Why Your Brain Can’t Let Go of a Grudge

When we’re having a feud with someone, we’re really in a perpetual state of craving or desire. It becomes important for us — sometimes to the point of obsession — to make sure the person behind our angst will change their mind, acknowledge their faults, understand the harm they’ve done to us, and/or ultimately learn a lesson. Or in some cases, we feel the need to either verbally or physically harm the other person, in a tit-for-tat sort of way, according to Michael McCullough. “The really deep satisfaction comes from knowing that the person who harmed us has realized they wronged us, that they’re being punished, and they’re now going to change their ways,” said McCullough. “Those are the key set of conditions that makes revenge seem pleasurable — the sense that some kind of karmic justice is being meted out.” But there’s a lot more going on in the brain during a feud than just cravings; in order to have a grudge, we must ruminate (i.e. dwell on the matter), which, in addition to taking up a lot of our time, requires a lot of brain power.

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