How long can a person be unforgiving

Implacability as a mental illness

Vienna - Bitterness, similar to fear, can lead to a disease-like condition that severely affects those affected and requires treatment. A symposium in Vienna on October 10th, organized by the Sigmund Freud University in cooperation with the Institute for Religiosity in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, will be dedicated to this very young field of psychiatry for the first time. "Analogous to the post-traumatic stress disorder, which has already been well researched, there is also a post-traumatic bitterness disorder," reports Raphael Bonelli, psychotherapist and coordinator of the conference.

Quarreling with one's own fate

In contrast to stress disorder, the pathological bitterness usually develops as a result of less massive events, which, however, affect people in their central areas of life. "This can be a termination after years of work in the same job, separation in a partnership or broken loyalty. Those affected often feel that they have been treated unfairly and only see that the others are better off," said Bonelli. A long-lasting mental illness could develop from the constant quarrel with the fate that has happened. "All misfortunes are traced back to an injustice in the past, which can no longer be changed, which is actively remembered and whose wounds are constantly torn." From an objective point of view, this event need not be unfair, but it is experienced that way.

Passive victim role

According to Bonelli, the long, sometimes even lifelong duration of the bitterness is due to the fact that those affected often remain in the role of passive victim. "An irreconcilability develops that makes understanding the other side impossible." Out of defiance, many do not go to therapy, but rather bog down to their own misfortune. "Although this has the positive side effect that the environment expresses compassion, it only offers bitter and brief satisfaction. In addition, in this case, compassion only strengthens the passive attitude and makes active changes more difficult." The disease also spreads destructively into other areas of life, with symptoms ranging from self-doubt, loss of appetite, depression, phobias and aggression to thoughts of suicide. "Many get lonely and don't even go out on the streets," said the Viennese psychiatrist.

Change perspective

Bitterness can be overcome by letting go. "Those who are bitter want to experience absolute justice here and now. However, one only progresses through the realization that this justice does not exist and that everything experienced is only relative." The Berlin psychiatrist and conference speaker Michael Linden, who was the first to describe the disease in 2003, suggests what is known as "wisdom therapy" for treatment. "It's about enduring the injustice you've experienced instead of despairing of it. One of the things you try to do is change your perspective," said Bonelli. According to the classical method, the conflict is first recorded and then presented in different perspectives, the existence of which was previously often denied by the sick. However, the therapist does not touch the substantive cause of the bitterness, but other, apparently insoluble situations. These make it easier to see that there is a way out of unhappiness.

Forgiveness with generosity

One focus of the symposium is on forgiveness. "So far, this aspect has hardly been treated scientifically in Europe, presumably out of fear that the term automatically implies religion. Forgiveness is primarily a psychological act rather than a religious phenomenon," emphasized the conference organizer. Forgiveness as the "best form of letting go" describes a process that essentially needs two prerequisites. "Firstly, it is necessary to recognize that you also make mistakes yourself. Only then will you be prepared to allow the perpetrator to act wrongly. to be able to say. "

Even if there are still no estimates of how many people have the bitterness disorder, it is still very common in psychotherapeutic practice, according to Bonelli. The disorder is particularly widespread in large cities. "In the anonymous lifestyle of the city, people are far more vulnerable than in a stable social environment," suspects the expert. Also in play is the fact that the disorder occurs particularly where people attach their happiness in life to a single thing and then lose it. "The number of 'Worcaholics' is particularly high in the city. The world often ends as soon as a resignation is issued." (pte)