How Do We Resist the False Comfort of Self-Pity?

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Oh, the seductive croon. It has that way of cradling us with darkness, and slyly sinking us further downward and downward, singing of things that resonate with our pain, needs, sadness… seeming to commiserate and somehow help, when in reality what it truly succeeds in doing is pulling us into a place that can cage us with our utmost fears, suffering, loneliness, shame…. guilt. Part of the appeal is that it can seem like a form of self-love (somehow addressing and patting our hurts when the rest of the world is oblivious), and can also be perceived as a form of self-protection. It is so easy, so tempting… and like a siren, it has a way of lulling us too deep, and into places that can be hard to climb out of. Self-pity.

Life is hard. Love can break us. People can be cruel. It is normal to hurt, and want comfort….and self-pity is something that has a way of masquerading as comfort. Pity whispers to us, convincing us that our pain is greater than that of others, and that our suffering is unlike anything anyone else would understand or ever experience. It can become almost like a deceptive trophy of sad achievement that serves to validate our belief that our pain is mountainous, and thus we are justified in the self-sorrow that we continue to dwell in, as well as other behaviors that may cause harm to ourselves….and sometimes to others as well. It can become almost addictive to reach for that wound, that place… and pick at it, dig into it etc…which not only keeps the wound open, but even can make it fester and grow beyond the original wound and misery.

No one likes to admit that they indulge in feeling sorry for their own selves… and yet we all do it at some point, and sometimes so excessively that the truth can get distorted. It can become hard to think clearly, or see the world in any other way. Dark-tinted glasses obscure everything, and an automatic mental habit of sorts can form. This of course is a personal issue that I often see with clients, and there tends to be one of two contrasting trends that appears—-either the person wants to direct all the blame for their problems at others, and feel sorry for themselves because others have ruined their lives in some way…..or, it is the opposite….they absorb all of the blame onto their own selves. Oddly enough, with the first, they tend to often be a big part of the cause of their own situation (such as blaming their actions and choices on others to avoid responsibility, or blaming the results on others for not fixing it for them etc… ), and often those who are quick to batter their own selves feel that is an easier solution than looking truthfully at others, and often can be desperate for a way to gain a sense of control in situations where it otherwise is missing. “If I am to blame, I can aim everything at myself, and have a sense that it is something within me that I can eventually control and change, even though really this pain was created by someone else who doesn’t care to set the wrongs they did right.” Despite being different forms of perspective, both angles have similar results—they trap people into mindsets that can be restrictive to seeing the truth, and finding genuine solutions.

Self-pity can at times develop into a form of being selfish—especially when it involves being completely centered on your own self, and possibly seeing/ putting your needs, hurts, experiences etc.. at being of greater importance than that of other people. However, it is also important to recognize when it becomes more than that… when a loved one is so deep into it that they can see no way out, and reject anything else for their own selves. That is when it can become not just a debilitating habit, but rather something that should require attention and aid.

So, the most common things that I see people say? “I do everything wrong, nothing will ever work out for me, no one will ever love me. Its not fair that others get everything so easy. Its not fair that everyone else gets to have what they want, and its just handed to them. I might as well not try, hope, reach etc… because it all will be the same. No one has ever hurt like I have, no one has ever suffered in the way that I have…” Its important to not allow yourself to get swept into mindsets that compare everything to others—-everyone has their own trials and suffering, and it is not our place to make assumptions, or put ourselves in a form of higher status or priority of sorts based on those assumptions.

Another destructive result of self-pity is that our fears and mistakes can gain control over us. That crooning song tells us that anything we do or touch will be demolished, and that nothing will ever be good, or right for us. Fear-based mindsets restrict our ability to grow, learn from our mistakes in productive ways, discover better/healthier solutions…. and ironically, because it limits a person’s view and ability to truly try different options, and to trust their own selves/judgment… they often end-up reaching for familar/ similar choices and methods….and when the results once again result in failure and pain, it serves as more confirmation that good things are not meant for them ( without being able to see that they are continuing in the same patterns). It is basically, sadly, leading one’s own self blindly onto the same path again, and fulfilling a self-prophesy of sorts that places one right back into what they fear most will happen. Sometimes what I see are situations where people lock-up, and miss-out on good opportunities because they tell themselves it will go badly…. however, when that familiar situation appears….they manage to convince themselves when they see reasons that it will not work that it is just their fears speaking again, and that they need to ignore, and push past them. An analogy I once used with someone who would frequently run from the good situations, and yet dive right into the ones that they truly should have heeded their initial inner voice on…is that essentially its akin to having a clear, open path ahead of you, obvious good things heading in the right direction…. and yet you stop the car in the middle of the street, and do not proceed because your fears convince you that there could be something bad down the end of the road. However, when you are heading down a street that is blocked with obvious obstacles (when there are obvious legit reasons from the start that make it so you cannot reach a real destination—such as getting involved with someone who is not available etc…) that is not the time to tell yourself that your doubts are just your fears speaking again, and then slam your foot on the gas. You will eventually hit those obstacles head-on. So that is essentially something to think about when you want to determine whether it is your fears speaking, or truly your gut/ logic/ the spirit. There is a difference between genuinely recognizing why/when something is not the right direction to go, and when it is just your fears causing you to slam on the breaks on what is otherwise a clear, good path.

So, how do we plug our ears to that croon, and find healthier ways for dealing with our pain, and caring for ourselves? The first key is to look outward, not within. Forward, not back. Now, it is important to be able to look at situations (and ourselves) to become honestly aware of the causes behind things ( be it mistakes we our own selves made, or people who may be harmful to us despite what our hearts want to believe), but there is a big difference between productive, honest examination… and just wallowing in the hurt and self-deceptions to further swell the magnitude of things. Our thoughts and perceptions are what mold us, and have the most power in determining our choices, and how we view our own selves and our potential. It essentially is Dumbo’s feather in reverse ( and this is a phrase I have said many times over the years through my efforts in helping others). What we believe, we become. What we tell ourselves is possible, impossible etc.. to achieve– we fulfill. I have done study (as well as self-application) on the Law of Attraction, and do truly believe in/ have experienced the benefits of positive manifestation ….which essentially is striving to change our patterns of thinking in order to lift our restrictions, and open doors of positive possibilities for our own selves. When we are positive, believe in ourselves, and see potential for ourselves….once again, that feather comes into play, and seems to help us to fly.

Now, I will take this more into a spiritual, and personal direction.

Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need

Psalm 73:23-26

Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

Jeremiah 29 11-13

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

John 8:12

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

 

Okay, its obvious were I am now going with this, but I will try to refrain myself from citing a number of additional scriptures that essentially reflect the same guidance. Ultimately, so much comes down to our faith, and the ability to trust and place our worries, struggles, fears, and…pain…. into the hands of Heavenly Father. It is so easy to let ourselves drown, and lose sight of not only our own selves and ultimate goals, hopes etc…. but despair sometimes has the affect of depleting us spiritually, and leading us away from God—be it through wrong choices influenced by the negative factors and desperation within us, or even a sense of abandonment. It can be helpful to remember that fundamentally we are here to learn, grow, and make choices that determine so much in regard to who we become, and where we place priorities…and none of that would be possible without facing trials and heartbreak. If everything went our way, if everyone loved us, if everything we wanted could easily be obtained…how would we grow? How would we be able to truly appreciate things/ people/ blessings, and even be able to discover who we truly are, and what we are capable of if we never faced challenges, or experienced loss? It is through our struggles and mistakes that we gain understanding, compassion, appreciation, and yes, we can even achieve deeper faith when we remember which direction we should turn.

Personally, I have been there. Many times. Like everyone else… I have known cruelty. I have had my heart broken. I have been emotionally isolated from the support and love of others. Many times I have slipped into that tempting abyss, but even when I was a scared, hurting child… there was always comfort to be found through prayer, and the knowledge that I was not really alone, and that I was loved by the one who truly mattered. As an adult, the same belief and faith that served me when I was a child often was (is) what held the key to lifting me out of deep places….through prayer I no longer was silent and invisible, and through trust and faith… truly giving my burdens over….light finally broke through the darkness, and even has frequently resulted in the gift of understanding that I do not think I would have gained in any other way. Often it is through our deepest suffering that we can truly learn about what is important, become strong, discover that light and beauty can always be found…. and gain compassion, awareness, and understanding for the struggles that others face. Often I have felt that my experiences may have been so that I could learn things that will be of aid and comfort to others…and to me, that is one of the greatest blessings that I can think of—not only to help ease the trials and pains that others experience, but because it is often through service, and loving those beyond ourselves that we can discover our own wounds have quietly healed ( typically when we were not even “looking”), and that we have risen out of our own personal depths. A very real cure to feeling pity for ourselves literally exists in doing the exact opposite—caring for others.

Resisting the temptation of self-pity is not easy, and for most people is not something that can just be done with a casual snap of the fingers. Obviating misery’s song often requires a form of mental training and discipline—just as is needed with any bad habit, or thing we would like to change about ourselves. I would be lying to say that all my sadness has been erased, but the difference for me now is that the sadness and pain does not rule me—my fears and past are no longer hidden things in a closet that can pounce at any moment and pull me into the dark. Do I still have longing for things that are not exactly available to me? Yes, but again, I have learned to recognize/ accept that those inner needs are there, but at the same time do not allow them to have primary focus, and thus drown-out the blessings that I do have before me. Sometimes it reminds me a little of what happens when you fast for an extended time—at first, hunger seems to dominate and control everything, but after a couple days it diminishes, and you become free of the constant, demanding pounding… it may still be there, but you learn how to be selective about what you choose to focus on, and thus gain freedom and control. It truly is about self-control, perspective, and the ability/clarity to make better choices for yourself. Additionally, acceptance is something that can be a crucial element in healing and moving forward. Sometimes we simply have to be able to address and face the things that have harmed us, and even accept that the pain and scars may not fully go away, but that it does not mean they need to be given the power to dictate our future potential, or forever hold us back. Lastly, forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves and others is something that frees us, and severs the ropes that lead to those anchors in the dark depths…. through forgiveness we are able to start anew, move forward, and once again… not give focus and power to the things that will only lead us backwards into self-destruction. We have been gifted with renewing grace, and its important that we also remember to grant it to our own selves.

So, essentially… have faith, direct your thoughts in positive directions, service to others…and….Be happy. 🙂

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