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))))))),