Saturday, February 23, 2008


I've thought I've been struggling a lot with self-pity over the last few months. There has been so many circumstances in the lives of our family members that at times I feel overwhelmed. I want to crawl away and hide. At the end of last week, I was struggling with long hours of work and feeling all this self-pity. I became plagued with using thoughts. Push them away, say a pray, and boom, their back. I realize today that it was because I was tired. I had worked to many hours and was exhausted. I didn't drink, didn't porn, didn't enter into an inappropriate relationship. Using the tools provided by the AA program, staying in the hands of God, I can walk today feeling clean. (A great feeling, if I might say so.)

I was speaking with someone on Thursday about my struggles with self-pity. This person is a councillor that I have been seeing over the past 4 years. I hadn't talked with him for over a year and a half, but thought I should go recently because of what I've been struggling with internally.
He suggested that perhaps what I'm feeling is not self-pity but sadness. As we talked it became clear to me that anytime I feel some sorrow I label it self-pity. When I label it self-pity I stuff it. Don't acknowledge it, push it aside with a pray and resolve to carry on. He suggested that I acknowledge my sadness and be content to just let it be part of me. He also suggested that I talk with others about my sadness. We spoke about the difference between feeling sad and feeling self-pity.

A dictionary definition of sadness is being affected by unhappiness or grief; sorrowful or mournful.

A dictionary definition of self-pity is pity for oneself, esp. a self-indulgent attitude concerning ones own difficulties, hardships, etc.

Feeling sad is an appropriate response for what is happing within my family. Loss of an unborn grandchild, the near loss of a child caught up in addiction, one of my children loosing a father-in-law, an other child struggling with physical health issues, (and the list can go on with a few more events in the last 4 months) and there is reason to feel sad. It is also okay to feel sad. I can accept that.

Carl Jung wrote: "Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”

When I lump all my feelings of sorrow as self-pity (one of my chief character defects) I do myself an injustice. Human beings feel sad at times. I don't have to wallow in self-pity when I feel sad. It's not about me. It's about how we react to events in life.

I like this quote from Erich Fromm: “One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.”

It's the way we are wired. If I didn't feel sadness I would not be human. How I react to this sadness is important. To slip into a bottle to escape it is not a healthy one. To push it away and ignore it is not a healthy one. To acknowledge it, accept it, live with it, continue on with my life knowing that it will pass is healthy. Living through the sadness holding the hands of those around me, accepting the support of others and providing support to others who experience the same is healthy. To turn to God and share my sadness with my Higher Power would be healthy.

If anyone reads this particular entry, and you wish to spend a little time responding, could you share how you differentiate between sadness and self-pity? It would be appreciated.



Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Hm, I'm thinking that whether it's sadness or self-pity, there's value in recognizing and being with it -- praying or meditating about it rather than stuffing it. Self-pity is human too.

I think for me self-pity comes with statements like "why me" and "I don't deserve to have things this hard" and "why do other people have it so easy." But it's hard to separate self-pity from sadness, because I'm not exactly pitying myself when I'm happy! ;)

Anonymous said...

No matter what they are, your feelings are your feelings. Sometimes life gives you beating and you are human, you hurt, you are sad. You may even feel sorry for yourself. Let it out. If you are feeling sorry for your self, take some time alone to really vent it. Sometimes a little old fashioned screaming and hollering does me good. (alone of course) You are talking about it and that is key. Great Post

dAAve said...

Communication is probably the key.
Talk talk talk.

Rex said...

For me the difference between Sadness and self-pity is simple...sadness is a feeling, an emotion. Self-pity is an action, or lack of action based on that emotions. The way out of self-pity is action....helping another, "being of maximum service to to God and those around us," as the Big Book says. Taking that action removes self-pity and lessens sadness has been my experience.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your kind words of encouragement.