Feeling Sorry for Yourself Can Be Healthy
Just for now, let it be all about you.
I love feeling sorry for myself. What progress! I used to be someone who was so good at controlling my emotions that I didn’t even know I was doing it.
The truth is, those of us who are reluctant to feel sorry for ourselves are the ones who need to the most.
Feeling sorry for yourself is not wallowing on the pity pot. It is tuning in to something inside you that needs attention.
People who push down their inner emotional pain, who are numb to their unmet inner needs, and who take pride in not being needy, are the ones who need to let go and have a really good cry. For as Albert Smith said,
“Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on it.”
If you’re the way I used to be, pressure is building inside of you that needs an outlet. You may avoid the suffering part of you because you’re convinced that you are very fortunate and that you’re better off than most people. So you don’t have a right to feel sorry for yourself.
Or perhaps when did share your pain or tried to get your needs met, you were shamed, minimized or met with indifference. That’s the typical plight of people with codependent/oral character styles. We tend to associate with people on the flip side of the coin: addictive/narcissistic character styles.
But a life spent stoically stiffened and “selflessly” caretaking others is often a life of self-deception. There is a difference between selflessness and self-neglect. True selflessness is fueled by good self-care.
Feeling sorry for yourself from time to time can lead to a healthy regimen of good self-care. You can learn to tune in to your intuition, respect your vulnerable feelings, melt the tension from your muscles, loosen control, breathe easier.
For instance, your intuition, if you pay attention to it, will guide you to the perfect movie, book or music, to a massage to nurture your body, to a walk in nature so you can feel connected with the universe, to a healer, a support group, a psychotherapist, spiritual path, or something just right for you.
Be honest with yourself. Feel the pain you have stuffed into your viscera. Breathe into it and feel yourself soften a bit. Admit to yourself that you hurt inside, even if you’re not sure why. Place your hand on your heart. Let the tears come.
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” ~Washington Irving
Healthy self-compassion leads us on an inner investigation that reveals family stories, relationship dynamics, and your buried needs and desires. You now have an opportunity to understand yourself more deeply, appreciate your unique gifts, and really claim your life.
Why do you think I became a psychotherapist?
I wanted to understand myself. I wanted to understand human nature.
I wanted to nurture, encourage, inspire … in my own way. But first, I had to get to know myself, for better and worse.
How liberating it was to find out I deserved some pity for the subtle, yet damaging, intricacies of my upbringing. That insight led to some long overdue blaming of my parents (parents usually get the first blow). The blaming eventually subsided into something far more powerful: accountability.
Holding others accountable, in addition to holding myself accountable, has transformed me. Realizing that there is a “no fault” way to understand human interactions and their consequences is almost a magic formula for dissolving resentments and compounded grief.
Eventually, as I filled in developmental gaps (we all have them — mature in some ways, immature in others) I grew into myself. Little by little, I discovered my artistry at listening, empathizing and intuiting. I discovered my rhythm in supporting people … and, when the time was right, challenging them to be true to themselves.
What a relief when I discovered the labels “codependent,” “oral character,” and “love addict.” Despite my excruciating shame at fitting into all these categories, it also permitted me to finally express that keening wail of protest that had been waiting years to emerge from the depths of my body and soul.
Sitting on the pity pot, as a chronic condition, is not a good place to live. Drinking to drown your sorrows is not a solution to emotional pain. Numbing out so that we don’t bother anybody does not solve the problem. But feeling sorry for yourself as an honest response to something inside you that is pressing for help is something else entirely. It is a call to Life to help you live. And we need you. Humanity needs you to demonstrate self-love and healing so we can care for one another.
If you don’t take the time and make the effort to feel sorry for yourself, you won’t have inner resources to have compassion for others. You will burn out. Resentments will simmer. Narcissists tend to explode. Codependents tend to implode. Look around: clearly, that has led to a very sorry world.
So go ahead and feel sorry for yourself. Your self-compassion will lead to personal healing and true positive action, first, for yourself. And then, your compassion will take flight! You will have the energy and strength to follow through with whatever your mission turns out to be. And we will thank you for it.
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