For recovering alcoholics, self pity can be an especially destructive character defect.
Self pity is especially destructive because:
1) It is an obsessive form of thinking. Therefore, it zaps our mental energy to be productive in other areas.
2) It helps justify relapse. Therefore, self pity becomes a very dangerous state of mind for us to be in.
3) It leads to inaction and lack of growth. Therefore, self pity is self defeating.
The difference between self pity and genuine emotions
Self pity is a mental game, not an emotion. It is choosing to feel like a victim when you have not really been victimized.
That probably seems untrue to those of us who are trapped in self pity and feel a lot of emotional turmoil at the same time. But understand that there is a difference between a mental obsession and a genuine feeling.
It is normal to grieve and to feel sadness. Self pity, however, goes further than this by replaying our supposed “victimization” in our minds, over and over again. We can then use these wrongdoings to justify anything to ourselves. This is the danger of self pity.
If something bad happens in your life, it is normal to feel sadness. Just make sure that you are not playing the mental game of self pity with that emotion. Feel the emotion for what it is. Be sad. But don’t take whatever events caused that sadness and turn them into a mental obsession for yourself. If you do, then you are headed down the road towards self pity.
The cure for self pity has 3 parts
1) Gratitude – This is a major key in fighting self pity. If you can maintain gratitude, then it is impossible to feel sorry for yourself. You can cultivate gratitude by:
* Practicing. Say prayers of gratitude every day.
* Writing it down. Make a gratitude list. Put everything you are grateful for on it.
* Helping others. This shifts the focus on to them and also will create gratitude for your own situation.
2) Self esteem – Making progress in recovery and achieving personal growth will eventually boost your self esteem. This is an important strategy for overcoming self pity because it will help you to prevent self pity from ever happening. When you achieve real growth in recovery, then you’ll realize your blessings and be less susceptible to feeling sorry for yourself. You will feel empowered instead of victimized.
3) Zero tolerance policy – This is the mental defense against self pity. Through raising your awareness and being mindful, you simply shut down any attempts for your mind to play the self pity game. To do this, you just need to make a decision that you are not going to allow yourself to follow this line of thinking. When you catch yourself starting to have these thoughts, you can focus instead on gratitude and your blessings in life, forcing yourself to move on and be solution-oriented instead of dwelling on the problem.