How To Banish Resentment & Bitterness
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
The emotional state of bitterness and blame can contribute to inner turmoil and physical inflammation. Too much inflammation is a contributing factor to autoimmunity. The mental burdens we carry with us through life can come back to haunt us not in the mind but in disease.
Cancer is one disease which can be caused by autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is caused by inflammation of the inner body. Inflammation is caused by poor lifestyle choices and a poor immune system. These lifestyle choices include our mental health and choice in thoughts.
Poor choice of thoughts include: anxious, depressing, guilty, mentally stressful and pressurising thoughts. Also, toxic thoughts like bitterness and blame. Be in no doubt, you must change and adapt your poor thoughts, not just your diet and exercise. Aim to get through your Cancer treatment and out the other side healthier in body and mind, so you can do your best to prevent relapsing.
Why this is so Important
When we blame others for our situation in life it produces a toxic mental load by increasing adrenaline and cortisol hormone release. This is because we get angry with them and what happened to us. These two potent hormones are useful on many fronts but if we constantly have them firing off, they will deplete the body of many of its health-giving and healing ways and increase inflammation.
The past can be re-lived, on a daily basis, in our memories. Often these memories come to mind in our quiet reflective moment, such as before sleep. These thoughts can lead to not getting a good night sleep. And we all know how important sleep is for cell renewal and ridding the system of dead cells. It is essential for Cancer patients to sleep well. Adrenaline and cortisol prevent us from sleeping, as our bodies think we are under attack. They put us into 'fight and flight' mode and definitely not sleep mode. Even though it’s really a consequence of your bitter, or blame fuelled memories of the past, keeping you awake.
I am sure many of you reading this are hopefully having a light-bulb moment. I hope so. The sooner you can identify past hurts the sooner you can heal your mind, which will contribute to the positive choices you are making to healing your Cancer.
Think about the many things that lead us humans to blame and become bitter. This could be experiencing a failed relationship, being passed over for promotion at work, children letting you down, your family not being supportive, sexual abuse, financial losses, bullying, a life changing accident, mental abuse, a friend betraying you. The list is endless.
Identifying your Sources of Bitterness and Blame
Take a moment to clear your mind. Take some deep breaths and focus on the past. Notice any immediate thoughts that come to mind that fall into the bitter and blaming categories. We will refer to them in this exercise as 'hurts'. Write them down.
Next, scan through your life as a child, as a teenager and as an adult. Are there any other hurts that spring to mind? Write those down. You may only have one memory on the list and that's OK.
Next, rate the list according to how much each hurt matters to you. Rate each out of 10.
Next, write out why each hurt matters so much to you. You will find this exercise somewhat cathartic. You may even cry, and that is a good thing. It’s the first step towards healing facing your hurts and processing them.
Work through the list, in priority order according to your ratings, and think about some actions you can take to resolve these hurts.
These actions will depend on what the hurt is. No one person is going to be able to take the exact same actions.
Jenny was 39 when she was diagnosed with Cancer. She had been under a lot of strain due to her Mother’s poor health. Her Mother had Alzheimers and in the early stages of the disease it had fallen on Jenny's shoulders to care for her, as her father had passed away a few years before. She had two younger sisters, one who lived in another country and one who had a high-flying job at a bank.
Jenny worked full time as a teacher but every lunch time and evening and weekend she was at her Mothers home. This was fine at the start of her Mother needing some assistance, as both her sisters took some leave to help out. But the help soon dried up. She became very angry with her sisters and bitter for the situation she found herself in.
Jenny was single at the time of her Mother's diagnosis, though she was actively dating. Both her sisters were married and planning families of their own. Jenny had no time for dating due to the care routine she had made for herself. Most nights she cried herself to sleep seething at her sisters’ selfishness and blaming them for her single life.
She was not looking after herself. Snatching microwaved food at meal-times with her mother, as she had no energy to cook. She wasn’t exercising even though she loved cycling, she hadn’t been on her bike since this started. When she found a lump in her breast, she was too occupied to get it checked, so she put it off for a few months. When she was finally diagnosed it was stage 3 breast cancer.
Throughout the treatment she was so angry and blamed her sisters for the cancer. Jenny was stressed out a lot of the time and her anxiety was through the roof when she was referred to me. I asked her if she was serious about healing herself and would she do whatever it takes to do it. She couldn’t answer the question because, as she saw it she couldn’t change anything.
I asked her to do an emotional inventory of all the negative emotions she was experiencing for the next session. In the following session she had done the inventory and was surprised at how full of blame and bitterness she was. She decided to make some modest changes.
It was agreed to take one step at a time. First, was to collaborate with her Mother's GP to make some calls to care homes and see if she could organise respite care. This was arranged and for the first time since her Mother’s diagnosis she had a break, which she used to have a stay-cation by the sea - nicely timed on a chemotherapy pause.
Next, I helped her communicate more effectively with her sisters by applying numerous communication techniques, role-plays and building assertiveness. They had a family meeting, it ended with them all deciding to put their mother into a care home, which she was clearly in need of. Importantly, she told her sisters that she forgave them for not helping more. They had a good cry together and Jenny felt unburdened by the bitter feelings she had harbored for so long.
Jenny got through her treatment with a lot of support from her sisters. And their relationships became stronger. She could finally date again. In her final session with me she was five months out of Cancer treatment and six weeks into a new blossoming relationship.
It is crucial to decide on and act out a game plan, if you are experiencing these emotions from these types of negative thoughts. Do not allow the blame to fester, or the bitterness to grow out of control.
Game Plan Actions
If part of the game plan involves forgiving another for the hurt they have caused you, pick up the phone or visit them to tell them you are forgiving them. However, don’t expect them to have been feeling guilty all this time. In fact, they may say they have no idea what you are talking about. Certainly, do not expect an apology for the hurt they caused you. Forgiving someone for yourself is enough. If you can do this without meeting the person that is just as good too.
An easy way to forgive them is to work out a consequence of their hurtful actions that, in a round about way, has improved your life. For Jenny it was the quality time she got to spend with her Mother by herself, especially on her Mother’s more lucid days. Her sisters missed out on this by staying away. Jenny had some particularly special memories to cherish of her Mother because of their actions.
There are always positive angles, if you look for them in these situations.
You can use these positive consequences to re-frame the episode. Jenny came up with a positive statement and re-frame of the situation, “I forgive my sisters because their actions led to me being closer to my Mum while she was still aware of who I was. I am grateful for this.”
Can you identify people you are blaming, or an episode that has made you bitter, no matter how long ago? Can you re-frame that episode by considering the positive consequences of their actions?
If you need some help with this, I can help you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a great therapy for re-framing a negative situation or episode in your life. You will get to learn techniques and methods for re-framing, communication, forgiveness and compassion.
If you want to read more about the connection between our emotional state and inflammation these two articles are well worth reading: