Pain + Drama = Self-Pity

March 19, 2010

I find the tricky part of self-pity to be the fact that it is usually rooted in some amount of genuine pain.

Our culture has encouraged us to wrap our pain in drama and the result is usually self-pity.  Betrayal, loss, abuse, injury… they all hurt.  There is no getting around this.  They are however entirely typical and frequent events.  Nobody is exempt.

We unfortunately, whether knowingly or unknowingly, add drama to our pain and thereby, throw a bucket of gas on the fire.  We multiply our pain.  We often say, “It’s not fair, How could this happen to me? I don’t deserve this, How could he?  How could she?  I’ll show him/her, Why me? etc”.

Closing in on my mid-40’s, I have yet to meet the person my age who has been spared some form of painful calamity or gross injustice in life.  I would be wary of anyone who felt they hadn’t.  Illness, loss, injury, divorce, betrayal, financial setback, job-loss, abuse, natural disaster.  Who hasn’t been through one of these?  None are fair and they all hurt.

The day I learned to simply say, “this hurts”, and drop the followup statement like, “how could she? I don’t deserve this? I’ll show them? Its not fair?, etc”… or a real sneaky one, … talking about the injustice over and over with as many people as possible, was the day my pain stopped morphing into self-pity (as often).  Life took a turn toward becoming more manageable.

When we express our pain with the addition of drama, it is usually distasteful to others and they become intolerant.  So we are often unable to find genuine help because we push others away.  Instead, I have found that simply saying, “Man this hurts and I don’t really know what to do about it”, was often an effective way to seek help dealing with the pain.  Especially from those who have walked a similar path before me.

The advice back was often, “You just have to go through it a day at a time”.  This was not what my self-pity wanted to hear.  It didn’t feed the drama.  Yet when I finally learned to go through the pain a day at a time and function as best I could with minimal drama and focus on positives, life did indeed get better and the pain began to subside.  Very quickly in fact.

Others relate to the pain of the experience more than the drama.  So today, I do my best to separate the two, and avoid the drama altogether.  This is the easier, softer way.  Even though the unrecoved parts of my thinking want to run to the drama.






  1. Good topic…..last week I was mentioning to one of the folks at the hall how I was amazed at the common thread of “road rage” stories when people are sharing. She told me something so simple that I was amazed my egotistical brain hadn’t thought of it…..”you flip out in traffic because something else is bothering you”. Piling gasoline on top of issues on top of drama…..but when you retrace your emotional footsteps, WHAM-O…..it’s always something like the fact you were running late, got a bad phone call or email, forgot to pay a bill, etc. Then instead of bringing yourself back to center, you do the easy thing and take it out on the first person going 50mph in the fast lane….

    Anyway, as always, good to read what you have to say.

    Take care,

  2. Hey Jerry…..

    Interestingly, looking at my road rage behaviour is one area that I really discover my selfishness and self-pity…. and drama.

    Think about it… we take the behaviour of strangers so personally in traffic. As if they should know to drive in exact accordance with our tastes and needs at that moment.

    And we often react as if their displeasing behaviour is a deliberate lob at us.

    Road rage is so petty. Not that I am completely past it. Glad to say I do it a lot less. And when I do, I always take a moment to reflect back and see where I am being dramatic, petty, immature, or ridiculous.

    Seldom is there a case where someone deserves my rage. Yet I am the one who suffers most but letting it rattle me.

    Good point.



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