When life has beaten you down, you can be embittered. Here’s possible help.
Even younger adults can feel beaten down: They didn’t get into a “good” college. Or they did but didn’t excel. Or, after graduation, they didn’t get the good job and instead are living The Barista Life. Or their relationships haven’t lived up to the fantasy. Or they see a future of never paying off that student debt, let alone affording to buy a home.
Of course, older people have had more time to become bitter and have less time left for things to get better.
Many bitter people confine their malaise to churlishness or seclusion. Some anesthetize or become activists for radical politico-economic change, if not by violent protest or terrorism, by supporting leftist candidates and causes.
I’ve seen an increased number of clients like that. I dub them as suffering from, I’m Bitter Syndrome. Perhaps one or more of these suggestion will help.
Ways to counter “I’m Bitter” Syndrome
Want to try something different? Find a job at which you’re more likely to succeed? Change your attitude at work? Use a new approach to friends or romantic partner? Find a better friend or romantic partner? Reduce or stop your substance abuse?
Some people have become less bitter thanks to a more dramatic change. For example, one client, who had not been able to find a partner, decided to have a child solo. Another had weight loss surgery. A third1 left his wife, gave her most of his worldly possessions and became a monk. A fourth1 left a banking career in Los Angeles to manage a hardware store in small-town Minnesota. None of these people went from bitter to happy, but all felt the change was worth it.
Forgiveness? You may have been treated unfairly by a family member, romantic partner, employer, or The System. You may have made big mistakes. Is it wise to forgive them and yourself? Or is it wiser to hold onto that resentment?
Could you dredge up perspective? When you feel bitter, it’s difficult to put your life in perspective. But at the risk of sounding like your mother, compared with all the people in the world, healthy and not, in the U.S or not, with good relationships or not, with money or not, do you have justification for bitterness?
Might any of the above be worth a try? As with the clients I mentioned, they probably won’t transform you from bitter to Pollyanna but there’s a good chance it will be worth the effort.
1 Details changed to protect my clients’ anonymity.