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Self-Pity Contracts, Self-Compassion Expands

When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives." Kristin Neff


I was going through a heart-shattering break up from the “love of my life” in my early 20s. I was overwhelmed in the emotional pain and talked about incessantly. A friend said to me, “you’d be better off if you quit feeling so sorry for yourself.”


Her words were a verbal cold glass of water in the face. Ouch. I will never forget them. It was one of those profound moments when a truth penetrated my habitual way of thinking.

I have had challenges in life that definitely can be considered traumatic and I could be labeled a victim. The physical victimization was a short time, the more destructive consequences is what my innocent brain interpreted it to mean. Here’s the roster:


· I will always struggle because I experienced this situation.

· I must not have mattered or it wouldn’t have happened

· I have to control life so nothing “bad” ever happens again

· My life would have been better had this not happened


These thoughts are from a brain that believes its interpretations without question and unconsciously lives life through the lens of these thoughts. In my narrow-minded unconsciousness, I had a fair amount of self-pity. Self-pity is defined as excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles. In other words, self-pitying thoughts about my interpretation of my past.


My emotions and intelligent body always alert me to when I’ve entered my well-rotated pity party stories. Everything and I mean everything seems harder. There is a deflation in my body, the energy is heavy and thick. Think Eeyore.


There is nothing wrong with self-pity, please don’t judge yourself if you experience it. It’s just one way our brains interpret events. It is just not wise or useful and rarely helps, but it is certainly human.


What I am finding is much more helpful, healthy and life-affirming than self-pity, is self-compassion.

Through the lens of wise self-compassion, my roster changes quite dramatically. See the examples below:


· I will always struggle because I experienced this situation.


I sometimes struggle, as all humans do. My brain innocently blames it on past events. All energetic emotions move.


· I must not have mattered or it wouldn’t have happened


Events do not define me. I innocently personalized events.

We are all strands of God’s DNA. We all matter.


· I have to control life so nothing “bad” ever happens again


Oh boy that’s a good one. Humans are resilient, I am ok no matter what shows up. My brain will have lots to say about it.


· My life would have been better had this not happened


I don’t know that to be true, but I know my brain likes to pretend it knows. Sometimes I wonder if souls that have been challenged by difficult life events, have been expanded and can experience deeper gratitude, wisdom and understanding.


Sometimes when I get caught up in habitual ways of seeing the past, I metaphorically draw a circle around all the thoughts and step out of it. I see the thoughts…I am not the thoughts. This feels very compassionate and caring. Remembering who I really am always does. Ongoing self-pity feels painful. It’s like adding a ten-pound sack of concrete to an already heavy load.


The sides of the road have rumble strips, they are a safety feature to alert inattentive drivers to potential danger. They cause a tactile vibration and an audible rumbling. We too have safety features built into us. Our heavy feelings, like self-pity, are similar to rumble strips. When I’m veering into unwise thinking, my body and emotions let me know by it’s discomfort, tightening, and overwhelm. For many years I didn’t know it was a safety feature and mistook it to mean the circumstances of my life were victimizing me. Que self-pity. Now I marvel at our design.


I say all of this with no judgment. I saw things differently when I could….not one second before.


Do you recognize self-pity in your thoughts? How does your body respond?


How do you imagine it would be if you interchanged self-pity for self-compassion?


Do you see the built in safety feature?











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