Bitterness is a comfortable blanket to wear but to fully heal you will need to move past being bitter and start seeing the world without filters.
Bitterness is a comfortable state to be in; it lets you externalize your hurt and pain, blame the outside world for the way you are and remove responsibility for changing yourself. I’ve been there, and occasionally I still visit, but I try hard not to stay there. You see bitterness has a way of removing the color in the world around you, making it shades of black white. Yet the real world is full of color and hues as well, and while you are bitter these are blocked from your sight.
Bitterness normally starts with some form of trauma, some episode where you have been rendered powerless. It comes from a place where your needs and wants have not only been denied but violated. The outside world has been responsible for your pain … in this particular Instance. So we try and cope with trauma, try and heal, but the memory of this episode (or multiple episodes) is strong. The brain having been hurt starts to filter as much as it can through this hurt. Will it be repeated, is a new person a little like that other person, a lot alike, and is the situation like the episode that hurt me. Seeing a connection the brain will conclude that person or situation will hurt you again and it gets angry, the past was unfair, it shouldn’t have happened, and the shades of black and white are born.
I’m a creative person, I can tell you that almost everything can be linked and connected somehow. I can make ships like snails, oranges like spaceships; there are always ways to connect the likeness of two things together. This is the issue that comes with bitterness, this black and white thinking. Your brain can always find a way to make two things similar; it can always make the gender, age, nationality, job or even hair color link between people you meet and the person who hurt you. In doing so you lose the colors of the world around, you link thousands, if not millions of people into an event only one or two people were responsible for. You externalize the anger at an event into people who weren’t responsible, weren’t even there just because they share a trait with the person who did.
Now how do you overcome your bitterness? Until you can get to a safe place this is going to be hard. Bitterness and anger is the natural defense of the brain, that person or situation is black so avoid it, that person or situation is white so it’s safe. It’s a superpower to help you move away from what is hurting you, but it is only useful as a superpower while you are being hurt. Once you reach a safe place then bitterness and anger will harm your ability to heal, it becomes a super weakness. It will prevent you from finding people capable of giving you empathy, it will distance you from friends and it will impact every aspect of your life negatively.
The trick to overcoming bitterness is not forgiveness or gratefulness, you haven’t reached that point yet, no the trick is to hold a contradiction in your head. The trick is for everything which is black to search for the white and for everything that is white to search for the black. The world is never black and white. For every monster that has hit someone they have something in them that makes them a worthwhile person. For every angel coming to your rescue is someone who has been mean and nasty at some time in their lives. In doing this you will paint your world grey. Is everyone possibly evil, or is everyone possibly good, how do you tell good people from the bad when you start looking for the good and evil in everyone? How do you tell the monsters from the angels?
In looking for the good in bad people and bad in good people you have started down the track of humanizing those around you. A bully who is being abused at home is a person who needs help, not hatred. A friend who talks about you behind your back is not someone you should look for empathy. In humanizing those around you the colors of those people will start to shine through. Sure some people will be a dark brown and some will be light yellow but you will start to see people for who they are without the filter of pain and hatred in place.
This is not an easy thing to do, trying to humanize the people around you. Anger and bitterness are comfortable blankets that shield you, but if you want to heal they have to be removed. No one in this world is perfect and we have all at some point hurt those we love, even you. You don’t need to forgive a person to remove bitterness; you just need to remember that everyone is human, capable of both good and evil. Sure there are some people out there who are more evil than others, but there some out there who are more good than evil. If you remove the black and white filters you will be able to seek out the right people, those who match or compliment your own color.
Photo: Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker