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12 Steps to Overcome Feeling Bitter

by Andrea M. Darcy

Silently seething with resentment? Feel helpless, and like overcoming feeling bitter might happen for other people, but you are a hopeless case?

Anger vs bitterness

Anger involves outrage followed by action, as you decide how best to handle your situation.

Bitterness can feel worse than anger because we are left feeling helpless. Referred to as ’embitterment’ in psychology circles, bitterness happens when you feel there is no action left to take, because everything is out of your control.

It might be true you can’t change what happened that has left you feeling bitter. You can’t, for example, undo being in an accident, or get back the promotion that your colleague won instead.

But you can take action to move forward in your life and away from bitterness.

Why should I care about feeling bitter?

Bitterness not only causes symptoms of trauma like sleeplessness, fatigue, and lack of libido. It can also in the long-term lead to low self-confidence, negative personality shifts, and an inability to have a healthy relationship.

[For more on the symptoms and effects of bitterness, read our article on “Why Bitterness is a Real Psychological Concern.”]

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12 Ways to Overcome Feeling Bitter

So what can you do if you are stuck in the bitterness trench and can’t climb out? Here are 12 ways to start dealing with your resentment.

1. Do a serious re-evaluation.

Often, in telling our story to others, we stop telling the truth to ourselves about what really happened and what is truly upsetting us.

Ask yourself good questions to dig deeper into facts and feelings. Journalling can be a great tool here (as can a counsellor who is trained at asking powerful questions).

  • What about the situation really upsets you when you go through it?
  • What are the details that actually haunt you, versus what you tell your friends bothers you because they all agree it should? If you were the victim of fraud, is it losing the money that has upset you, or is really being made to look stupid that has you bitter?
  • Re-evaluate the thing that was actually lost, too. Do you still want it? Is it still attainable? Or is it all something you have actually long since outgrown?

2. Put your story on hold.

As for that story about what happened to you. What would happen if, just for a week, or even a few days, you take a break from telling it?

Telling the story of what happened to you to those whose job it is to help you, or because you are trying to find new and positive ways to deal with your situation, is one thing. But telling the story of what happened to you again and again in a negative way to everyone you meet is often a form of keeping yourself stuck in victimhood.

3. Take what responsibility you can.

As for that victimhood that your story generates. Note that if you are a victim, you are helpless. You put yourself in a corner where you can’t embrace your personal power to create change and move on.

Of course not all situations contain personal responsibility. If you are bitter that a loved one died in a senseless war, there is obviously nothing you did to make that happen.

But many of us who are bitter know we had a part in what took place, but we are too ashamed to admit to it. We didn’t get fired just as our boss was horrible. We were slacking off, too. 

Again, the point of acknowledging your responsibility in what transpired is not to blame yourself, which is counterproductive, but to reclaim your personal power.

4. Stop spying.

Unfortunately, today’s technology and social media provides the perfect fodder for bitterness if there are other people involved.

Spying on the person who triggered your upset is really a form of self-torture that inevitably it lowers self-esteem.

Spying on others can also be addictive. If you can’t stop spying, you might need support. Tell a good friend, seek a support group (if it’s an ex you are spying on, a love and romance addiction group could help, for example). Or talk to your GP who can refer you to a counsellor for a round of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

5. Face up to your hidden fears.

Bitterness often is a perfect disguise for a fear of change or of failing. If you deal with the fear, you won’t need the bitterness anymore.

For example, if you are claiming you will never do the PhD you dreamed of because you were scammed out of all your savings, you might discover that actually, you are terrified you aren’t smart enough to finish the PhD. What you need is to work on your confidence, take a student loan, and get on with your dreams.

6. Forgive when feeling bitter? Sure, but only at your own pace.

Forgiveness is a great psychological release — but only if you are ready and it’s real.

Fake forgiveness can be a way of just denying how you feel, or even hold you back from processing emotions and situations.

(Read more in our article, 12 Reasons Why You Can’t Move On).

7. And don’t forget to forgive yourself, too.

This might be the hardest but most important part of moving on from bitterness.

It’s possible to hold on to feeling bitter for a long time so you can focus your anger on someone else because the truth is that you are furious at yourself, and that feels too hard to face.

Start now by reading our article ’10 Ways You Can Show Yourself Compassion’.

overcome bitterness

By: jeronimo sanz

8. Step into the now to end feeling bitter.

Bitterness often consists of fantasising about revenge, or thoughts of where you’d be now if things had gone differently. In other words, it lives in the past and the future.

Get into the now moment by concerning yourself with current opportunities and goals that are about you and a positive future.

One of the best techniques for staying now centred is mindfulness. A tool now used by many therapists, it trains you to constantly check in with your feelings. You become conscious of the thoughts that are distracting you, and learn to notice the good things right in front of you.

9. Branch out from feeling bitter.

Bitterness tends to fade in the face of excitement and joy. In other words, new and better experiences. So put yourself out there. Explore a longtime interest, re-connect with others, choose some new things to put in place in your life.

10. Set mini goals for yourself each day.

Bitterness is a powerful tide, and best intentions to try new things and be mindful can soon be caught in its tug. The way around this is to not just make big goals, but also small, achievable goals that keep you on the road away from feeling bitter.

11. Try a new perspective.

Feeling bitter can have us seeing life from a very narrow perspective indeed. A great coaching tool to help you move forward in life is to imagine what the situation you are struggling with would look like from a different viewpoint entirely. Read our piece ‘How to Change Your Perspective for some great advice on seeing your life in all new ways.

12. Seek support.

Feeling bitter can be quite the battle to move on from. And sometimes the strongest tactic and easiest way forward is to accept help. If your friends and loved ones are great listeners with no agenda, perfect. But if you need an unbiased viewpoint and a place you don’t feel judged, again, try a support group or a talk therapist.

In London? Our talk therapists are some of the most highly rated and can help you stop feeling bitter. Or to find a trained therapist online and across the UK visit  harleytherapy.com .

Andrea M. DarcyAndrea M. Darcy is the editor and lead writer of this site. She left a career in screenwriting to retrain in counselling and coaching and become a well established health and lifestyle writer. 


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Blog Topics: Anger Management, Self Esteem

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