Self pity is a real irritation. Those of you who will admit to having fallen prey to this monster many times over will be laughing at that understatement. Although everyone experiences self pity at different times, this wouldn’t be an intriguing blog entry if I simply explained how I have been struggling with it in my recent move. So I have a better approach.
Alan, a dear friend and Art Director for the non-profit mask dance/theater company, ArcheDream for HUMANKIND (www.adhk.org), wrote an essay on the disadvantages of self pity awhile back. You can find it on his website, here. In it, he thoroughly analyzes this self-inflicted burden, and every time I read it I am able to reflect on self pity’s constant resurgence in my life. Everyone could benefit from reading about themselves from this sort of universal perspective. So often the objective, understanding voices are what guide us to end our painful cycles once and for all.
What he explains is that self pity’s presence emerges when a person faces a contradiction to their sense of well being. As human beings we dream, hope, and set goals, making commitments to ourselves. But a dilemma arises when we take those dreams and attempt to manifest those goals in the world. "All of us have wished that what is significant for ourselves is also necessary for others" - and when this does not seem to be happening, we begin to fear what might be true of us - namely, that we will not succeed or that we are not good enough. "...against doubt we visualize our goal, and wanting it to happen becomes an expectation designed to negate doubt." Our intention has now gone from natural expression to a panicked insistence that we must succeed to prove our doubts wrong. We are submerged in personal doubt and then fall into guilt as we are too panicked to fulfill on our commitments.
This opens the doorway to see the world as an aggressor on our lives. No longer are we in control of our world, but we are fighting against a world that is causing us suffering. We are now undertaking a ‘noble’ cause to demand recognition for all of the suffering we are being put through. We “take it out on others...those who are not with us are our enemy and we act as though we have suffered a great loss when we have in fact given up [on ourselves]”.
Mired in our panic and suffering, "fear has a knack of looking like our reality". We are no longer able to see clearly or rationally. The farther we slide into self pity, the farther we are getting from actually taking control of ourselves and our lives - and we go deeper into our self-directed anger.
What is the result of such self-directed anger and loss of control? A loss of confidence and self worth. "The suicide of self worth ensures a bitter independence, in perfect isolation, dead but not yet buried" and we begin fighting with the persona we have now created which is “cynical self-defense blended with sarcasm”. We are ashamed of ourselves and feel grief because we have not achieved the goals we set out for. Our externally directed anger continues, and we prosecute others to counteract our vulnerability.
This prosecution of others doesn’t necessarily mean we actually tell them we are placing blame on them. It can mean that we make loved ones feel we resent their support, turning down all possibilities and denying the light at the end of our frightening tunnel. "Fear of Death is popular, but fear of Freedom is a greater terror by far."
Ultimately, our consciousness will continue working to find the gatekeeper of our freedom - disillusionment. What our disillusionment requires is that we become willing to “accept the unacceptable” about ourselves. To stop feeling shame for those things we don’t understand about ourselves; to admit that all we need to succeed, move forward, and be free, is already within us. We are the only ones stopping ourselves, and as soon as we allow, with all our faults and passions, our true selves to be seen internally and externally, we have found the key to releasing our cycles of self-pity.
I see myself in his letter, and it's helped a great deal. I hope it will benefit all who read it.