanying hostility that often seeps out (don’t fool yourself that you’re able to hold it in; others can tell, even in writing) isn’t healthy for anyone, and can increase the chances of conditions such as depression and anxiety, according to O’Neill. While it may not be possible to resolve every grudge with the person who caused it, you can take responsibility for your own feelings, and learn, O’Neill said, that “instead of being dependent on someone else to fix your feelings for you, you’re able to fulfill that need for yourself.”
Getting past that feeling of resentment (because a letter wasn’t printed, or that one guy always takes the last cheese bagel, or that woman [gasp] wore a mask) can help you grow as a person, and maybe learn how to help others.
Or at least figure out that dueling and/or propaganda isn’t the way to solve your problem.
I would be remiss if I didn’t again plead for people to wear masks … not for yourselves, but for those you love, those you respect, and heck, even for those people you can barely stand (because when they’re gone, who’s gonna get all that animus?). I’m reminded of that because a man I deeply admire, former Arkansas Gov. and U.S. Sen. David Pryor, is in the hospital now after he and his wife tested positive for covid-19 (she is quarantining at home). Son and former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor released this statement:
“David and Barbara Pryor received positive covid-19 test results on Friday night, and they went to UAMS mid-day Saturday. UAMS advised Barbara Pryor to return home to self-quarantine since she is asymptomatic. UAMS admitted David Pryor given his age of 85 and the fact that he is a stroke and heart attack survivor. The entire Pryor family is very grateful for the attention and care given by UAMS. Our mother is home and remains asymptomatic while our father is responding well in the hospital. We are hopeful that both will have a full recovery and we look forward to them testing negative soon. Both are in the required isolation and they want to encourage everyone to wear masks, wash hands and follow the other CDC guidelines, so we can stop the spread of this deadly virus. We respectfully ask that you honor our family’s request for much needed privacy and refrain from any calls at this time. We will issue another statement in the upcoming days in the event that either’s status changes, but in the interim, we humbly ask for your prayers.”
Prayers and positive thoughts go out to the Pryors and to everyone else suffering because of covid-19. Now put on your mask and act like an adult, please.