The end of a marriage, especially when it comes with infidelity, courtroom drama or excessive vitriol, is like taking a large shot of concentrated bitter. Bitterness comes when we feel a situation was unfair and outside of our control. It is fed by blame, when we feel as though someone else could have prevented the situation.
You come out of the fugue renouncing marriage, blaming the institution for your ills. The thought of starting over again in love and allowing someone unfettered access to your heart brings an acrid taste to your tongue. You look down at affectionate couples like the Grinch looking down at the happy celebrations in Whoville.
You may generalize your rancor, for example painting all men as lying, cheating bastards. Or you may keep the bitter concentrated in a bolus of poison focused on your ex or the affair partner. Sometimes the bitterness lives on the surface, making itself known in most interactions. Other times, it buries itself deeper where it is harder to identify yet it still colors every thought.
Bitterness is anger past its expiration date.
Anger is a sign that something needs to change. It’s a fuel that drives us when we would otherwise crumple in sorrow. Anger sparks when something or someone is testing our boundaries. It tells us to stand up for ourselves and our rights. It’s a neon arrow pointing to what needs to change.
In contrast, bitterness is the residue left once the anger has served its purpose. Bitterness has no purpose. No direction. It may be less intense than the initial anger, but its effects can damage your entire life if you don’t rinse it out.
Since bitterness tends to be more diffuse, permeating every cell, it’s easier to lessen its impact by diluting it rather than trying to simply excise it in one big cut.
First, be truthful with yourself. Be willing to admit any bitterness you carry.
Identify the form your bitterness takes. What words, thoughts or stories carry the acid?
Institute a gag order of your bitterness. Ban the offending words or thoughts.
Eliminate all or none thinking. Life isn’t so black and white.
Bitterness thrives on victimhood. Refuse to be a victim.
Find the lessons within your situation. It doesn’t lessen the pain, but it gives it purpose.
Accept that there are situations you cannot control. And that you can never control other people.
Bitterness feeds upon itself. When you are acrimonious, others will respond in kind.
Take a lesson from cooking. Sweetness cuts bitterness. Find ways to add smiles to your days.
Bitterness holds you back. Letting go allows you to embrace the rest of your life.