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Self Pity - What Is It?

To experience self pity is to feel sorry for yourself

There are some aspects of self pity which help us to acknowledge painful situations and circumstances in our life for which we need help.

However, if help has not been available or forthcoming in the past, or in our childhood experiences, we form a tendency to become bogged down in our feelings of pain and fear which don't serve any other function except to keep us stuck.

This is why self pity tends to be stultifying and inactive and can be likened to wallowing in quick sand, slowly sinking down and down, and then drowning in a morass of shame, self doubt and negative self talk.

self pity
Self Pity

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird
will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt
sorry for itself.
D H Lawrence

Self Pity is a very powerful emotion.

When we are caught in self pity, we rarely name it or express it to others.

Have you ever heard anyone say, "Today I'm experiencing self pity."

We do tell about feeling sorry for ourselves, about the story or the situation or circumstances which causes us to feel sorry for ourselves, which provokes the feeling and the misery, and our over-riding self pity encourages the listener to collude, or join together with us.

Collusion in self pity is like forming a conspiracy together.

The self pity needs to be fed in order to exist, so it requires complicity and agreement, both from within us and from others, in order to stay alive.

This in turn, fuels our sense of pity for ourselves, keeping us trapped.

Self Pity -
A Powerful Habit

As the old saying goes,
“Misery loves Company”

  • Self-pity is... a sinkhole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink.
    ~ Elizabeth Elliot
Because this powerful feeling of self pity evokes a reciprocal response from others, then treading the pity path can become a powerful habit.

As with all habits, if it is indulged and well fed it can become tenacious and prevent us from choosing a better pathway.

Self Pity often masks other feelings, keeping us stuck within a vicious cycle of despair, rather than exploring what our pain is showing us.

Self Pity - Effective Tools for Change

self ity Unfortunately when we go through the gateway and tread our way down the path to self pity, we prevent ourselves from seeing the other gate which leads to the pathway marked positive action, understanding and contentment.

  • “Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.”
    ~Helen Keller
Sometimes the habit of self pity becomes deeply entrenched and we fail to realize that we have fallen into the pit of feeling sorry for ourselves.

However, once we recognize that we have a tendency to deal with circumstances in this way, we can learn to detect when we are swimming in the self pity pool and learn how to haul ourselves out.

Recognition - Awareness - Choice - Change

Learning to recognize that self pity has become our patterned response to mask deeper feelings is a wonderful beginning.

Becoming aware of the feeling when it begins to take us over is the next great step.

Choice is a gateway which opens many possibilities for action.

An effective tool is to write down this heading:
“I Feel Sorry for Myself because......”

Try to write as much as you can and then put the list aside overnight and read it out to yourself the next day.

Often you can then see more clearly that some of these ideas can be dealt with through action, or through grief, some through talking them out, some can just be crossed off the list, while others incur horrible embarrassment.

Self Pity -
Help Your Child Avoid The Self Pity Path

  • Don’t model this behaviour yourself.
  • Discourage sulking.
  • Enable your child to name his feelings.
  • Provide opportunities for quiet, gentle, safe discussion.
  • Build up your child emotionally.
Don’t model this behaviour yourself
Learn to recognize, take charge of and change your emotional reactions to painful feelings. Mostly, we learn the art of avoidance - also known as blocking, denial, projection, or resistance from the way painful feelings were denied during our childhood.

It takes a steep learning curve to recognize your own resistances and to ask for help to encounter often deeply buried feelings. Learn to become aware of any negative behavior that you are modeling for your children.

Discourage sulking
Help your child to respond rather than react to emotional situations. Sulking is the beginning of a life long habit which disables our ability to listen to what our feelings are telling us.

Enable your child to name his feelings
Learn to use many different names for feelings, not just sad, angry, and cross. Print out this list of named emotions and use them regularly to help your children to name their feelings.

Provide opportunities for quiet, gentle, safe discussion
Establish a consistent routine that allows your children to feel safe, nurtured and heard. Encourage a free expression of negative feelings and ensure that you are not afraid of their emotions so that you can receive them.

Build up your child emotionally
You can do this by encouraging self responsibility. In childhood we learn to blame others, blame the situation, blame the circumstances and/or blame ourselves. Blaming tends to come to the forefront and mostly prohibits us from recognising our own input into what is usually a difficult emotional situation.

Here's a helpful way of veiwing our control over our emotions.

Which Wolf?

An old American Indian Grandfather was teaching his grandson
about life.

"Inside each one of us there are two wolves constantly fighting", he said.

"One of the wolves is positive and is filled with peace, calm, love and kindness.

The other wolf is negative and filled with fear, anxiety, self pity and self doubt".

"Grandfather", said the boy. "If the wolves are always fighting, which one will win?"

"The one you feed the most", said the Grandfather.

  • “Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.”~

    Maya Angelou

Find Out More Here:

Self Pity and Grief
It is important that we know there is a difference between self pity and grief. There are many times when the appropriate response to a situation is sadness, grief and sorrow. We can more easily recognize this as we usually express sorrow to others using language such as, “I feel as though my heart is breaking”, or “I never imagined I could feel this much sadness”. If the feeling is one of self pity we don't tend it express it in this way.

Building Emotional Intelligence and Resilience
We need to be able to step back, allow ourselves the time to feel our feelings and to look for the messages they convey to us. We need to understand why we feel in particular ways and what these feelings mean for us. Then we are able to change negative emotions into positive ones.

Working with Emotional Intelligence
Here are some useful steps to take in working with emotional intelligence. If this is new to you, be kind, gentle and patient with yourself as you open to different and more vigorous ways of thinking and being.

Self Esteem Affirmations

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