"Bitterness: The Silent Disease"
"Anger is a short madness."
Horace 65 BC
Anger is a short madness, but bitterness is anger that has been boiled, simmered, and then found so unpalatable that it has been thrown into the deep freeze of our unconscious psyches. Recently the Los Angeles Times printed an article called: “Bitterness as mental illness?” It stated that:
How many of us have a touch of this disease? How many people do we know that have it? And to what degree? Anger is what we feel first in the face of injustice, and repeated anger becomes deep-seated resentment, or bitterness.
We may think that we have done our ‘anger management’ by cooling and repressing our anger, but in most cases, it’s still alive and not well. It needs to be thawed, re-heated, and disposed of properly. Refrigeration doesn’t work well, as cooled anger turns to resentment and bitterness.
Repressed anger has an annoying and insidious tendency to “leak out” at inappropriate times. It turns a sunny day, gray. And the worse part is that we may think we’ve hidden our anger so well! Yet it shows on our faces, in our expressions, in our tone of voice. It gives us indigestion, insomnia, back pain, and unexplained headaches. It undermines good relationships, disturbs our dreams, and fills us with a vague discontent. We want so much to forgive and forget, but proper disposal of toxic pain isn’t easy. Most of us need help with it.
So if bitterness is a crusty disease that grows on unprocessed anger, we need to deal with the roots of it. We need to defrost it. It is particularly dangerous for us as we age, because many therapists, including myself, believe that it plays a part in heart disease as well. The heart is both a physical and emotional organ that reflects how we treat it. Most of us are trying to exercise away the excesses that have deposited themselves as fat—but what are we doing with all that un-dealt with pain in our hearts? With the years of frozen anger?
First of all, it needs to be acknowledged. Yes, it’s there. Maybe you call it disillusionment with your career, or maybe you say it’s your sister’s fault for cheating you out of part of your inheritance, or maybe it’s that your lover never quite came through for you. You may have a right to be angry…yet you may have been the ‘enabler’ or the one who unconsciously allowed yourself to sacrifice a large part of your life for another. It doesn’t matter if you blame someone else or blame yourself. What matters most, is the story we tell ourselves about it.
This story needs to be re-told and re-framed. If you delve deeper into the place where you hold this bitterness and pain, you can gain a wider perspective and a deeper understanding of the whole picture. You may benefit from having someone who can deeply listen to your story, and whose opinions you trust. Allow them to help you understand it from a variety of different perspectives. Allow them to help you put your personal story into a larger perspective, and possibly into a story that makes at least some sense.
As a psychotherapist and astrological counselor, I often look at what I call the family karmic inheritance. This is the legacy of inherited sins and blessings that get handed down the generations, and I believe it’s responsible for more psychic distress than we realize.
You may notice that you have our mother’s eyes, but have you noticed that you have some of her passive aggressive traits as well? Do you know what she was holding her anger about? Can you discover how far back it goes? Could you be overly sensitive to authoritarian figures like your father? Do you ever experience a conflict between the demands of duty, creativity and family that he once did? How bad did it get?
Once you know the nature of the family inheritance you can look at it how it’s showing up in your life. Old and difficult inheritances can be particularly insidious. When you become conscious of the “sins of the fathers” that have been sown down through the generations, you not only begin a healing process for yourself, but you stop the inheritance from infecting your children.
Generations of maternal and paternal legacies influence us in subtle and not so subtle ways. In some families (such as the presidential Kennedy’s) there has been mention of a family ‘curse’. Although that is an exaggeration for most of us, almost everyone inherits a mixture of psycho-spiritual legacies that need to be sorted through. We need to pull out all the stories we can from the family deep freezer.
The psychologist, Carl Jung, once wrote that all adult neuroses could only be healed by a spiritual perspective. Perhaps you can find a way to infuse the story with a deeper understanding of yourself and others. The last step will be to tell the ‘deep freezer of your subconscious’ the new story of how and why it all happened, and how you see it now.
You can be fueled into action by anger, but you can’t be fueled by bitterness, and it actually makes you tired. Bitterness eats you up, whereas anger can fuel you to do the emotional detective work that heals. It can help you find your voice and your courage.
If you are feeling depressed, stuck, or simply “tired”, now is the time to do the work of psychic de-freezing. This is the time to act, not to “depress” and to make a positive and perhaps radical change.
As an astrologer and counselor, I find that there is a grace and energy that shows up when we do things at the right time. If you have no family members who are alive, or who won’t tell you true stories; you can find powerful hints about the influence of your parents, siblings, and this inheritance in your astrological chart.
It’s truly wonderful when you allow yourself to express your feelings at the right time, with the right person. Then you allow an opening for grace and serendipity. Call it what you will: God or chance or synchronicity, but whenever you decide to melt the frozen chunks of bitter memories with the healing warmth of tears and heartfelt stories, you invite in powers and graces beyond your rational mind. I believe we can ‘summon the Gods’ with our open hearts…. the Soul is ruthless in finding its way home. (c)
Elizabeth Spring, MA, has two books: “North Node Astrology; Rediscovering Your Life Direction and Soul Purpose” and “Saturn Returns~ The Private Papers of A Reluctant Astrologer.” Both are available on amazon.com. She can be contacted at email@example.com or through her website: www.elizabethspring.com