- Why we might be holding on
- Letting go
- What to do if you’re still stuck
Why we might be holding on
Most of us are able to move on after an argument, but sometimes it can feel impossible to forget what has been said or to resist starting the argument up again. This is likely to happen more frequently if the argument touches on any of the following issues:
- Painful or unresolved issues from our past. This might bring up fear (reminding us of the way we were bullied at school), a feeling of rejection (reminding us of how we never felt accepted by our parents) and other feelings including sadness or anger. You might not be consciously aware of a link between the argument and an unresolved issue until you talk things through with friends or family.
- Hidden needs. Sometimes we can focus our attention on something practical that ‘symbolises’ a deeper need we have in a relationship. An example would be feeling very upset that our partner has forgotten to fix the broken tap, when really we are feeling unloved and generally neglected by them.
- ‘Hot spots’. These are events or subjects that you ‘just don’t talk about’. They may be times you felt very let down by a brigade member or something you still feel ashamed about. Not speaking about these things may cause them to become even bigger issues.
It might be helpful to spend some time reflecting on your argument using the list above. You could do this alone by going on a long walk or writing in a journal, or with a trusted friend or family member.
Once you have a better understanding of why you might be holding on to an argument, you might want to take the following steps:
- Acknowledge how difficult this issue is for you. You can do this whether or not you identified any ‘hidden reasons’. What you can be sure of is that this argument is difficult for you to let go.
- If appropriate, share any ‘hidden reasons’ with the person you had the argument with. You could say something like ‘I know I keep bringing this up, and I’ve realised it’s because it reminds me of the hard time I had when I was a teenager. It’s bringing up a lot of memories for me.’
- If you put up with something during the argument that you regret, agree with yourself that you won’t let this happen again. Come up with a plan to prevent this happening again – e.g. if anyone says that to me again then I’ll leave the room immediately. When you’ve decided on your plan, try and forgive the other person for what they did, and try and forgive yourself for allowing them to do it.
- Decide whether you need to take any action for yourself. If you always get angry when you’re criticised, decide to find a self-help book on dealing with criticism. If you have low self-esteem, find a supportive friend and talk this through.
- Write down everything that you think and feel about the argument. Don’t hold back – let it all out! When you’re ready, make a conscious decision to let the argument go. Burn the piece of paper, or throw it away.
- When you feel yourself thinking about the argument again, acknowledge your hurt feelings and then distract yourself by doing something else. It might help to funnel energy into any actions you decided on.
- If appropriate, ask the person you had the argument with to help by pointing out when you return to the argument. When this happens, or when you notice yourself returning to it, again acknowledge your feelings and then distract yourself.
- Have patience with yourself. It may take a little while for your emotions to fade, just as it takes a while for our bodies to physically heal after an injury. You can speed this process along by taking good care of yourself and being encouraging rather than critical.
What to do if you’re still stuck
If you try all the suggestions above and still feel stuck, it may be helpful to get some professional help to allow you to move forwards.
Moving on from an argument doesn’t mean that you’re letting the other person ‘get away with it’, or that you’re not taking your feelings seriously. Paying attention to your feelings and focusing on what you need to do for yourself will help you to stop blaming the other person and allow you to start healing.