Bitterness describes prolonged anger and resentment toward people or entities that you believe have wronged you.
Blaming forces outside yourself is the hallmark of bitterness.
Your perceived helplessness toward whatever left you bitter deepens your distress, but your health and well-being rely on freeing yourself from the persistently negative state of mind that bitterness creates.
Left unchecked, bitterness could weaken relationships, close you off from new opportunities, rob you of energy, ruin your health, or even provoke you to commit acts of vengeance.
- What Causes A Person to Become Bitter?
- How to Overcome Bitterness: 13 Steps to Help You Let Go
- Step 1. Ask Yourself ‘Why Am I So bitter?’
- Step 2: Find Your Motivation to Change
- Step 3. Forgive Yourself
- Step 4. Talk to Someone
- Step 5. Get Some Exercise
- Step 6. Be on Guard Against Your Bitter Thoughts
- Step 7. Place a Value on Your Life Energy
- Step 8. Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Emotions
- Step 9. Focus on the Present and Future
- Step 10. Practice Mindfulness
- Step 11. Develop Gratitude
- Step 12: Expect Less of Others
- Step 13. Stretch Yourself
What Causes A Person to Become Bitter?
There are many reasons people feel bitterness and allow their bitter feelings to grow. Some of these reasons include:
- Holding onto a grudge and not forgiving someone.
- Not forgiving yourself and allowing guilt and shame to create a negative mindset.
- Feeling constantly upset or disappointed with people.
- Having a rigid, all-or-nothing outlook that creates a negative worldview.
- Being cynical and thinking that things will never get better.
- Feeling a lack of control over life and that you are helpless.
- Delaying happiness until you reach some desired goal or outcome.
- Believing that one failure or mistake makes you a complete failure.
- Feeling you have nothing to be grateful about.
All people experience these situations and attitudes on occasion, but when they are constant, it creates fertile ground for bitterness to develop and grow.
How to Overcome Bitterness: 13 Steps to Help You Let Go
Dealing with bitterness is not an overnight process. You need to spend time reflecting on your feelings, convincing yourself to let go, and directing your energy toward the future.
Step 1. Ask Yourself ‘Why Am I So bitter?’
Bitterness does not emerge out of thin air. Something or many things happened that left you bitter.
Answering this question should be easy because your bitterness has kept the issues that angered you in the forefront of your mind for months and perhaps years.
At this stage, you should recognize your grievances and accept that your unhappy emotions were initially valid. View this step as a goodbye to past events that have hurt you.
Your feelings about what happened have created the mental habits and attitudes that are now sabotaging your outlook, and it’s time to move on.
Step 2: Find Your Motivation to Change
You’ve worn your bitterness like bandages over a wound. Unfortunately, healing cannot take place when you wrap yourself in bitterness.
Although you’re beginning to see that you need to stop being bitter, you’re still psychologically stuck in a bad place.
A good exercise for finding the motivation to change is thinking about how being bitter has affected your life.
List the results that bitterness has produced. Writing down your thoughts transforms abstract feelings into a tangible form.
Common consequences of bitterness that might appear on your list include:
Once your list is written, hold it in your hand and read it aloud. You’ll probably not like what you see and hear, but hope exists. You can release yourself from the darkness and anger.
Step 3. Forgive Yourself
As you begin to fully realize how much your bitterness has eroded your quality of life, you might feel angry at yourself.
Because bitterness has trained your brain to react negatively to almost everything, you might berate yourself for falling into such a state.
After years of feeling bitter, you’re in the habit of judging everything and everyone harshly.
Reversing that trend starts with learning to treat yourself more gently.
Step 4. Talk to Someone
The insights of a close friend, family member, or therapist could help you rebuild your thought patterns.
You can spend some time rehashing the issues that left you with a bitter attitude but only revisit these subjects for the purpose of setting the stage for change.
Talking to another person could help create closure around the hurtful events.
Hearing someone else encourage you to look to the future could increase your motivation to escape a bitter attitude.
Step 5. Get Some Exercise
Bitterness makes you withdraw from the world and stew in negative thoughts and feelings. Physical activity of almost any kind can counteract the physiological effects of anger and bitterness.
Endorphins released by your body during exercise naturally brighten your mood. This good feeling will help you transition to a more positive outlook.
What you do for exercise is up to you. Daily walks, bike rides, joining a soccer or basketball team, or strength training at the gym could all produce positive effects as long as you exercise regularly.
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Step 6. Be on Guard Against Your Bitter Thoughts
Building new mental habits takes time. When things upset you, your mind can easily slip back into blaming others, pessimism, and complaining.
Reflect on what your old mental patterns were like.
As you identify your specific bitter behaviors, like getting angry at small things or expecting failure, you can become mindful of them. When you catch yourself thinking or acting with bitterness, stop yourself.
Putting a positive spin on a situation may not be appropriate, but you don’t have to accept anger as your default either. Acknowledge your negativity and then move past the emotion.
Step 7. Place a Value on Your Life Energy
In some ways, every day that you’re alive is a gift. How much energy do you want to devote to something that upset you in the past?
Bitterness involves focusing on a negative event for a long time. Think about how much energy you’ve given to something that hurts you.
Then, consider how you could have benefited from directing that energy elsewhere.
Once you see value in your life energy, you’ll become more judicious about how you spend it.
Step 8. Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Emotions
Even though you were a victim of bad events that left you bitter, you don’t have to adopt victimhood as an identity. When victim is your frame of reference, you’ll always attribute your feelings to outside influences.
Being angry about bad treatment is a valid response, but anger is not the path to redemption. You need to take responsibility for your feelings. You have control over how you respond to negative issues over the long term.
Ultimately, you have a choice between being bitter or choosing to move on emotionally after a negative experience.
Step 9. Focus on the Present and Future
Bitterness always grows a deep taproot that connects you to whatever caused you pain. Although the past is informative, and you can learn valuable lessons from bad events, you don’t want to be held hostage by those negative feelings forever.
As you work to disconnect your thoughts from the past, you can look for good things in the moment. You can also start to set new goals.
If you’re not pursuing new goals, you’re never going to achieve anything positive.
You won’t always succeed with goals, but at least you’ll be engaged with your future instead of lamenting the past.
Step 10. Practice Mindfulness
If you’re waiting for the future for happiness to find you or dwelling in the pain of the past, it’s hard not to be bitter. Rather than looking to the future or past for answers, find your peace in the present moment.
- Be fully engaged in the task at hand with anything you do.
- Find joy in the process of reaching goals — not just the outcome.
- Learn to meditate so you can train your brain to stop negative rumination.
- Savor the little things — a cup of tea, the sun shining, a call from a friend.
When you’re living mindfully, there’s no room for bitterness and negativity. You’re too busy absorbed in the moment.
Step 11. Develop Gratitude
A grateful heart is a healing balm for bitterness. While bitterness poisons one’s joy and outlook, gratitude reinforces positivity and self-awareness. It puts in stark relief how much you take for granted in life when you are bitter.
Begin and end your day with gratitude by thinking of all of the blessings in your life. Include even the smallest things — the comfort of your bed, the easy availability of food and water, the smell of coffee brewing.
Be sure to include the people you know (and even those you just encounter along the way) in your gratitude practice. Consider what your life would be without these people and how you would feel if you no longer had them in your life.
Step 12: Expect Less of Others
If people are regularly disappointing you, and you feel upset and bitter as a result, then lower your expectations. You may wish your spouse, children, friends, or family members were more attentive, thoughtful, or successful.
If they don’t rise to your expectations, you have two choices: accept them as they are or end the relationship. You can’t force others to meet all of your needs if they can’t or don’t want to. Trying to control them will make them feeling resentful and disrespected.
Work on accepting the people you care about for who they are. Focus on their positive qualities rather than dwelling on how they have let you down.
Step 13. Stretch Yourself
Bitterness develops when life feels hopeless and you feel helpless. If you think you don’t have any power in your life, or you’ve trained yourself to think you are incapable, test your assumptions.
Push yourself just a little bit harder. Do something uncomfortable. Stop assuming you can’t do something and give it a try. You are stronger and more capable than you think you are.
Don’t allow your negative and hopeless assumptions sow the seeds of bitterness and regret.
Have you learned how to not be bitter?
Learning to let go of bitterness and anger takes great effort, but your new emotional freedom will position you for future success.
As you release yourself from negativity, you could become a more attractive job candidate or partner. Adopting the role of the bitter victim, however, drains your energy and never solves problems.
You deserve to live outside the confines of bitterness that separate you from the joys that life has to offer. Overcoming bitterness is not easy for anyone, but neither is living with a bitter and hostile personality.
Start taking steps today to let go of bitterness and feel excited for life again.