Posts Tagged ‘tragedy’

Feeling Sorry For Yourself vs Compassion

November 28, 2007

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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