I find that some people resist feeling any compassion or sadness for themselves, because they don’t want to fall into “self-pity” or feeling sorry for themselves.
There is a very big difference between the two, with compassion being very healthy and healing, while self-pity is unhealthy and can keep you stuck.
So what is the difference?
Compassion for one’s self, or for another, is simply sadness for one’s suffering, and it comes out of caring about one’s self or the other. When we focus on past suffering, our compassion is saying that we matter and our past suffering matters. It is healing in that it affirms the truth that we are loveable, which is one of the common feelings that was missing that we are grieving. Thus it helps replace false core beliefs about the self with true ones, and helps us heal old wounds. With compassion, or “clean” sadness untainted with other feelings, there is no associated false belief, and thus no tension in the body. There may be a heaviness in the chest. Compassion tends to have a soft tender quality in its bodily felt sense. We are often left with a peaceful feeling afterwards. There may also be a feeling of release. With compassion, we are not comparing our suffering with anyone else’s. We are knowing that it was undeserved. We are aware that everyone suffers, and that it is part of life. The suffering is not perceived as a punishment. We know that we can learn from it.
With self-pity, however, people often feel like they are victims. Without necessarily thinking these thoughts at a conscious level, they often feel that they have been specifically chosen to suffer the most. They may believe that they are being punished because they are bad, or wonder what they have done to deserve it. This keeps them stuck in feeling unworthy, and expecting things to continue to go badly. It may be accompanied by cynicism and/or hopelessness. With self-pity, there is contraction in the body. People tend to focus mainly on their own suffering, and are either emotionally unaware or minimizing of others’ suffering. Rather than being soft and tender, it has a bitter flavor. The suffering feels meaningless.
Just like self-pity tends to have decreased self-worth with it, so pity toward another tends to connote a looking down on them. This is in contrast with compassion, which is from an equal stance, and feels more connected. |
So invite compassion for yourself and others without fear, and avoid self pity, feeling like a victim, and pity for others. The world is not against you or anyone, though things can get pretty rough at times.