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3 Harmful Habits That Cause Bitterness

3 habits that block positive outlook

Do you unintentionally block your positive outlook by reacting to life with 3 harmful habits that create feelings of bitterness in you? To your surprise, the answer may be yes, as these habits can be difficult to spot in yourself.

•Speed Peek (3 Habits Bitterness – Where to Start)
•Understand More (Harm, Disguises, Spot/Correct)
•Anti-Challenge Reframing© (Exercise in Compassion)
•Story About Featured Photograph (“The Twist” )


What are these 3 Harmful Habits?

  1. Holding Resentments; whether small and irritating, or life changing
  2. Negative Focus; excessive focus on what’s “wrong” around you (lots of complaints; little to no real solutions to offer)
  3. Judging Others; putting too much thought and energy into criticizing people and the way they lead their lives

The damaging actions in these habits of behavior are
JUDGEMENT of others and holding RESENTMENT.
The bitterness that develops from these behaviors eats away at the the positives in your life and blocks new positives from your sight.


Essentially, bitterness can be any combination of disappointment, anger, disgust, sadness and surprise: All found in the perception of injustice. Bitterness can become so en-grooved in the person afflicted with it, that they react to most everything in the world with feelings of contempt, and dole out hurtful hostility. Whether they lash out physically, verbally, or discretely; aggressive or passive; they feel life is doing them wrong. Their goal is to release some of the pain they feel inside, which is aimed back at the world.

Continue reading this article to find:

  • How you are harmed when you engage in judgmental and resentful behaviors
  • The reasoning these behaviors hide behind
  • What situations prompt these behaviors to pop up
  • Clues to identifying these behaviors in yourself
  • What you can do to change the outcome

But first, take a look at the actions and frame of mind you want to begin with, as you start discovering connections between the 3 harmful habits and the repercussions you experience from them.

Speed Look: How To Get
The Ball Of Change Rolling

  1. Listen to the wake-up call!
    If any of this resonates, there are changes you can make that will benefit you. But in order to change, you must first be purposefully aware of what, if anything, needs changing.
  2. Take a look at some of your actual behaviors and thoughts.
    Do you judge others and harbor hard feelings without realizing it? Have you looked behind the “reasoning” disguises that your actions hide behind?
  3. Be honest with yourself.
    When looking at the signs of judging and resentment: Even if you don’t act on your thoughts, do they stay in your mind and bother you? Would your describe it as you feel things are ‘unjust’?
  4. Spot the moments.
    When you make the wrong turns, notice! This is where change can be applied.
  5. Start practicing!
    Embrace the new way of looking at things you are learning as an experiment, or a new toy. Be curious how it might change your life for the better.
  6. Cut yourself some slack!
    The only things that will not produce results, in the time-frame and way that is right for you individually, are:
    – Obsessing or stressing over lack of immediate results
    Neglecting to pick the ball back up if you drop it
    – Not starting over if either of the above occurs
    You have the ability to choose your interpretation and your response to everything, at ANY given time, until you draw your last breath.

As you read on, keep in mind
what I have found to be true:

Once you start removing the behavior habits that judgment and resentment create, you will begin sensing a lightness of heart, as the tell-tale bitterness that has been hiding out starts to leave.
The results: Negatives you perceived in your life begin to fall by the wayside, and positives begin to appear out of the woodwork in your daily life.
It is never too late to change what you experience, from this moment on.

Bitterness causes Pain


HARMFUL? You bet!
Here is some of the damage instigated by being judgmental and holding resentments

  • General dissatisfaction
    Being preoccupied with what we think is ‘wrong’, we see only the ‘ick’. How sad to be blinded to the joys that are right in front of our faces.  This is your LIFE we are talking about you missing!
  • Stress and all of physical ailments it brings
    (High blood pressure, digestive problems, poor sleep, muscle tension, weakened immune system, etc.)
  • Alienation from family, lack of meaningful friendship
    If you exhibit judgement, resentment and bitterness towards others, small wonder you’re not exactly someone people want to be around. (Even negative, pessimistic people, who feed off each other’s doom and gloom outlook do not enjoy each other’s company for long.)
  • Self-defeating, negative perception is promoted and intensifies in you. Resentment itself is not an emotion, but has much to do with negative emotions not experienced thoroughly.  An article I enjoyed from The GoodTherapy Blog can be found here  

Stockpiling Bitterness

How is it possible you can overlook your own harmful habits of being judgmental and holding resentments?
They disguise themselves as nothing to concern yourself with, that’s how. As you read, ask yourself:
– How do I respond to the three triggers below?
– Do I use any of the four reasons/excuses listed here?  

Disguise 1. The Sense of
“blending-in/everyone does it”

This hiding spot is made of reasoning-camouflage.
The way this camouflage works:

First, you realize the majority of society reacts with judgment or resentment in certain trigger circumstances.

1. Unjust events (big and small; whether they affect you directly or not)
2. Expectations not met in situations or actions of others
3. Lack of contentment felt inside; a restlessness, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Many times people start becoming aware of these symptoms after realizing no peace of mind is found, even in fleeting victories won through manipulating others (trying to force control over others).

You then attached a reason to support/rationalize your actions.
This reason you attach, is the camouflage that hides harmful behaviors. The problem with these supporting reasons is they are not in your best interest.
Do you recognize using any of the following camouflaged reasons/excuses?

(and why they are irrelevant or ineffective)

  1. ‘Normal’ behavior
    (Even if the majority engages in something harmful to you, it does not change the fact that it will harm you!)
  2. ‘The way things are done’
    (If you choose to cut a large field of grass with a small pair of scissors, it does not mean scissors are better to use than a mower.)
  3. ‘Humans make mistakes’
    (Hear me out. Wrongly used, this phrase and others like it, suggests unintentional error, when in fact, the behavior is habitual.   True, when used correctly, this phrase can actually be very useful in helping you bypassing the no-win habit of beating yourself up over mistakes; when you are actively making efforts towards bettering your life.  That said, this phrase makes a lousy excuse for not trying to change something that is harming you.)
  4. ‘Justifiable’
    (This wild-card excuse comes in many forms and hides well.  ‘Justification’ hiding places can be found in any level of severity; ranging from the high end of direct emotional/mental/physical harm [including illegal actions; crimes against you], all the way down to you insisting on ‘stating facts’ [when doing so will not be of any immediate benefit to the person you are criticizing.]
    Ask yourself again, why exactly are you even bothering with thinking about judging, resentments, and the resulting bitterness in the first place?
    Because you are aware they harm you; they bring you misery, and you have decided the cost is too high.)

Justifiable Resentment

Know that the following statements are fact, not theory, about justifiable resentment.
Bottom-line is, you have two choices:
1. Continue your behavior, because it’s ‘justified’ and pay the price.
2. You can practice a method like acceptance, which lessens or removes the harm you will suffer.
It’s up to you to choose which way it will go.

Remind yourself often that the glaring harm both judgment and resentment create is bitterness.
Once it has a toe-hold, bitterness creeps into every area of your life, causing damage to anything it touches.

Disguise 2.
Excused as Instinctual Emotion

The second hiding location for judgment and resentments can be found in the excuse:
Emotions Come Instinctively

What actually happens: Negative emotion occurs automatically, when triggered by troublesome events.
You are far from helpless, here is the action you can take: When you notice negative emotions occurring, you can disarm them; cause them to lose momentum. If they are not disarmed, one of two wrong turns usually will be taken.

Wrong Turn A:  Most people follow the feelings that emotion stirs up, jumping right in and holding on tight to the fast moving, instinct driven emotion.  Once tangled in the chaos of this instinctual fight or flight mode, situations rapidly become over amplified, causing damage. (Fight or flight is great if you are in mortal danger, but this fast-moving, hard hitting instinct, is not meant for other situations and quickly blows everything out of proportion; distorting realities, and creating a huge mess.)

Wrong Turn B: In the opposite direction of latching on, some try to ignore or deny emotion. Trying to ignore negative emotions is just as dangerous as getting tangled in them.  They do not go away unless you experience them. Instead of leaving, they buildup, gain strength and start influencing all areas of your life. Not exactly an effective option, or a happy ending.

Do You See Signs In Your Behavior?  

Behavior habits of thought and response, which are common but less noticed, may reveal judgement or resentment you are unaware of:

  • Thinking or vocalizing negative commentary about things around you?  (Some negative commentary is so small that you may not recall it. Habitual criticizing is often dismissed from our mind, right after the thought is shared.)
    The point is:  Do you find these thoughts are the first things coming to you? Look at these examples; they may help you identify critical-grumbling you mutter out of habit: “It’s about time they provided more seating in here”, “Why would anyone wear boots in this weather?”, “I can’t believe that person took two parking spots!?”, “There are too many thorns on roses, you would think someone would have come up with a solution”.  If there is a pattern of this self or shared talk, you want to be aware of it. Honestly, as minimal as this may seem, at least “be aware”. These habits are sneaky, and they spread like wildfire. Just as laughter and a good mood are contagious, so are complaining and criticizing.)
  • Immediately labeling people according to their actions; and keeping them in that box, without interest in further exploring.  I don’t mean quick assessment to keep you from harm, I mean making snap judgement about a person’s true self, based on a small snippet of action or appearance you are privy to.  This includes automatically lumping people into categories and shunning them, based only on dissimilarity from you.
  • Replay of upsetting events comes frequent; whether disrupting your thoughts, or popping up when not occupied.
  • Reliving the physical feelings of past event negative emotion.
  • Expecting others to be consistent; taking it personally when they are not. (The sense that the actions of others are intentionally trying to inflict harm on, or inconvenience you.)

Respond and Disarm
Negative Emotions: Practicing Acceptance

The solution is in the way you greet these emotions that barge in. Using the practice of acceptance, you take a neutral stance, let the emotions come, and then let them leave.  With no energy from you jumping in the fight, and no energy from you trying to stuff them under the rug, there’s nothing for the negative emotion to feed on. When you only observe them, and observe how your body is responding to the discomfort they cause when passing through, emotions lose their powerful grip on you.  (Even if negative emotions are stubborn in leaving, trying to linger in the shadows for a while, it’s difficult for them to grab you by the collar and yank you into the chaos, if you do not feed them.) For How To practice acceptance, and the tool of mindfulness used with it, visit these 4 Life with Holley links:
Acceptance – What It Is and Why You Want To Practice It
How To Observe Emotions when Practicing Acceptance
Learning to Name Uncomfortable Feelings
5 Mindfulness Details You Don’t Want To Miss-Acceptance Part 4

Need A Shortcut to Acceptance?

You know you need to practice acceptance and dissolve feelings of judgement and resentment, avoiding bitterness, but your negative emotions are really holding tight. How can you nudge yourself to a willing frame of mind?
FEELING GRATITUDE is the answer. (If there were a cure-all for a positive outlook, this would be it, from what I’ve experienced.)
Shifting your attention to gratitude is a way to redirect your entire perception; the emotion that accompanies gratitude primes your frame of mind to apply the remedy of acceptance.
You can find more detail about how to feel gratitude in the “Understand More” section of this Life With Holley article:

Judging others: A truth to consider about judging others is why do you have this habit? This may be hard to swallow, but focusing on what’s wrong in everyone else, is a sure sign of no time spent knowing yourself.

Resentments:  Continue reading Anti-Challenge Reframing for one of the specific techniques that I used to reach a compassionate frame of mind, and finally cut-loose one of the most bitter resentments I’ve ever experienced.



Finding A Way to Compassion

– Explore ways to develop your sense of compassion
– Read through Anti-Challenge
– Try this compassion technique yourself

A Little More About Resentment:
Discovering and dissolving resentments, is not necessarily a complicated process, but often something people find difficult to do, thoroughly enough, to create change. In my 15+ years of helping others get over this hurdle, the top two requirements that sound easy, but tend to be a challenge, have been:
It requires an honest look at your own actions and motives.
It requires a willingness to try.
A little later this year, I’ll cover more helpful details about working through resentments in this blog.

For now, take a look at one of the most important skills used in breaking the habits of being judgmental and holding resentments:  Developing COMPASSION

Recounting and Exercise
In Developing Compassion

I could not shake the feeling that some sort of punishment was due for a person I knew had encouraged activities which led directly to the death of a person I loved.
I tried ignoring this person’s existence, but every time I thought about the person I loved, and began missing them, up popped my resentment, along with the overwhelming desire to serve retribution on this ‘accomplice’ in my loved ones passing.
Even going through the thoughts and actions of practicing acceptance, logically understanding the realities, and
placing blame nowhere (in that moment), did not get rid of the contempt that still came; every time I thought of my loved one.


One day, out of the blue, I learned that this person I despised suffered the loss of a grown child, who I also happened to know. For a brief moment my heart opened enough to focus on the fact that my ‘enemy’ was a human being, just like me, and I felt a flicker of compassion that they were suffering in their loss. Along with this tiny taste of compassion, came a taste of relief. Deciding I was finally tired of feeling bitterness eat away at me, tainting my happiness for far too many days, I pulled out an old piece of literature about compassion which had moved me when first read.
I use it as a template to write out the exercise below, which has actually worked several times in helping me to let go of deep, “justifiable” resentment.

What if there is no way you can imagine compassion?

Should you find yourself balking at the idea of compassion; you just can’t see yourself feeling anything but negative emotions for the object of your resentment, I honestly know that feeling. But please, keep in mind what I found, and am trying to pass along: Moving the harm you feel was done to you, just to the side, for a few moments in your mind, can give you enough opening to reach some level of compassion.

The only objective is to see another human being; it does not mean you condone the action of the offense. What you are doing is taking away its power to continue hurting you. Even vengeance will not remove this is hurt you are allowing. The whole point of not holding resentments is summed up well in a quote by Lee Strobel: “Acrid bitterness inevitably seeps into the lives of people who harbor grudges and suppress anger, bitterness is always a poison. It keeps your pain alive instead of letting you deal with it and get beyond it. Bitterness sentences you to relive the hurt over and over.”

Using Compassion to Pluck and Replace Resentment:

Remember:  All you need for this exercise to work is a spark of compassion.  [Avoid the mistake of saying “I just can’t get there mentally” if you are trying to picture yourself being their number one fan… you only need a flicker of compassion.]
Also Remember:  Ask yourself, “Is there any way I can honestly know all this person is going through?”  The answer is:  There is no way you could.

How I Picture Compassion Into Existence:

  • If there is a source of sorrow I know about in the life of the person I resent, I play the scenario through several times, trying to imagine how it would feel if it were me.
  • Or, I literally close my eyes, and think back to my own childhood; finding a moment I felt vulnerable and scared.  Forming a mental picture of the situation, I replace myself with who I resent, at the same age, and play this scenario through several times if necessary.
    The point is to get to a place where I realize:  If that child were me, and experienced the same, I would feel sorry for the child. If I can’t feel compassion for that image after 5-10 minutes, I stop and try again later.
  • If this image does not work, I again imagine what the person I hold bitterness for looked like at 4 years old.  Closing my eyes, I imagine them running to me crying, and asking for help.
  • Should mental images hold you up, I have also used characters I feel sympathy or compassion for in books, movies, television shows, etc., and inserted the person I needed to let go of resentment about. 

Really Consider:
What’s Stopping you… Besides You?

With a spark of compassion or sorrow found for them, ask yourself the following questions; one row at a time, answering the last column honestly.

  1. Is there anything physically restricting me from changing the way I feel, from the negative, bitterness listed to the positive listed?  Or, is the choice mine alone to make, and I have been choosing not to? 
  2. What price do I pay for holding on to this?
RESENTMENTREPLACE Physically Impossible OR Choice?
Where HatredShow Love
Where InjuryShow Pardon
Where DoubtShow Faith
Where DespairBring Hope
Dark MoodBring Lt Mood
Where SadnessBring Joy
Seek ConsolationConsole
Ask UnderstandingUnderstand
Seek LoveGive Love
Seek to ReceiveBe Giving
Expect MercyShow Mercy

Life with Holley
“Anti-challenge Reframing © 2018” was created from an idea, and partial
terminology, derived from a comment made on my June 25, 2018 Instagram
spoof-post: “International Anti-Selfie Day”.  Thank you to Vaughan
(@vaughan.knight  Instagram) for your insightful, witty words: “You could offer
a ‘reframing’ service; new opportunities from old!  Start a new
anti-challenge whenever life doesn’t live up to expectation. Therein lies
something not to be found in the successful events.


3 habits that block positive outlook

This is the type of shot, where the background story makes me smile, ear to ear, the minute I start telling it.

Situations where a swarm of ants are on my feet, or law enforcement is again approaching with suspicion about my actions, don’t catch me off-guard anymore.  I don’t anticipated excitement on a shoot, per se, but when these odd, yet frequent, events do occur, I already know the routine. 

But the story behind this shot, it’s one of the rare ones!
Two days ago, on a warm spring afternoon, I was shooting these vines when it happened: Nothing.
Seriously, nothing got in my way; nothing demanded my attention.  It was just me, the vines, and the roses; in my own backyard, and in no rush.
I did not step backwards into the pool, or fall off the picnic table I had climbed on for a shot down at the roses; everything went smooth.  A little change of pace from the norm. One thing I did however find interesting at the time, was that the lack of mishaps did not catch me off guard either!

Thinking on this now, I feel quite a bit of gratitude, as I’m also remembering:

There was a time when I did not see just how much happiness can be found in both the challenges of life, and the mundane.  Maybe that’s a little of what all this positivity stuff is about; feeling good in my own skin, regardless of what’s going on around me. Yep, I think that’s my take-away from this shot.
So glad I took the time to really pay attention to the lovely experience! By the way, this thing I do, paying attention and taking it all in; it’s an in-side secret.

Let me share it with you:  When you realize you’re experiencing an “up”, a good feeling or emotion, soak it up! Soak up every drop, right into your pores. Fully experience the moment; listen for the sounds, feel the temperature on your skin, hone in on a fragrance you catch!
Remember every detail about nature, or the wonderful person you’re with, because when you really take in every pleasurable sensation, the happy lasts longer. I’m telling you first hand, it’s a real benefit to have this long-lasting backup around when times aren’t so fun. It helps with the heavy-lifting of moving the negatives out of the way, and makes room for hope and the feeling of looking forward to the next ‘happy soak’.

Image: “The Twist” 
f/5.6 – 1/00– ISO 200
focal length 300mm
Canon 80d
April 07, 2019 

Your thoughts? I would love to hear them!

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