In every relationship, chances are you will face some sort of conflict. When it’s an unhealthy intimate partner relationship, conflict often becomes abusive and traumatic. Healing from this trauma is such an intensive process, and when you find yourself a victim of abuse again and again, it’s only natural for bitterness to take root. How do you move forward and let go of the resentment and bitterness you feel toward your perpetrator?
Once you are no longer in the relationship and are in a safe place, you can start the work toward overcoming these feelings. You may feel anger, dislike, and even hatred toward the person who hurt you. You may find yourself wanting to seek revenge. When a person feels abused and mistreated, it can awaken an internal anger that is primal. These feelings come out of not being able to express your anger directly to the one who hurt you. Overcoming these feelings can only happen when you can let go of the pain. Even though the answer to moving forward is for you to let it go, that is much easier said than done. You still hold all the internal rage with no place to express it in a safe way. How do I let it go when I am still so angry and hurt?
One thing we’ve learned is that bitterness doesn’t prove anything. The one who holds onto the pain and hatred the longest doesn’t win. As a matter of fact, bitterness will turn you into someone you don’t want to be. You will become cynical, scornful, distrustful, and negative, carrying the bitterness with you like trophy, but there will be no winner. And bitterness can negatively affect your health and can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches; digestive imbalances; insomnia; anxiety’ depression, skin problems, and even stroke. Bitterness can prolong your emotional pain and also cause you to miss out on the potential joy of the present.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. So don’t allow your anger to make you do something in revenge. Hurting them back will not make you feel better in the long run. Instead, seek a healthy physical discharge of your anger. Beat a punching bag, take a kickboxing class, pound a handball against your garage door, break a dish, go for a long walk or run, or just lock yourself in your bathroom and scream at the top of your lungs!
The answer is to find a healthier way to process your feelings so you can reach for a better future. And this starts with forgiveness. Forgiveness is not forgiving and then forgetting. Forgiveness is not about them avoiding consequences and it is not saying what they did was okay. It is not even about them saying they are sorry, for most abusers never acknowledge their abuse. Forgiveness is about you. Maya Angelou summed it up best: “Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.” Forgiveness is allowing yourself to let go of the responsibility to punish someone for what they did to you. It is about releasing yourself from a self-imposed prison of anger. Once you can release the anger and resentment, you can start to rebuild a life you want.
If you are struggling with hurt and bitterness, Crisis Services of North Alabama offers crisis counseling and other services free of charge to victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. You may reach our Jackson County office at 256.574.5826 for an appointment. You may also reach our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000 where you can speak to a trained crisis counselor. Please reach out. You are not alone.