IS IT POSSIBLE TO SOLVE AN UNSOLVABLE GRUDGE? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

A grudge is defined as a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.

1400 years ago, after Mohammed died, the Caliphate was passed to Abu Bakr, one of Mohammed’s closest companions, rather than a blood relative of Mohammed. This is where the grudge started. Sunnis believe that the caliph should be elected or chosen for his ability and Shiites believe that it should be passed to a true inheritor or blood relative.

When the US went to war against Iraq to remove the weapons of mass destruction, it seemed like a simple in and out military excursion. Save the world and bring democracy to an area sorely in need of it. Now over a decade later, the Sunnis and the Shiites are still trying to destroy each other, not only in Iraq, but all over the Middle East.

What can reasonable people do to change hundreds of years of animosity? It appears that using conflict-resolution principles of discussing feelings and finding a middle ground have not been helpful. We’re not dealing with delusions and hallucinations that can be medicated away. We’re dealing with millions of people who are willing to die for their convictions.

My experience, although extensive, is limited to personal and family conflicts. But like with all therapeutic interactions, my goal has been to find the underlying conflict and try to help my patients find a solution. Religious zeal is always tough because there are millions of people who share the zeal. Darwinian, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist or Mormon, the real beginnings of life still escape understanding. We’re stuck using the information we have in front of us. So here’s my thought…

Let’s start small. Are there any Sunnis married to Shiites? Any Jews married to Catholics? Believers in God married to Darwinians? Israelis married to Palestinians? Mormons married to Atheists? What’s it like? How are issues resolved? Can these principles be applied on a larger scale? Any other ideas? Sadly, having Notre Dame play Brigham Young on ESPN doesn’t solve the problem…

Art Smukler MD is the author of Skin Dance, a mystery, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, and the blog, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist.

5 thoughts on “IS IT POSSIBLE TO SOLVE AN UNSOLVABLE GRUDGE? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

  1. The only thing I would take issue with you on is “Believers in God married to Darwinians?” implying that someone who believes in evolution cannot believe in God. I believe the two beliefs can, in fact, coexist. I certainly believe in evolution, but would classify myself as a ‘deist’…..if anything…:)


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