We all go through a grieving process when we feel betrayed. Eventually, we reach the anger stage of our grief, and we feel frustrated, annoyed and furious at the wrongdoing we experienced. In these moments, it’s very easy to become bitter.
What is bitterness? It happens when an experience or person causes you to become disillusioned. You may become cynical about their motives, the people around them or what they represent. And eventually, this rather reasonable distrust become a deep-seeded vitriol in your soul. Any mention of the person, or things they remind you of, give you a physically ill feeling. Our bitterness festers when we dwell in it – gossiping over and over about what happened, seeking validation for our pain with no intent of healing, and choosing not to move on.
Let’s be honest – when we feel bitter, we feel justified. When someone has done wrong by us and we haven’t experienced justice, our pain and our festering bitterness gives us a sense of power over what happened. We can’t change it, but we can prove we are better than them by pointing out the injustice or wrongdoing. We may even help other people avoid the same betrayal by speaking up.
But there is a difference between seeking justice and living in bitterness. Because while justice holds people to account, bitterness can destroy you. Just consider how toxic someone can become when they are so filled with anger and hatred that all they talk (or complain) about is what is wrong. It seeps into our relationships, our work and our health, harming us from the inside out.
Our bitterness is often justified – what people did to you, either intentionally or not, should not have happened. You deserve to be seen, heard and validated for this. But in this process, don’t forget to move from bitterness to healing. Otherwise, the wrong the person did to you will continue to reign over your life. Choosing to heal is about writing a new chapter in your story – one they have no power over.
Here are four steps to move from bitterness to healing:
- Talk about it with a third party
It’s important to talk about our trauma or betrayal so we can process it. However, bitterness occurs when we repeat this step over and over and don’t seek healing. So do talk about what you have experienced – finding other survivors, friends or colleagues who understand is a great way to start this process. But in order to begin healing, consider speaking to someone outside your bubble who you trust. A professional, a mediator, a mentor or a pastor – someone who can validate you, give you clarity, and also encourage you to heal from this pain. The fact they don’t know the person or people who have hurt you, means your conversations won’t necessarily run in circles of negativity.
- Figure out what power you do have
When we experience betrayal, we feel like our power has been stolen from us. Our ability to make choices about our future, provide for our family, or live with a sense of safety may have been compromised. To gain this sense of power back, ask yourself, “What do I have power over?” For instance, you don’t have control about what people say about you, or what they have done to you. But you do have control over your identity, your self worth, your talent, your skills, and your decisions. What you choose to do with this power is up to you – and it’s only always easy to reclaim this, especially when we have been traumatized. However, it’s essential you remember that you do have some power. You are a human, and you can choose what the next best step is for you. If you feel people or structures are bullying you, or keeping you from living a full life, seek guidance about how to tackle this – whether it be through a Union, a case worker, your work place HR representative, the police or the legal system.
- Start the process of forgiveness
We don’t forgive people because they deserve it. The fact that what they did to you is wrong is non-negotiable. We choose to forgive them because we are reclaiming our lives from their garbage. Start the process of forgiveness with the help with a mentor, professional, pastor or friend – a person you trust who will hold space for your pain. Forgiveness takes time, and it won’t erase your pain. However, it will clear a space in your soul for hope and love to bloom again, and you deserve that.
- Stop opening up old wounds
One of the most challenging parts of healing happens when we have done the work but are reminded of the pain by a triggering comment, picture, post or conversation. In these moments, it is tempting to open up our old wounds and take on the stance of a victim rather than a survivor. We do this when we start, or contribute to conversations, that create more discord and pain. Or we get stuck in a spiral, where we use substances, sex or social media to numb ourselves from the resurgence of pain that has popped up. When you feel triggered or are tempted to start a cycle of bitterness again, take this as a sign that you need to express your pain in a safe way. You can talk about it with a trusted person (not someone who feeds the pain), you can exercise, draw, journal….do whatever needs to be done to get it out of your body. By doing this, you’re letting your scars heal, rather than experiencing injury again.
Do you feel bitter and cynical? Have you been betrayed and don’t know how to move forward? Here’s what you need to do: Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how we can best help you or book online