Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 28, 2004
Cancel your pity party and grow up
Broken car windshield, unnoticed and unauthorized withdrawals from bank account, lousy service in a restaurant, a close brush with a car accident. All these happened in just one day. Would you say, "I'm just having a bad day?"
A day before that, you're told to report to a government office for an interview in a wrong city. Then you're instructed to leave the country and come back to become a landed immigrant. The ability of your financial situation to get better is far from reality.
Would these qualify as bad days?
Bad days happen to everyone. But when they happen almost successively it is not difficult to blurt out, "Why is it happening to me? Is the whole universe totally against me and trying to punish me?"
When the whole week is not getting any better, rather more and more misfortunes happen, there is one self-destructive road that some people easily tread.
Self-pity ranks as the absolute grandparent of all negative emotions. While all constricting emotions originate out of fear, specifically the fear of loneliness, self pity is more like the kindly old grandparent that wants to make everything "all right" - in its own distorted way, of course.
Self-pity is a real emotion. All real emotions have both a positive and a negative side. The positive side of pity lies with its powers of anesthesia. It numbs the pain. It puts you to sleep. It wraps you in a cocoon of mush - and keeps you "safe" from intrusion.
If you could bottle it, it would be considered a mood altering substance and thus available only by prescription. In fact, I believe self-pity is the single most addictive thing in the world, partly because no one will admit to having it in the first place.
The powers that make self-pity seem so necessary for childhood and adolescence do not work for the grownup. Children resort to self-pity. They were hurting, they looked around, and one of the few tools available was self-pity. It serves them well. As a grownup, however, pity becomes a burden.
On the dark side, self-pity paralyzes one's thoughts, feelings and even one's very actions. Often, it becomes a pathetic manipulation that people use to get any number of things. It becomes a way to punish others or a way to cease trusting anyone.
Sometimes the people we love, or even people around us become unwilling victims of the repercussions of self-pity. One characteristic of pity is to always blame someone or something else.
Self-pitiers must always look outside of themselves for the source of their problems and struggle. Therefore, they can say, "I didn't create the problem so I can't end it."
It becomes a self-perpetuating downward spiral that leads only to more problems and more pity.
If someone or something else is the source of my problem, I am giving my power away to that something else. It's like saying they are more powerful than I am. Then I have to get them to change, so that my life will improve.
By definition, a person in self-pity cannot and will not accept responsibility for his or her own life. Someone else must be responsible. This in itself leads to a host of problems too numerous to go into here.
So when you're having a series of misfortunes it is always good to avoid the road to self-pity. It is an easy road to take, but in the long run can tire you out and deaden your spirit.
Just remember, bad days happen. But we can always hope for the return of the good days.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.