Empathy, Pity, and Self-Pity

I wrote a long, rambling post earlier today about contradictions and families and relationships and gossip and so on and so on….. it didn’t really go anywhere.

After some reflection on my part, and some thoughtful suggestions from someone who read my draft, I reconsidered and did not post it. Then after listening to an episode of Dr. Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast I realized that when I wrote that post I was asking for pity. It’s what I’ve been doing here on my blog, and with anyone who will listen. Asking people to feel sorry for me because I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been wallowing in it.

In this podcast episode, a listener asked Dr. Brown about the difference between disappointment and self-pity. She talks about disappointment being about something specific and self-pity becoming a global assessment of one’s self in which you tell yourself things like “I can’t catch a break.” “Nothing ever goes my way.” When you’re feeling sorry for yourself you’re looking for pity rather than empathy because no one else can possibly feel the same way you do because no one else has had it as hard as you.

I should know better than that. Isn’t it interesting how easy it is to spot it in other people but we often have a blind spot when it comes to ourselves. I’ve been miserable and I wanted everyone to know how miserable I was. While I was writing that I accept responsibility for my situation, I was also saying that what I’m feeling and going through is so much harder for me than for anyone else.

Don’t feel sorry for me. What I’m going through isn’t any harder than your typical divorce. If I wasn’t such an emotional ninny I would say it’s not that hard at all. It’s not like we have any property to fight about and no one has cause to argue about anything: no cheating, no abuse, no drama.

I was going to go out tonight to see the band but now that the gig has been cancelled I will be home probably binging on Netflix and drinking some tea (because I’m out of everything else). Or maybe I will do some writing. I’m working on a story that has some autobiographical elements to it and now I think I need to take another look at it with a different perspective.

The animated short below featuring Dr. Brown again is on a related subject: sympathy vs empathy. It’s not quite what this blog post is about, but it’s close. It wouldn’t be one of my blog posts if I didn’t ramble a little bit and go off-topic.

Next time I’ll try to move on to a different subject and spare you the wallowing. I promise.

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