Bitterness An Understudied Emotion with Physical Health Implications Via Biological Dysregulation
by NYBH Staff
Have you known a person who was so bitter that he never smiled? We generally say that person is “angry at the world.” Do you think it can make him physically sick?
Dr. Carsten Wrotsch is one of several psychologists at Concordia University who have examined how bitterness affects people, why it develops in some people but not in others, and how it could be avoided.
Anger and Accusation
The researchers found, first of all, that bitterness is most likely to stem from failure at something. Another finding was that anger and accusation usually accompany bitterness, indicating that it is different from regret, where any anger or blame is turned inward on oneself. The bitter person aims his anger, hostility, and blame at someone or something else. Whenever you fail at what you’re trying to accomplish, do you tend to blame yourself or others (e.g., teacher, spouse, boss, government)?
We all, every now and again, are likely to experience failure, as well as anger, regret, and even bitterness. And then, we go on with our lives, making another attempt to achieve something or choosing an alternate route or strategy. However, some individuals take on their anger and bitterness as a badge of honor, refusing to let it go or to move on themselves. Wrosch warns that, in this form, staying bitter is a health risk leading to “biological dysregulation” and physical disease. One expert has proposed that bitterness be recognized as a mental illness and categorized as post-traumatic embitterment disorder (PTED). What do you think?
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Whether or not you feel bitterness is a medical condition, we would probably agree that the chronic cases need some type of therapeutic intervention. What would you propose? Psychotherapy? The researchers would agree but note that for a person to win the battle over long-term bitterness, he will have to be able to forgive—whether himself or others.
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