How To Survive A Harsh World Without Becoming Bitter

Don't let your goodness disappear.

Surviving a harsh world without becoming bitter Jakob Owens | Unsplash

I rarely watch the news. I just don’t. I don’t see much purpose in getting terrorized by the media over what human nature manifests around the globe. Besides, each of us lives in a constant state of conflict, fighting invisible wars on the battlefield of our psyche. Our minds and hearts are in constant incongruity.

We know what we should eat and drink, who we should date, where we should work, and how to live well. Yet, we sabotage ourselves, constantly slamming into the barricade of our old beliefs.


How can we, flawed-at-our-core humans, expect happiness and world peace?

How can people and nations get along when most of us, myself included, can’t even win our personal, inner brawls?

A few years ago, as I was folding the laundry, my 7-year-old asked, "Mom, is hell a city or a state?"

I paused, sock in hand, thinking, "Is he for real?"

"What do you think, baby?" I asked back, because I, myself, didn’t have a clue.

He pointed his little finger to his head and said cryptically: "Humans… destruction; being… brightness."

My initial response was: What in the world does he mean?

But reflecting more later, it made sense: Humans have both light and shadow sides.


RELATED: If You're Disappointed By Life, Take These 3 Immediate Actions

I believe that human beings are byproducts of their environment, a reflection of the world of polarities: hot and cold, positive and negative, good and bad, light and dark. It’s like, "That’s what life is; now deal with it."

Only "dealing with it" can feel challenging at times. I do my best and fail, miserably — and often.


For example, when my daughter, Jessica, calls me from college to share the latest devastating news she’s seen on TV, I say, "I know this is horrible, and yet, it’s not wrong. In a world of constant war between light and dark, this is how our inner conflict manifests on the level of mass consciousness."

"It’s normal," I continue, "to feel pain and sadness over what you’re observing, but it's not healthy or productive for you to get stuck in a negative mentality. Even if you’re right about how bad the situation is, what good will your righteous upset do?

It just triggers the release of damaging chemicals in your brain that cause negative feelings within you, creating a harmful environment in your body, resulting in high blood pressure, increased acid production, and a lowering of immune efficiency."

"You don’t need to be a scientist," I point out, "to realize that when you stay chronically upset, angry, and depressed, it affects the quality of your life. It blocks your mind from experiencing productive solutions and happiness, keeping it jammed on ‘the problem.’"


Flowers help her survive a harsh world Sirtravelalot via Shutterstock

RELATED: How To 'Think Positive' Without Pretending The Bad Doesn't Exist

My daughter agrees, realizing that being chronically upset over anything happening around her pollutes her life experience. So perhaps it’s not worth it. Perhaps, if she wants to help the world, she must understand and accept it first. She then needs to decide what she wants, what’s important to her, and what kind of life she is choosing to live.


She tells me she wants to see peace, friendship, compassion, understanding, acceptance, and respect in the world. So, I share my morals with her (easier said than done, because I’m constantly working on myself, trying to set an example).

"If you want a more peaceful world," I tell her. "You become it, you BE it. You choose love over hatred because you can’t feel both at the same time.

And when you become what you want in your world, your presence echoes through the universe, rippling out through cosmic waves, charging the atmosphere with light and love. People in your life, and around the world, are affected by who you are, receiving you intuitively, subconsciously..."


Jessica interrupts. "But what about punishment and forgiveness? We can’t just let evil run free and ruin people’s lives."

"Of course not!" I exclaim. "We do what we have to do. We use our resources to prevent terrorist attacks, we capture and imprison criminals. But then, we let the anger and resentment go, knowing that destruction is the shadow side of humanity."

And then, suddenly, right after a conversation about the most recent eruption of darkness in our country — yet another mass shooting — I recall what my beloved grandmother told me when I was my daughter’s age.

My dear Babushka, a Holocaust survivor, lost her entire family to a ghetto concentration camp, including her two little boys. She managed to escape this camp of evil, joining the forest army of resistance and fighting the Nazi invaders. Every year, on the anniversary of her family’s death, she’d light a candle, her hands shaking as she gazed tenderly at their precious faces on a faded photograph, and share her wisdom with me.


RELATED: 9 Life Lessons I Learned from The Cat I Loved (Who Left Me)

"When we are feeling hatred toward other people, no matter what they’ve done to us, we become like them, God forbid," she’d say. As she spoke, her blue eyes were mirrors of sadness mixed with compassion for human weaknesses, imperfections, and darkness.

"But Grandma, how can you forgive the unforgivable? How did you learn to trust again?" I’d query.


"By kissing," she’d say softly, gazing at me lovingly and tucking a strand of stubborn hair behind my ear. "By cooking sweet honey cake, my Bubele. By planting a cherry tree, dancing in the rain; singing, sewing a new dress, going on a date."

She’d wink at me, as I was just starting to see my future husband Felix. "By making babies" (this made me blush), "by going to school, by making your grandpa’s supper, by washing windows, by raising chickens and piglets, by living and dreaming. This is how we trust. Because you see, my sweet Katya, trust is something that you do."

"Trust is something that you do," I’d whisper to myself, thinking it over.

Movement in nature helps her survive a harsh world Zhukovvvlad via Shutterstock


And I’ll tell you even more, my Tochter Tiere," she’d address me tenderly in Yiddish. "By praying to God and trusting in His salvation and mercy, because He didn’t create evil like wars and the Holocaust — people did. And these people punish themselves. In order for them not to do it again, we have to live fearlessly and fully, we have to know that life is good. And we have to get busy tasting all its goodness.

RELATED: 16 Tiny Ways To Trick Your Mind Into Feeling ‘Normal’

This is how we overcome the evil. We punish the monsters by thriving and glowing in aliveness."

As I sit here recalling this, one smooth tear slides down my cheek.


Timelines and dimensions away, I’m feeling the fullness of my grandma’s emotion, her craving for life, her zest for a happy, joyful existence. And also, as a therapist, I’m realizing that by choosing to stay connected to the simple joys of living, we are teaching ourselves the behavior of trust, a habit of happiness.

And the more we practice it, the more it becomes a habitual way of being; we become trusting of life, which is essentially natural and normal to each of us.

Like my grandma said: By tasting all the goodness of life, we negate the evil. By regaining our balance of happy living, we inspire others to do the same, ensuring a peaceful world for generations to come.


So, at the first opportunity, I share this powerful message of love with my daughter and my four sons, because they are that generation that will be taking over. As a parent, I feel it’s up to me to assist them in any way I can to resolve their inner conflicts and instill their hearts and minds with love, understanding, compassion, and trust in the goodness of humanity.

RELATED: 11 Tiny Things That Really Help Depression

Katherine Agranovich, Ph.D., is a Medical Hypnotherapist and Holistic Consultant. She is the author of Tales of My Large, Loud, Spiritual Family.