On Bitterness and Boundaries

I started realizing how the condition of our hearts affects the way we see. If your heart is full of bitterness, anger, and resentment, you’re going to look at this world as a very evil place.

-Danny Gokey

This is a tough one for me. I can get really bitter. Ultimately, I had to find a healthier way to process all of that crap in my mind before it ate me alive. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be positive. Positivity is great, but not if it is being used a cloak to hide our pain and prevent our healing. Today’s post is going to get into the patterns and choices that hurt like hell.

Let’s go through a theoretical scenario:
Abby** (randomly chosen name), an acquaintance of yours, meets you while you are both shopping. You ask Abby how she is. What you are unaware of is that she has some unaddressed problem with you. Very early on, she starts to seem annoyed. What you are unware of, is that Abby is still hung up on that issue and as a result:
1) she doesn’t want to be happy for you if your life is going well because she’s annoyed with you.
2) she doesn’t want to comfort you if you are having difficulties because she doesn’t think you deserve it.
As the conversation continues, you ask Abby if something is wrong because she has been a bit quiet and seeming a bit disengaged. She says: “I’m alright” and wonders how quickly she can exit this conversation now. You ask her about her family and all she can think of is “Why the hell do you care?” She answers: “They’re fine” in a flat voice, looking around. After a few unsuccessful attempts to prompt conversation, you say goodbye and part ways. Abby gets home and wonders why you only talked about yourself. She thinks you are selfish, rude, and self-entitled. She starts to wonder why you even asked about her life. She starts texting another friend to vent about how much she dislikes you, complete with eye-roll emojis and disgust faces.

Ouch.

Now let’s analyze this interaction:
Abby began the interaction with unaddressed issues. Abby is within her right to withhold them; you are not entitled to knowing them. Unfortunately, these issues were the lens through which she saw the entire conversation. She was focused on how much she disliked you instead of focusing on the conversation. She answered your questions in a disinterested way. When she got home, she was still using that lens to tell herself you didn’t actually care about her. Sure, Abby recognized that you tried to engage her in a conversation, but she chalked it up to ulterior motives. She chose to vent to her friend in a way that might make you cry if you found out what was being said.

A great thing to remember is this: If you have issues with someone else but they are unaware, you have issues with yourself. Whatever Abby’s issue with you is, she actively chose not to address it with you. Guess what? This really sucks but it’s none of your bloody business. Abby might be right, wrong, or somewhere in the middle. She has issues to work out that, at heart, have nothing to do with you.
The bottom line is, you get to decide how to deal with your own thoughts and emotions, not hers.

Let’s review some important points:
-You are not in control of Abby’s thoughts, actions, or feelings; only your own.
-Choose
not to take her behavior personally, even if it is personal.
Recognize that it is normal to have some negative interactions with others at times.
Validate your feelings if you found the interaction upsetting instead of trying to rationalize, justify, or overthink.
-Focus on how you are going to help yourself feel better instead of lashing out.
-Someone may start lashing out to prove to that their worldview is true.
-If you choose to respond politely or not at all, it challenges their worldview.
-It is possible that the negativity will continue or escalate because they are in the process of testing their worldview.
Set your intentions for every interaction, good or bad.

With that said:
-It IS NOT your responsibility to correct their worldview.
-It IS your responsibility to protect yourself by setting appropriate boundaries with yourself and that person.

We get bitter for so many reasons. Other people hurt us, we may have caused hurt in the past (intentionally or not), they talk shit about us, we reciprocate in kind… and the cycle continues. It is vital to your mental health to build your resilience with coping mechanisms so that you can stop yourself from lashing out when you feel bitter.

I really hate to admit it, but I can be bitter. I get mad, frustrated, upset, and confused about the things that happen. There are things that piss me off on a regular basis that stem entirely from my insecurities. Memories come back that make me want to yell, scream, or run away. Like all of us do, I have scars. My scars are no one else’s business. There are times when I want to lash out and tell the world all of my problems so I can feel like people know or understand me. Acting out, running away, sharing information when it is not appropriate – these are the things I want to do to stop feeling ignored or offended. The things I so desperately want to do when my feelings are hurt cross my internal boundaries, which are in place to protect me and protect others FROM me.
I try to keep my internal boundaries in place and to only share information with people I trust. I try to process these things in the best way that I can and sometimes I screw up by crossing my own boundaries. It happens, but I know that it screwing up is normal. I just keep trying and reinforcing them to the best of my ability.

We may not be able to choose when we feel bitter, but…
we can choose our response to it.
You don’t have to be perfect at it; it is an art that requires practice and diligence.

Remember, it is not your responsibility to alter someone’s worldview or convince them you care or that you are worthy. You do not have to share your pain with others just to prove to them that you are worthy of respect. The desire to cross your own boundaries is a warning sign that you have to do some self-reflection. It is your responsibility to manage your own emotional reactions and to cope with them in a way that sets you up for success. It is normal to feel bitter and to have to process it for awhile. If you can address your issues with yourself in a healthy and kind way, you will likely get better at doing that with other people.

What do I gain by doing this? It seems like I am just letting people off the hook or something.

You will start to see yourself in a healthier way. You will tell yourself different stories about interactions. Instead of assuming everyone else sucks, you will allow yourself to believe people care. You start to identify good motivations as well as the bad ones. Negative interactions will no longer define how you see the world and everyone else that lives on it. You will start to take pro-active approaches to communication, and have an easier time managing your reactions. This will start attracting people who have set their boundaries. You connect with the people who are protectors, who actively try to protect themselves from harm and from causing harm. Instead of engaging in negative relationships, you engage in positive ones that build you up. Life suddenly isn’t about getting back at people, it is about exploring the best ways to navigate every curl and wave successfully.
The best part is, you make good friends, and you also become a good friend to yourself.

With Love,
K.R. Cannady

P.S.: I chose the name Abby at random. I apologize to any Abby’s who may have been offended. Any affiliation or circumstance similar to above is completely coincidental.

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