This WTF blog post is from today’s guest, C. M. J. Saunders III, aka, Spinoza’s Nephew. Thank you Mr. Saunders.
Self-pity comes on like a bad actor in a B-movie, hiding in the shadows in a dark alley, just waiting for a vulnerable personality to pass close by in the dark, in the pelting rain.
But, in its ‘affect’ it punches far above its weight. It, in fact, pretty much packs a near knockout punch when it comes to our confidence and self-esteem.
Not to mention its paralytic stranglehold on our relationships with others.
It is not abundantly clear whether each and every one of us is currently in or susceptible to its slimy grasp. What is clear is that self-pity, when it blossoms, spits out a venomous poison which infects our very being. And its gravest threat comes as a blindside punch that we almost never see coming, nor do we quite feel it even as it is delivered.
Other negative emotions [besides self-pity] also come on, head-on, like gangbusters. They announce their presence loud and clear, never leaving a shadow of a doubt as to their arrival in our lives. This does not diminish their impact, but at least we are given fair warning that they have arrived and must be dealt with somehow. Even when we do not have any idea how to deal with it, or precisely what action to take.
But not self-pity. It barely announces itself and often comes on sounding like an old comfortable friend who should be welcomed and taken in. Therein lies the trap. Self-pity acts like quicksand on our spirits. It moves and acts so quickly that we move from feeling sorry for ourselves, Poor old me, someone else just took another swipe at me that I in no way deserve, almost instantaneously to, I’ll show them, I’ll leave and never come back, and no one will know where I am! I don’t need these people. Before many moments elapse, it morphs into, I know what to do, I’ll take myself out, that’ll teach them!
From that first hint of doubt through the stages from denial to anger to retribution, and finally to contemplating self-harm, all these happen in a heartbeat.
It often begins with a seemingly innocuous feeling, a sense of some slight which has been directed our way. But it always ends in a full-blown pity-party, in whatever form it takes in a person’s inner-thoughts.
[The 17th-century philosopher] Spinoza recognized that each of us is bound and restricted in our efforts to be self-satisfied and self-assured by the recurrence of self-doubt. Doubts that we cannot quite put a name to, but which catch us off guard at the unlikeliest of moments, and pre-occupy our thinking.
Sometimes it may begin with a feeling that a particular individual just does not like us. It may be in the work setting, or with a relative, perhaps an in-law. For whatever reason this person lets slip out, from time to time, some little seemingly derogatory comment about you, to your face. It usually occurs at random moments and is not usually overheard by anyone but you. It is never so egregious as to remove any doubt as to its nature and pointed purpose. But it happens.
It’s a bother to have someone direct negative feelings in our direction, particularly when it’s done surreptitiously. We can’t quite be certain what to do about it, but it wounds and festers. Its effects begin to pre-occupy our thoughts and we cannot shake them off. This is one example of how the pity-party begins.
But what comes next is the most curious and dangerous part of this self-reflection process. As we mull over this slight and why it keeps being directed towards us, a strange effect begins to inflate the reverie. We can term it ‘fictionalizing an event’. It is an unconscious and entirely non-intentional happening, but we begin to inflate both the nature and magnitude of the offensive attitude and the remarks.
Not too long after that, we begin to conduct an imaginary dialogue with the offender. In it, we strike back at them with slams on their person and personality. We now can readily see before our mind’s eye each and every time a negative remark was aimed at us by this person. Regardless of the date, time or year, each and every slight stands out as a singularity. But even that is not the most curious aspect of this miasmic memory.
Soon we blur this affront by agglomerating into it, other times and other people who have offended us. Whether these events happened years or even decades ago.
Before long we feel so terribly sad and lost that we picture ourselves gaining retribution by calling out the perpetrator. But then we realize that since it is we alone who have direct knowledge of these denigrations and the magnitude of our sorrow and confusion, this agglomeration of negativity pushes us beyond the bounds of reason, where we contemplate running away and perhaps even worse. Beyond that, we are completely alone in our suffering; it cannot be shared with anyone. To speak of it would be too humiliating.
This is what Spinoza meant by human bondage to our emotions. [Now] to recognize this self-pity mechanism as a feature in your own private ‘life’ of the mind.
Lady Proverbs End Note: And that, folks, is your homework for the week!! Because only by first recognizing the desire to throw a pity-party on Saturday nights, can we then shut that haunted house down! Ponder, y’all.
From Lady Proverbs, somewhere on the Oregon Coast.