How To Stop This Destructive Emotion?
You can overcome the worst of destructive emotions
Someone said to me not long ago, “Keep the spark up.” Almost in the next sentence, this person chronicles the feeling of helplessness and bitterness. This bitterness can last for years, if not for decades. Most people who have lived through some harsh adversities will have bitterness from these events. The reason that most people lose their “spark” as they age is that they collect bitterness from life’s adversities.
Since my twenties, I’ve dealt with bitterness. Bitterness seems to be the only choice when you are helpless even to show anger in situations. This is when you push down your anger and compartmentalize it. In the basement of your soul, you slowly smell the strong brew of bitterness as you stir your anger, helplessness, and victim mentality.
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. — Maya Angelou
Bitterness, if not taken care of properly can lead to a myriad of mental health issues. Depression is a given. But, the distrust and cynicism created by bitterness can lead to paranoid thinking, pessimism. All of that is also the recipe for personality disorders.
The good news is that most people will experience and they will overcome it. If you Google “bitterness”, people who are spreading the words of god will pop up. It seems that bitter people can be transformed through the church of God. I don’t doubt it.
Intrinsically, there are two issues at the heart of bitterness: forgiveness and optimism.
Your ability to forgive the people who have wronged you and your ability to be optimistic are linked. It’s the cycle of forgiveness and optimism that allows you to banish bitterness for good.
At the end of bitterness is simply hope.
Forgiveness is Hard
People who have not gone through many adversities will tell you that forgiveness is easy. Simply let go and you will be free. Having tasted real bitterness, and gone through many tragic circumstances that led to PTSD, I can tell you that forgiveness is hard.
The hardest part of forgiveness is not forgiving the people who wronged you. This is the easier part. Once you realize that you were lucky to be free of such people, forgiving them is just one step forward.
Using empathy, with each situation, when I stood in the other person’s shoe, I can sense the power, privilege, and the train of thought that led to the series of unfortunate events. Once you do that, it’s easy to realize that, “Yes, they didn’t handle this well or they deliberately wronged you. But, what’s done is done.”
The hard part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself for getting into these situations. Years after recovery, occasionally events in my life will trigger the bitterness, or anger from the past and remind me that forgiving yourself is a journey that you take every day.
“Turn down the volume of your negative inner voice and create a nurturing inner voice to take it’s place. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on instead of obsessing about it. Equally important, don’t allow anyone else to dwell on your mistakes or shortcomings or to expect perfection from you.”
― Beverly Engel
Staving off bitterness is a goal every day. Forgiving yourself starts with compassion. Then, with self-care, limits, and focus you pull yourself from the depth of your depression to a happier place where you can hug yourself in a happier light.
At the heart of forgiving yourself is simply self-protection. You have to keep your spark, defend it from bitterness, and move on from a bad outcome. It’s done. You can’t change it. Why think about it relentlessly?
Optimism is Easier
Interestingly, once you pass the point of forgiving yourself, you can feel a sense of hope. This kind of hope is what people call optimism. It’s an ability to see the good in every situation. I used to be a person filled with hope and optimism. People commented on my “spark”.
But, these days, I have less optimism. My “spark” is not as strong as before. But, through bitterness, I’m grateful for still retaining a sense of optimism. Framing difficulties in my life as problems to solve has helped me retain a sense of optimism.
Each day, I can focus on the problems at hand. No matter what the emotions surrounding these problems are. The truth is that these problems all have to be solved. Spending time to come up with solutions is way better than sinking into the anger and bitterness surrounding it.
Picture hope as a well. You have to fill it every day. The way to fill it is simply through constant problem-solving. With each hurdle you overcome, you are filling the well of hope.
In turn, hope replenish your well of trust in the world.
Eventually, you can call yourself an optimistic person. You can take pride in your spark.
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson