Psychiatrists have defined a new subgroup of what is known as ‘adjustment disorders.’ Somewhat similar to post traumatic stress disorder, post traumatic embitterment disorder is triggered by a negative life event which “is experienced as a violation of basic beliefs and values.”
The predominant emotion in PTED is embitterment. PTED patients also complain about feelings of injustice and rage. A recent German study used a PTED self-rating scale to determine the prevalence of the disorder. The scale is described as a reliable and valid measure for embitterment.
Having spent nearly two hours reading about this new diagnosis and searching for the PTED scale online, I was extremely bitter in my defeat. I WANT TO TAKE THE TEST, GODAMMIT!
I love psychological tests. The one for OCD starts with questions about germs and counting and then casually asks if you ever have thoughts about poisoning your dinner guests. Once you start laughing, it ruins the decorum of the test, but I recommend taking it.
Bitterness seems like something that’s hard to quantify. How bitter is too bitter? How long do you get to feel bitter before it is considered pathological? Maybe such enduring bitterness is the only sane response to some events. Who gets to decide?
I know a woman whose husband had an affair 30 years ago. They are still together, but she talks about his infidelity as though it happened yesterday. That seems pathological.
Then there is artist Hugues de Montalembert who was blinded by muggers who threw paint thinner in his face. An interview I once came across referred to the artist as “still bitter.” Now that sounds pretty accusatory, doesn’t it? Is he supposed to get to a point where he feels, Oh what the hell, shit happens!
If tragedy doesn’t beget embitterment, what kind of culture have we become? When you see funerals outside the US and western Europe, there is wailing and all kinds of openly emotional displays of grief. It always seems more human and sane than the understated mourning that is so prevalent here.
If bitterness is pathologized, one journalist has suggested, then what about extreme racism? That seems far more delusional and crippling, to me, anyway.
Personally, I like being bitter. I like to hold a grudge, and it’s a point of honor with me. People who give up their grudges strike me as shallow. A good grudge should last a lifetime. It can be invigorating, or even comforting. Ma Haine Dure!
Of course it is good and healthy to forgive, if the thing is forgivable. Some things aren’t. If anyone can find me the PTED self-rating scale, I would be glad to post my results (if the scale goes high enough, that is.)