Many people are happy to say goodbye to 2018 and hope that 2019 has better things in store for them. Yet a single day gone by on the calendar doesn’t bring a change of habits or emotions as quickly as many would like.
Many of the overcontrolled clients I see, tell me they feel resentment, hatefulness, melancholy and discouraged regularly. Hello bitterness! Bitterness is a mood state of anger, hurt, resentment, pessimism and sadness.
Steps to Work through Bitterness
First you have to identify what it’s like for you to experience bitterness. Some of the key things that people report when they are bitter are: cynicism, grudge-holding, feeling unappreciated, wanting to give up, and a lack of empathy for themselves and others.
Secondly, notice what you want do when you are bitter? Do you watch sad or violent TV, read tragic new stories, try to stay away from people expressing hope or love, or reject help?
Once you know what your bitter actions and urges are, then act opposite to these habits by:
- Reading uplifting new stories and watch hopeful TV
- Practicing loving kindness meditations
- Celebrating the diversity of the world by joining with others who are different than you
- Helping others and allowing yourself to be helped
- Spending time with people you love
- Resting and relaxing
- Blocking yourself from snapping at people or being a general grump
Lastly, practice thankfulness and cheerfulness by approaching situations that generate positive emotions. You can also practice giving people the benefit of the doubt, practice forgiving others and letting go of grudges (see the HEART skill in RO DBT skills manual), and remember that you are one of many people who struggle with bitterness. You are not alone!
Bitterness’ Strong Hold
Still not wanting to give letting go of bitterness a shot? You might ask yourself: what are you getting out of feeling bitter? Does it get you closer to your life goals or move you away from them? For more information on working through bitterness, check out Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy’s (RO DBT) LIGHT skill.
The antidote to bitterness is hope. Hope is a great choice, but you have to make the decision to purse it. It won’t magically appear, even if you see a therapist named Hope (tee hee).