Bitterness really can make you sick
Misty Harris, Postmedia News
Published: Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Tell one person they make you sick, it's hyperbole. Tell dozens of people over time that they make you sick, and you may have a real medical argument.
Researchers from Concordia University
in Montreal report that constant bitterness can lead to physical illness, affecting everything from organ function to immune response and vulnerability to disease.
Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal report that constant bitterness can lead to physical illness, affecting everything from organ function to immune response and vulnerability to disease.
The findings, which appear in the new book Embitterment: Societal, Psychological and Clinical Perspectives, shed light on the complex ways in which people's attitudes and feelings affect their health.
"Negative emotions typically have the power to influence our biology," says Carsten Wrosch, an associate professor of psychology.
"They can . . . release more cortisol into circulation, which in turn, can communicate with other body systems - the immune system, for example. And if there's immune dysregulation, such as systemic inflammation, that increases the person's likelihood of developing a host of different diseases."
Plainly, in blaming the world for your problems, you invite even more woes upon yourself.
Wrosch and his co-author, Jesse Renaud, identify failure as a major culprit behind bitterness, which sees people pointing fingers at external causes for their shortcomings rather than looking at their own actions.
"It's not only the failure; it's the way people attribute causes to the failure," explains Wrosch.
The good news is that people's ability to judge goal-attainment improves with age. This means that the same failures don't necessarily bear the same health consequences for everyone.
Wrosch reports that over time, people get better at "self-regulating" and deciding which objectives are worth pursing (the ones that are important, and that they have a good opportunity of reaching) and which are better to abandon before bitterness sets in (those with little hope of success).
"It's actually possible that quitting can be associated with better well-being, better biological processes and better physical health," says Wrosch. "But only if you can't reach the goal."
In the words of comedian W.C. Fields: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it."