Monday, June 25, 2007

Self-pity

I suppose I feel a bit like an alcoholic when it comes to self-pity and that's why I'm so wary of it.

All of us feel self-pity at times. Almost everyone does—traumatic experiences or not. It’s an absolutely necessary step for those of us who were traumatized and who told ourselves for years: It wasn’t so bad. Necessary because it’s part of saying to ourselves that we mattered, that we didn’t deserve to have that happen, that we don’t ever have to let it happen again.

The trap is if we get stuck in self-pity. The trap is that we may believe it always has to be this way, that things will always go wrong for us, that we will always get hurt. And as long as we are trapped in this mentality, we increase the odds that it will happen because predators will see us coming a mile away. If we see ourselves as victims, that’s the role we’ll play out. If we begin to see ourselves, instead, as thrivers, that’s the role we’ll play out and we have a real shot at creating the lives we want to have.

The other danger is that if we’re been unhappy for a very long time—as so many survivors of childhood abuse are—unhappiness becomes our default emotion. Unhappiness feels “normal.” If we start to feel happy it may be so uncomfortable that we push ourselves back into the emotions we know so well.

I know, I know—that sounds crazy. But...I remember the moment, on a gloomy, rainy spring day years ago, when I suddenly caught myself doing just that. I realized that if I started to feel happy, I’d put on music or read a book or pull up a memory that made me cry. That realization shocked me so much that I made a vow to ride out the weirdness and the discomfort until happiness became the default mode for me.

I didn’t know then that being happy was exactly what would give me the strength and resilience to be able to handle memories and process them more easily. I didn’t know then that the more I could let myself laugh, the easier it would be to heal. What I did know was that it was crazy for me not to celebrate every moment of laughter and happiness.

As I said, I feel like an alcoholic when it comes to self-pity. I'm afraid that if I sit too long with it, I'll slip back into letting that be the default mode again.

In a way, I suppose it’s like self-harm. It would be understandable if I did it. But there’s a part of me that’s too stubborn and too angry. There’s a part of me that says: Hey, the people who were supposed to love me when I was a kid didn’t. They hurt me badly. And I am sure as *$^#%$)*)#%@*^ NOT going to continue to do their work for them now!

There will always be moments when I feel bad. And I’ll sit with those for a bit and see where they lead me. At the same time, I’ll always also ask myself what good could come out of whatever situation is causing me pain and I will remind myself that now feeling happy and optimistic is my default mode. Like an alcoholic, it's hard for me to believe it will ever be safe to do anything else.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),
April_optimist

8 comments:

Marj aka Thriver said...

I don't think any of this sounds crazy at all; it makes a lot of sense to me. The "I matter" part is very significant. I've just got to continue improving on new and healthier ways to confirm that I matter. :)

keepers said...

this is a great post in our opinion, we struggle with this every once in a while, and like you said, we try to let it have its way for a day maybe two then we have to get back on track and move forward not backward. thank you for writing this

peace and blessings

keepers

jumpinginpuddles said...

pit parties are great for a while then you need to get your sorry butt out of the chair and say yeh it sucks but whats worse in this world and usually we find somethign that is and then we say we arent liek that so we have no right for anymore pity parties and we get up and get going

April_optimist said...

Thanks.

Karma said...

I could really relate to this one.

April_optimist said...

Karma,

(((Hugs))) It's something we all struggle with, I think.

Morris said...

I've read the bulk of the archives and I love the blog - it's useful and it's compassionate.

One thing has been bugging me, though. Over and over again, you say that pain is de facto bad. I don't agree.

I know that in my particular case, the ability to take and enjoy pain in the course of exercise, the kind of outdoor sports I like, and in the martial arts I do makes me feel good. Some of it is endorphins. Some of it is the knowledge that I am hurt but I am alive and I am still moving forward to my goal. It's a joyful acknowledgement of my body and my own animal nature, and a reminder that the only way to really hurt me like I was hurt would be to kill me.

Thanks for writing the blog. It's a source of comfort for me.

April_optimist said...

Morris,

Good points. I've tried to answer it in my new blog post today. If I've still missed the point, please let me know--let's have a dialogue about it.