Thursday, March 13, 2014

On Feeling Sorry

Recently it was suggested to me that I am feeling sorry for myself and ought to stop it.  Well, it wasn't so much a suggestion as a rather harsh and unfriendly comment, at least that's how it seemed to me.  But after I got over being offended, I decided to consider it.

What does that mean exactly, to feel sorry for one's self or for someone else?  Does it mean to feel sympathy?  I don't think that would be a bad thing.  In fact, I think it would be a good thing if I felt more sympathy for myself.  Often, I judge myself hardly.  To be honest, I feel more contempt for myself than sympathy.  That's true for many survivors of abuse that I know.  We feel sympathy for others, but not for ourselves.

But I don't think that's what people mean when they talk about feeling sorry for someone else or for one's self.  I think they are talking more about pity.  Feeling pity for someone else is sort of demeaning, I think.  Or at least it's often perceived that way.  And self-pity, well, I think people are usually talking about wallowing in it.  And it is frustrating at best to be around someone that wallows in self-pity and it's certainly not helpful or constructive to spend much time wallowing.

But maybe it's more about feeling sorrow than about feeling pity.  What's wrong with feeling sorry for someone, including ourselves, that has been through something terrible?  You don't want to get stuck in the sorrow, you don't want to drop anchor there.  But isn't sorrow a reasonable feeling in some circumstances?

I think some people say not to feel sorry for yourself because they don't want to feel sorrow and if you feel it, it might cause them to feel it, too.  They don't want to acknowledge the pain that you've been through and they don't want to acknowledge their own pain.  It's easier for them if you don't acknowledge your pain, either.  It's easier for them if you don't feel sorrow or sadness or pain.  They'd rather you only feel happiness and joy and contentment and other "good" feelings, or if you do feel something else, that you keep it strictly to yourself.

When I was in college, I took a class on spirituality and addiction.  The class was taught by this really cool nun.  I wish I could remember her name.  It was something Native American.  Anyway, she said repeatedly that what gets buried alive, stays alive.  Do you want that sorrow to stay alive?  If so, bury it.  Don't feel it, don't express it.  But do you want it to pass some day?  Then I think you have to feel it.  Go ahead and feel it.  Feel sorry for yourself.  Let it out.  Let it go.

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