Bitterness is the feeling that individuals experience with a negative life event, challenges, or goal failure.

It is associated with perceiving that there is a level of unfairness or injustice about the experience.

Many nurses will have experienced or observed this emotion in their daily work.

Either from themselves, their patients or other staff.

Crasten Wrosch and Jesse Renaud have examined the relationship between bitterness, failure and quality of life.

They found that bitterness changes over the life span.

Generally, older adults do not experience higher levels of bitterness compared to young and middle aged adults.

But there is a proportion of older adults that face challenges that are difficult to overcome and fail to adapt.

This group of older adults experience high levels of bitterness have a physiological response that affects metabolism, immune response or organ failure.

Failure is the most frequent cause of bitterness.

It is different to regret.

Regret is about self-blame and feelings that if actions had been different then things would be better.

Bitterness is associated with feelings of anger and accusation with blame being placed on external causes.

A psychiatrist has estimated that one to two per cent of the population is embittered.

One solution to those that experience failure is to find other ways to fulfil their goals.

If there is no alternatives, then the individual needs to disengage from futile efforts and reengage in something that is equally meaningful.

For example, if you are embittered that you were not promoted, focus on getting a new job elsewhere.

Meaningful activity to disengage and reengage will result in avoidance of bitter emotions.

Another course of action is forgiveness.

To learn more about bitterness,

Wrosch C., Renaud J. (2011) Self-regulation of bitterness across the lifespan. In: Linden M., Maercker A. (eds) Embitterment. Springer, Vienna