Concordia University researchers, who have examined the relationship between failure, bitterness and quality of life, have revealed that constant bitterness can make a person ill.
“Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person’s physical health,” said Carsten Wrosch, a professor in the Concordia University Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.
Over the last 15 years, Wrosch has investigated how negative emotions, such as regret or sadness, affect people. Most recently, he has focused his attention on the impact of bitterness. With his co-author, Concordia alumna Jesse Renaud, they singled out failure as one of the most frequent causes of bitterness. Anger and recrimination are its typical attendants.
"When harboured for a long time bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease,” explained Wrosch.
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).
He’s incorporated his theoretical considerations regarding bitterness in "Self-Regulation of Bitterness Across the Lifespan," in the recently published book, Embitterment: Societal, psychological, and clinical perspectives (Springer 2011).