Updated: Jul 29
I don’t hold grudges. I have always found it unpalatable to experience anger and resentment over a period of time. If you asked me if I was a grudge bearer I would vehemently deny it. So why, on my recent trip to London did I f`ind myself in Hatchards bookstore holding a copy of “How to hold a grudge” by Sophie Hannah? On a side note, if you have not been to Hatchards I recommenced it; they claim to be the UK's oldest bookstore, it is floors and floors of beautiful wooden bookshelves filled with thousands of books.
So it a beautiful bookshop, with an amazing array of choice, I am about to buy “how to hold a grudge”.
Maybe it was the “signed by the author” label that initially caught my eye (although it is rare for a book in that store not be be defaced by authors signatures) or possibly the bright yellow cover with shiny embossed text. Any of these reasons would explain why I would pick up the book but none of them would explain why I than sat with it and read it during my very delayed train journey home.
So the book itself defines what grudges are, then sets about teaching how to have a healthy, enjoyable relationship with grudges. Whilst "holding onto a grudge" may seem counterproductive I have talked before that self compassion and acceptance starts with acknowledging suffering.
It littered with relatable examples from the authors own life. Some of the examples might feel a little "Middle England" but it’s authentic to the author and the examples can help trigger your own memory. For someone that believes I don’t hold grudges there were at least 6 that came to mind during reading. This is not a bad thing having these old grudges resurface. She talks about having a "Grudge Fold Path" in which you are very specific about the grudge, you give it a score. (My biggest grudge was an 8 carrot grudge) you identify what you can do to address the grudge. and once you have learnt from it you place it in a "grudge cabinet". She talks about ensuring the cabinet is offset to ensure that you have a balanced perspective.
My only criticism of this book is that it doesn't give any advice as to how to cope when the harm feels real or raw. My recommendation for when you are experiencing that strong emotion is, breathe deeply and slowly, name the emotion and allow yourself to feel it but remind yourself that it will pass. If you are restless exercise in a way that will sooth.
Some critics of the book have commented on the authors lack of mental health credentials. but what she has is lived experience of being a human being. As we all do and her approach is sensible. The take away message from the book for me is grudges are a normal human experience. do not let them harm you or others. It was an engaging read and the first book that I have sat and read quickly in two sittings.