Self pity is a habitual behaviour that drags you into depression.
In depression, if self pitying behaviour continues, it can lead you to feeling overwhelmed, and helpless.
If you are suffering from alcoholism, or other addictions, self-pity has the potential to kill you.
Self-Pity - A cry for help
Sometimes self pity arises when you feel unable to accept a situation. You may feel like a victim. Other times you may be struggling to cope, or maybe don't have the skills to handle a situation.
Self Pity - The Pathway to Suicide
In general, self-pitying behaviour, or feeling sorry for yourself, makes your situation worse. When your feelings of helplessness deepen to the level of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts may arise.
Self Pity - a character defect
In 12 step recovery programmes, self-pity is recognised as a character defect. Here is a story of discovery about self-pity:
Deadly Self-Pity - a story of recovery
Over the four and a half years that I fought for a fair and just outcome in the financial aspects of my marriage separation I became increasingly depressed. During the marriage I worked hard, was quite successful, and provided well for my family. I structured business shareholdings, family trusts, and other asset ownership to maximise the benefits and reduce the risks for the mutual benefit of my wife and I.
When I started on my recovery from alcoholism I managed to stay sober for 6 months, then relapsed. Two months later my wife and I agreed to separate, and I went on another drinking spree.
When the marriage collapsed NZ's Matrimonial Property Act law meant that I was severely disadvantaged compared to my ex-wife. I sought advice from accountants and lawyers. Their involvement did nothing towards finding a solution, and was enormously expensive to me personally. The accountants and lawyers disagreed on tax issues which brought me into conflict with the Inland Revenue Department. This increased my anxiety about my situation and my feelings of helplessness. The accountant's workings became increasingly incomprehensible to everyone involved, and I questioned the motives of senior partners as their accounting fees skyrocketed.
The longer the fight went on the more my ex-wife stood to gain. Leveraging her position of advantage, she had assets on which we had written agreements revalued at higher prices. The Matrimonial Property Act enabled her to walk away from written agreements we had earlier made about the value of these assets. The Act requires such agreements to have been witnessed by lawyers for both parties. I was astounded at the contrast between this law and commercial law with which I was somewhat experienced. I became resentful about at the law. It had stolen my ability to enter into a simple agreement about values that my ex wife and I had worked hard to agree upon, and had taken the care to document in good faith and in writing.
It seemed impossible to level the playing field, and my self-pity increased as I grumped and grumbled about this to people around me, especially to my father, who was an experienced and successful businessman. I felt guilty that perhaps this lead him into becoming depressed himself, and quite unwell too, as he desperately tried to help me. I pleaded with my sister for action she could have taken to circumvent the stranglehold that my ex-wife had over my shareholding in a family business I had established with her and my brother. My sister refused to help, rationalising her position with unjustified fears that the completely legal strategy suggested to reduce my ex-wife's stranglehold would damage the value of her shareholding. Instead my sister stood by my ex-wife in some sort of women's solidarity. I felt betrayed.
I was two and a half years sober and could not comprehend why I felt so beaten. I felt as if I was fighting everyone around me for my financial survival: accountants, lawyers, family, relations, in-laws, IRD, and the law. I felt alone, frightened and helpless. I felt like I was fighting for my life. In desperation I told this to my sister, and begged for her help, but she didn't believe me. My friends in the fellowship told me, "Surrender!!", but I could not understand what they meant. I had thought about suicide before, but now I proceeded to plan it in detail. I was now three years sober, and hit the lowest point I had ever experienced in my whole life. I came very close to ending it all. Desperately afraid that I would take my own life, I sought professional counselling support and put myself into an addiction rehabilitation programme. It was only through this gift of desperation that I realised that self pity was one of my character defects. I finally became conscious that self-pity was part of the disease of alcoholism that was trying to kill me.
I carried my new awareness, of "self-pity" as being one of my character defects, into "Step 5", and shared this weakness with people close to me. This was embarrassing, nevertheless I did it so that they could pull me up if I started to slip back into my old self-pitying ways. Within days my depression was lifted from me. I entirely accepted my situation. I accepted my wife's settlement demands, making no claim whatsoever for what I felt was fair. She received hundreds of thousands of dollars more than her fair share of our assets. I fired my accountants, paying them tens of thousands of dollars for incomplete and incorrect work which they admitted to but refused to correct. My new accountant was horrified at how the big accounting firm had treated me. Nevertheless I chose not to pursue the matter further through the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Instead, I just let the matter drop. I personally took on a whole range of very expensive administrative issues needed to tidy up the situation. All these things I now found I could do painlessly and efficiently.
Being released from self-pity was a miraculous transformation. Having discovered how dangerous self-pity was for me I became entirely ready to have it removed. This set in process a domino effect of wonderful events in my life that are beyond my wildest dreams.
Upon reflection, it seems like divine providence that I chanced upon the only abstinence-based CADS rehabilitation centre at Mt Eden in Auckland, and it is a 12-steps programme. Thank God for AA! and for the twelve step programme of recovery.
Gratitude - an Antidote to Self Pity
I am now grateful for the dark times that lead me to awareness that self pity was handicapping me.
As many have discovered before me, gratitude is a sure cure for self-pity.
Poor Me! Poor Me! Pour me another drink
This phrase "Poor me! Poor me!! Pour me another drink" represents the self-pitying talk that can lead people into alcoholism. In recovery from alcoholism, self-pitying behaviour greases the downward slide into relapse, and relapse is guaranteed to return us into the hell from where we came.
Discontentment makes rich men poor while contentment makes poor men rich.