I think it's safe to say that 2020 did a number on us. So much so that many of us are going into this year bitter, whether we're bitter about spending so much time in the house, not being able to go out, the losses we've had to endure or the goals we didn't get to accomplish. But regardless to what we've experienced, 2021 is a new year, and whether we realize this or not, COVID-19 is not going anywhere, so we may as well get use to living in a world with it.
In order to understand why we need to release bitterness, I wanted to discuss the cost of bitterness. I find that when we have an understanding of the consequences, we tend to become more motivated for change.
THE COST OF BITTERNESS
Bitterness is essentially anger and disappointment from any maltreatment. The problem with bitterness is not that we experience anger or disappointment at all, but typically that it's anger and disappointment that we can't let go of. And particularly this year, much of what we experienced has been out of our control. Therefore naturally we've become consumed with anger, disappointment and resentfulness (essentially bitter) about losing jobs, etc. But because we have no control over the current climate and conditions we've experienced, if we allow ourselves to live in bitterness, we're essentially robbing ourselves of any joy and positivity that we could be experiencing. Specifically because we're allowing ourselves to focus on the negative, instead of looking at the glass half full.
Subsequently, as we allow ourselves to dwell in bitterness, we prolong that pain, anger and disappointment, and essentially end up with anxiety and depression issues. Depression is often not associated with bitterness, but understand this, constant focus on negative things yields depression and other mental illnesses. Especially if you allow yourself to become extremely anxious because you're constantly worrying without any intention to rectify.
Bitterness is a trigger for a lot of negative emotions and mental distress. I think that alone is enough reason for us to take seriously the need to actively work on releasing ourselves from bitterness.
And with that too comes understanding that we can't control all things, but we can control how we respond.
Releasing bitterness has three steps, first you have to choose to move on, but once you do that you need to also choose to accept the things you can't change and lastly forgive those you assign blame to for what you've endured. You should also forgive yourself for how you responded to your experiences (circumstances).
By working through these steps you will ultimately understand just how much bitterness weighs you down and keeps you stuck in a place that has no benefit to you or those around you.
1. CHOOSE TO MOVE ON
Accepting that we have control over how we respond, makes it easy for us to identify that we have the will to choose how we feel, and how we respond to what happens next.
I think it's important that despite all that we've experienced, that we choose to say "it is what it is" and begin to strategize ways to better our situation by focusing on areas within our control, e.g. you don't have to stay mad, you don't have to feel pity and you don't have to sulk and be consumed with disappointment. The choice is always ours, regarding whether we allow ourselves to bask in bitterness or choose, again, to view the glass half full.
2. ACCEPT THE THINGS YOU CAN'T CHANGE
Once you decide not to sit and sulk in misery, you have to accept the things that you can not change. Accept the things you can not control, e.g. we had no control over COVID-19, but it's here and unfortunately it's taking more lives than we could have ever imagined. But, by accepting that it is here and will have a profound impact, we can focus on the things that we can control, e.g. making sure that we are responsible for being safe for ourselves and family members.
Similarly, many have lost jobs and family members, and with losses so great it's important that we understand that everything in this life happens for a reason. And while we may not always know those reasons, we know that if we focus on the joy of living (regardless to the circumstances) and the stability we're able to maintain while unemployed or while managing a decrease in income, we shift our focus to gratitude, and we can be more hopeful of better days.
I understand that by just accepting things we can't change it doesn't mean that we won't naturally wish to place blame on someone or something for our losses, disappointments, etc. Therefore, it's very important that we forgive not only those we assign blame, but also ourselves for embodying a sense of helplessness.
In order to forgive, we have to first release any expectation that we had because essentially that disappointment can turn into bitterness as well. So each of these steps are significant in this process.
Once you have released any expectation, you allow yourself to confront the real issue. And when you identify the issue associated with your anger, disappointment, etc. you can then take ownership of any role you may have played in your demise. Even if that is just identifying and taking ownership that you allowed yourself to be angry about something that (in the grand scheme of things) doesn't matter or that which is out of your control and unchangeable. After you take ownership, then you can forgive and apologize to yourself for being consumed with such negative emotions that robbed you of joy.
Because despite our circumstances, we're all living and breathing one more day. That's always something to be grateful (thankful) for.