I get it. Sometimes life just makes us angry. We're all human, and certainly the expression of anger can be healthy. There is a point in time; however, that anger goes too far, leading to ongoing bitterness and resentment. WARNING: Anger, used improperly, may be harmful to your health.
From a business partnership gone sour, to a failed business or bitter divorce, we all have our share of life events that we could choose to feel angry and bitter about. But, let’s face it, those emotions will eventually lead to disruptive thoughts and actions (not of the good kind), and the fearful thinking that is the kiss of death in business. And worse, emotional burdens have a good chance of putting you in the hospital someday if left unresolved.
“I’m not bitter or angry!” It’s usually the angriest people who make that claim. It comes from denial and the need to convince themselves that they have their emotions under control—otherwise, things get scary.
Begin by recognizing the signs, readjusting your perspective, and making the decision to change. Letting go of anger and bitterness to tip the scales in favor of forgiveness is the healthy thing to do. Don’t confuse forgiveness with condoning another’s actions. It simply means that you are no longer willing to carry the burden of those actions.
What are the signs of prolonged anger and bitterness?
- You're consistently externalizing blame. When you continue to criticize, judge, and point the finger at others years after an upsetting event, bitterness has probably set in.
- You're hypersensitive. Bitter people often become touchy and upset over small incidents. They may be suspicious of others' intentions and have a difficult time trusting them.
- You're regretful. Anger and bitterness make it difficult to take responsibility for your own actions without experiencing blame and regret. If you're stuck in a cycle of remorse and sadness there may be some unresolved bitterness lurking within.
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Why is bitterness so damaging?
- Stress hormones. The negative emotions attached to bitterness can influence stress responses and release the hormone cortisol. Chronically high levels of this hormone can affect the immune system and increase the odds of disease.
- Creates a warped sense of reality. Holding onto negative emotions alters your perception of what is possible. A failed partnership may lead to the belief that no partnership can be successful; a downturn in the economy can result in a misguided belief that you have no control over the success or failure of your business.
- Immobilizes you. Bitterness may keep you stuck in something that's not working. I've seen people cling to their bitterness in such a way that it seems they are trying to get even with or prove a point to the offending person. These people become resistant to change and remain attached to a failing business model for fear of letting the other person off the hook.
How can anger be resolved?
- Forgive others. It may seem impossible to forgive a betrayal or the selfish behavior of another, but I've helped countless people through the process. This always leads to the development of a healthier, happier entrepreneur and greater success in life and business. When bitterness lessens its grip, you can focus on other, more positive parts of your life and career. To initiate the process of forgiveness, explore the fact that continued anger and resentment hurt only you, your loved ones, and your business. You give away your power when you allow undeserving individuals and their actions to take up space in your head. Again, remember that your intent is to forgive the actions of others, not condone them.
- Take responsibility. Taking responsibility for your own actions, past and present, will stop the cycle of blame. This goes a long way in the bitterness-recovery process.
- Be productive. Recognize when you're engaging in vengeful fantasies and turn your thoughts to something more uplifting or productive.
- Shift your perspective. Lastly, discuss your feelings and viewpoints with a professional, objective third party, like your coach. There are many tools available to you that will make it easier to release negative emotions and take on a fresh, healthy perspective.
If you recognize any of the signs of bitterness and anger in your own thoughts and behavior, let’s talk. We’ll figure out what’s going on and explore what steps you could take to shed this sh*t once and for all!