I have long felt that certain emotions are poison for the soul. Anger, hatred, jealousy, insecurity are but a few of these and I have talked of some of them elsewhere on this blog. However, this post intends to discuss another very malignant feeling, one that can actually exerts its toxin so far beyond its immediate sphere, that it often becomes impossible to check, or treat, its effects. I refer to bitterness that sort of corrosive, harmful bitterness that seeps through you and starts to be the bane of not just your mind and actions, but at a basic level, your very soul.
Some may feel it an exaggeration to credit bitterness with so much power. After all, we must all have fallen prey to one variation or other of this feeling when certain injustices (real or perceived) are meted out to us, by people or by life itself. However, I stick by what I assert. Bitterness is evil, it will hurt you far more than you may realise, it will spread through your life and lead to rot in otherwise perfectly healthy limbs of your “life tree”, until those branches that it has infected are good for nothing but destruction. I refer here to genuine bitterness, not a fit of pique or temporary upset or anger with a situation or person that hurt you or caused you grief or loss.
I sort of wonder why I choose to write this today, especially as I am actually finding this unexpectedly hard to do, unlike most of my other posts, where once I start, the flow of words is almost automatic. This is somehow different, maybe because I have very recently had to guard myself against the onslaught of resentment and bitterness at one of life’s latest curve balls thrown in my direction. Ok, let me be brutally honest. I did get angry, resentful and bitter for a while, a relatively short while I am proud to add, but still. The effects were almost instantaneous - that sense of loss of control, in turn causing mental stress, unhappiness and pointless regret on things ranging so far back, that I thought I had drawn a line under them a while ago. Thankfully, I checked myself before too long. Actually, I think it is more accurate to say, discussions with others near and dear to me reminded me of how unhealthy bitterness and resentment is, and that was probably my saving grace. I witness the effects of this sort of malignant bitterness at close quarters. I will not name names or relations, in fact, there is more than one person I have seen be a victim to such soul-destroying afflictions. They all teach me that it is essential to hone your “defense mechanism” against it and to ensure you are not corrupted by its effects.
It was an important lesson, a stark reminder of how, just as anger destroys the ability to reason, bitterness destroys the capacity to be happy in any meaningful way in your life. So how can you prevent feeling resentful, angry, hurt or bitter when something awful happens? I do not think you can, at least not momentarily, unless you are a truly exalted soul genuinely above any human vice. However, I firmly believe you can prevent these feelings before they deteriorate and spiral to a level that cannot be controlled. Ah yes, control – that is again the key. I found it very helpful to grasp my fear of losing control as one way to stop myself falling into the “bitterness trap”. See, the thing with feeling bitter is that you feel like that about one issue or a discrete range of problems that besets you, never imagining that this in turn is making you lose enjoyment in every other aspect of your life. And that to me is a real shame. No matter how bad things get, there is always hope and the world is subliminally beautiful and life is always worth living. By living I mean living with love and joy, not just empty meaningless existing. However, when your cup is already full of bitterness you simply cannot see the wood for the trees as such, that feeling becomes all-pervading and seriously impedes, if not utterly destroys, your capacity to enjoy other things, even if they are wholly unconnected to the situation or event that is the cause of your ill will. By consciously rising above it, just like you have to often force yourself to do with feelings of anger, you free yourself of its virulence.
It is the classic adage – you have to set yourself free from that vicious circle by genuinely recognising that bad things happen and we often experience things that are awful, hurtful, even belittling or crippling in any which way. If you can exercise your will and regain control of your being to the extent that you can abandon the bitterness without losing the experience and whatever it may teach you (good or bad), you will feel all the better of it. Good experiences will then be allowed to continue to filter into your life, in fact you can actively seek them out as you will not have abandoned positivity together with sweetness in your life, and then life will continue to demonstrate its numerous daily miracles to you. Oh, I have heard the counter arguments – you cannot help it, some things are so bad, you cannot control your reaction(s) to them. Yes, maybe, but I still maintain that you can, and should try to, control your long-term response to such events, situations or even people. After all, we are always co-conspirators in our destiny, that fine balance regulated by fate and free will. Maybe the tragedy that befell you was unavoidable and caused by some cosmic occurrence, but your reaction to it, is yours alone and you need to own it. It has always been my eventual realisation in the concept that by rising above my situation at any point, I get an empowering perspective and this allows me to look forward with hope and positivity, rather than backwards with regret and bitterness.
I would like to begin concluding with this wonderful short quote by Terry Brooks: “Hurt leads to bitterness, bitterness to anger, travel too far that road and the way is lost.” Therefore, don’t lose the way, find yourself and a beautiful future for you and yours.