Saturday, August 13, 2011
ScienceDaily (Aug. 11, 2011) — Constant bitterness can make a person ill, according to Concordia University researchers who have examined the relationship between failure, bitterness and quality of life.
"Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person's physical health," says Carsten Wrosch, a professor in the Concordia University Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.
Unlike regret, which is about self-blame and a case of "woulda, coulda, shoulda," acrimony points the finger elsewhere -- laying the blame for failure on external causes. "When harboured for a long time," says Wrosch, "bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease."
The jury is still out on this proposal. Wrosch and Renaud say bitterness can be avoided, if people who experience failure can find other ways to fulfil their goals. If they can't, the researchers stress, it's essential to disengage from the fruitless effort (e.g., to get promoted, to save a marriage) and reengage in something that's equally meaningful (e.g., a new job or passion).
Called self-regulation processes, disengaging and reengaging can be necessary for a person to avoid bitter emotions. "Any effective therapeutic intervention," says Renaud, "hinges on the affected individual finding ways to self-regulate."
In some cases, overcoming bitterness demands more than self-regulation. When bitterness arises from blaming other people, then recovery may involve others. "In order to deal with bitter emotions there may need to be something else required to enable a person to overcome the negative emotion -- that something is forgiveness," says Wrosch.