Warning! Holding a grudge can give you amnesia.

by | 4th March, 2015 | thoughts on business, thoughts on life

Jessica Ainscough, a young Australian blogger died last week. This week, the little part of the internet I am connected to has exploded with posts and comments about the damage Jess has left behind. Jess called herself a “Wellness Warrior” and I always found her posts to be great reminders for me to tend to my own health – on all levels.

bloggers go crazy this week

However, Jess was also an advocate of a controversial cancer treatment and ultimately paid the price as cancer stole her young life. It’s my understanding that the belief Jess had in this method was the catalyst for her blog. A blog that grew to amass thousands of followers over its seven year history. In fact, when I subscribed to her posts I didn’t even know this treatment had been such a big part of her life. By the time I was a follower, her blog was about healthly living with lots of great recipes, meditation tips, how to guides and lively discussions. I thought it was great to see such a young person putting so much positive energy into the world. Hence, I have been shocked to see all the posts about Jess this week as news of her passing has spread.

I don’t think I have read one post about all the positive tips Jess posted on her site. Not one.

Instead, the online world has focused solely on the one area of her beliefs that (may have) represented her negative impact on the world. I’m not interested in debating these beliefs (hence no links to other posts etc) – that subject is irrelevant here. What I am interested in is how everyone reporting this story has chosen to overlook, or not even refer to, all of the positive things Jess provided to her subscribers. This has been completely forgotten.

If you feel angry towards someone, is it possible to accurately remember all the good they have done as well?

For example, think of a normal day. How about Tuesday, two weeks ago. Can you remember everything you have done in that day? If it was just another day, chances are you will struggle to remember every detail. However, if something extraordinary happenned on that day (a birthday;  unusually bad weather;  a promotion;  car breakdown), chances are your recollection will be a lot clearer, and that day will stand out above every other day.

I think it’s the same when we hold grudges about other people. Years of goodwill can very likely pass by without much recollection other than a vague “feel good” attitude about someone and a sense of connection with that person. However, once a negative experience occurs – that’s the only thing that stands out and becomes easy to recall.

grudges cause amnesiaIt becomes easy to hold onto a grudge because that single incident so out of the ordinary has caused amnesia regarding all the great stuff that happenned with that person prior. Examples of this are rife in the workplace. Who hasn’t had a performance review and worried only about the negative conversations rather than the positive ones?

What a sad phenomenon indeed. I know I am guilty of it. There are people in my life who I sometimes struggle to be with, and this is because I’ve allowed myself to focus on the one negative experience I have had with them rather than all the positive interactions we’ve shared.

Once I am aware of grudge amnesia, I can exercise my brain to overcome it.

It’s tiring having to remember to dislike someone. To reduce grudge amnesia, try the following steps:

1. Remove the word “but” when making reference to that person. In other words, don’t use phrases like “I know she means well BUT …..”  or “Yes, she’s done a great job on this project BUT….”  or “Sure, I like seeing them BUT….”    Using the word but is an amnesia trigger. It provides you with an excuse to place the focus on the negative behaviour.

2. Don’t revisit the negative experience with another person. Instead, if your amnesia has flared up, ask the other person to remind you of the great qualities the difficult person has. We all have good qualities within us somewhere! Be diligent with this step because any hint of sarcasm when asking this question increases the chances of grudge amnesia returning.

3. Seek out the difficult person and spend some quality time with them. Focus on their positive contributions (in an authentic manner) and let that be the pinpoint for memories associated with this person.

4. Be aware of the amount of grudge amnesia you are faced with every day. Recognise it in friends, family and work colleagues. The media is rife with it (poor Jessica Ainscough is a recent example).

If I understand that we’re all connected, isn’t life more enjoyable when that connection is peaceful?