Holding Grudges: Developing Theory and Measurement
Van Monsjou, Elizabeth Marie
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The aim of this dissertation was to develop a theory of holding grudges and a questionnaire to measure their occurrence. In Part 1 I used semi-structured interviews to identify six underlying components of holding a grudge: victims need for validation, feelings of moral superiority, lack of control over the grudge, its diminishing psychological impact, severing ties with transgressors, and altered expectations of the future. Together these six aspects form a cycle whereby a transgression or trigger creates feelings of invalidation that makes it difficult for victims to let go of what happened. Over time and with introspection they are able to move on to the point where the grudge becomes latent, however it can easily be triggered to near the strength of the initial transgression. In Part 2 I used three studies to winnow 171 items generated from Part 1 into 18 items reflecting three aspects of holding a grudge: disdain, referring to feelings of dislike and intolerance for the transgressor; emotional persistence, including sustained negative affect such as anger and hurt; and perceived longevity, reflecting participants feeling as though they would never be able to let go. As expected, these aspects of holding a grudge were linked to less forgiveness and greater general unforgiveness, as well as revenge, avoidance, and rumination. Personality traits did not play a large role in how likely individuals were to hold a grudge for a specific transgression; however interpersonal power, attachment anxiety, and neuroticism were associated with emotional persistence.