For the tens of hundreds of us who saw and loved The Rocker, news about the destructive power of bitterness and its need for treatment is nothing new. Thanks to being allowed to witness the fearless and brilliant way ‘Fish’–drawing from the storehouse of his own hurts and pains–helps Curtis work through some anger with his father, we are all better people. Needless to say, I was pleased to discover that I am not the only person in Germany who has taken this cathartic journey that is Rainn Wilson’s epic: A German psychiatrist (Professor Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr.) Dr. Michael Linden, at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Assn. in San Francisco, introduced what he wants identified as a mental illness–Bitterness–under the name post-traumatic embitterment disorder. From the article:
The disorder is modeled after post-traumatic stress disorder because it too is a response to a trauma that endures. People with PTSD are left fearful and anxious. Embittered people are left seething for revenge.” They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It’s one step more complex than anger. They’re angry plus helpless.”
Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job, relationship or activity, Linden says. When something unexpectedly awful happens — they don’t get the promotion, their spouse files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team — a profound sense of injustice overtakes them. Instead of dealing with the loss with the help of family and friends, they cannot let go of the feeling of being victimized. Almost immediately after the traumatic event, they become angry, pessimistic, aggressive, hopeless haters.”
The Gospel has a lot to say about treating this condition– more commonly known as “life”–but, like all treatments, the first step is diagnosis. The message of the Cross is not a quick-fix for the genuine feelings of bitterness, anger and betrayal that we may feel; however, it does seem to offer the most hope for recovery in its one word of Forgiveness to the double reality we experience: that we are simultaneously victims and perpetrators, saints and sinners. To this confusing and painful reality is offered the hope of the Gospel. Like a blanket wrapped around the burnt over places of our lives, the message of God’s mercy in Christ–while we were yet sinners–offers some relief from the searing pain of living with not only what has been done to us but “what we have done and what we have left undone.” And, despite the current smoldering, it is in this proclamation of mercy, amnesty, and peace that we find the strength necessary to live in hope that, someday, the fire will go out.
Until then, maybe they’ll make a pill. Until then, we’ll always have The Rocker.