Feeling Sorry For Yourself vs Compassion

I have so many clients who come to me with  histories of abuse, tragedy or loss. They are usually in my office for something else: problems with the kids, finding or keeping a partner in life, depression,  etc.  The list goes on and on for what we shrinks call “the presenting problem”.  When a careful assessment uncovers the sorrow underneath, the silent sorrow that drives the current problem, they very often shrug it off.  Therapist empathy falls upon a stone wall.

“I don’t want to feel sorry for myself,” they say.  And let me tell you, they really mean it that they don’t want to feel sorry for themselves. And I don’t blame them.  The words have such a negative connotation. That connotation has been imposed on all of us by our fast moving culture that wants people to “get over it”.   And so such words as “feeling sorry for herself”  evoke the image of a person who wants to wallow in misery.  No one wants to be that person, in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.  So walls are built to hide the feelings. Sometimes even from yourself.

But wallowing is one thing. Working to get through it is something else again. You have to get through whatever is behind the wall if you want your present life to improve.   Here’s the thing: you  have to feel it to get through it.   It is ok to have compassion for yourself and what you went through.  Compassion is a feeling of sympathy along with the desire or yearning to alleviate the suffering of another.  It is ok to extend the same compassion to yourself that you would to a loved one who went through the same thing.  You need to have compassion for yourself in order to allow yourself to feel the feelings and walk through, and beyond,  the pain.

That’s not wallowing. That’s doing something about it.  


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8 Responses to “Feeling Sorry For Yourself vs Compassion”

  1. Bill Howdle Says:

    I have to wonder why it is we show more compassion, patience, understanding…… for others than we do ourselves. We truly are our own worst critics, worst enemies the majority of the time.
    I heard a saying something to the effect the happiest people aren’t necessarily the ones dealt the best hand in life, but are the one that make the best of the hand they have been dealt. So easy to say but at times so very hard to do.

  2. psychscribe Says:

    Yes indeed Bill….I’ve heard another, similar saying…Life is like a game of cards…fate is the hand you’ve been dealt…free will is how you play it…

  3. amberfireinus Says:

    People ask me all of the time how I dont feel sorry for myself with my illness and being in constant pain. I think I have my mother to thank for my attitude with it.

    When I was in the hospital for all those many months, in pain, hooked up to every machine known to person, I started to cry and say… why me?????

    My mother, said… “Is it your day to feel sorry for yourself? Let me get the calendar and check? Nope, not your day. We should write one down. How does Tuesday work for you???”

    It was then I realised the absurdity of feeling sorry for myself. This illness was given to me as a gift. Im supposed to learn and grow from it (maybe even teach others from my experiences), not feel sorry for myself. Every single thing that has happened in my life makes me who I am right now. Including my illness.

  4. psychscribe Says:

    Amberfireinus – we can grow but still have compassion for ourselves, don’t you think?

  5. amberfireinus Says:

    Of course. Compassion for one’s self is needed. But you have to balance that compassion, give yourself breaks but dont let yourself get on the pitty pot.

  6. music Says:

    very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

  7. Jim Says:

    i found your message helpful; thank you.

  8. psychscribe Says:

    Dear Jim, I am so glad it helped you!

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