“Every failure to cope with a life situation must be laid, in the end to a restriction of consciousness. Wars and temper tantrums are the makeshift of ignorance, regrets are illuminations come too late”. Joseph Campbell (Reflections on the Art of Living)
Shakespeare wrote that there is no prison more confining than the one we don’t know that we are in. When we hold onto grudges, perceived wrongs, resentments, anger and judgments, we profoundly affect our Mental, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual health in detrimental ways. Unconsciously inhabiting a prison of our own making.
The brain loves efficiency and doesn’t like to work any harder than it has to. When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future—so easy, in fact, that you might not even realize you’re doing it. So when we judge someone or a group of people, hold a grudge, hang onto resentment or anger the neurons in our brains connect making neural pathways similar to a well-worn path in the woods.
“We don’t see things as they are we see things as we are” (Anin)
You can’t blame your brain. Who’d want to build a temporary bridge every time you need to cross a river? It makes a lot more sense to construct a permanent bridge. So, your neurons grow closer together, and the connections between them become more permanent. Scientists describe this process as, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Repeated complaining or any habit of thought rewires your brain to make future complaining or repetitive thoughts and behaviors more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining and negativity becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you. Psychologist Eric Bern found that “we act in ways to make people behave in order to justify how we already feel”. In other words, the outer world mirrors back what is going on in our inner world. Yet we are convinced that it is the outer world that is causing us to feel bad.
What’s worse: along with chronic stress, complaining and holding grudges damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that stress and negativity, shrinks the hippocampus; an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is serious, especially when you consider how important it is to have full use of our mental faculties to cope with the many challenges we face in our work, family and personal lives. (Travis Bradperry, PhD)
Resentment, complaining and holding grudges is bad for your health.
While it’s profoundy helpful to know that negativity, pessimism and chronic stress leads to brain damage, it doesn’t stop there. When you are angry, anxious, fearful, stressed and complaining, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential for immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself.
The extra cortisol released by chronic stress, frequent complaining and negativity impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes. Digestion and wound healing are also impaired making us more suscuptible to gastointestinal disorders and infectious dieseases. ( Robert Sapulsky, Phd)
“ You are not here to cry about the miseries of the human condition, but to change them when you find them not to your liking, through the joy, strength and vitality that is within you.” (Unknown)
To start the process of of forgiving: Look at the real consequences of holding on to upsets. Ask yourself:
- What do I get by keeping the upset going?
- Write down any benefits. Who benefits and how?
- Is being right more important than being happy?
Being a Victim
- How long has my victimization been going on?
- How long is it okay to let others be in control of my happiness?
- Am I a possible contributor to the problem and not just the victim?
By being honest with yourself and owning your role or part in the situation, you are more able to forgive. You may need to start small at first but when you do; if feels like a burden has been lifted from your chest or shoulders, you will feel lighter and better. If you don’t forgive; remember holding onto grudges has a link to depression, OCD as well as a decreased immune function. (Forgiveness Foundation.org)
So when we forgive, we get: Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Freedom. (Jim Dincalci PhD) Our brains work better, we are happier, more creative and able to enjoy life more fully. Forgiving help us connect better to spirit. How can you experience the unconditional love and grace of God if you hold onto resentment, anger, grudges and prejudices yourself?
When will you really be ready to let go of all of your upsets?
* See Robert Sapulsky’s National Geographic video “The Portrait of a Killer- Stress”.