Chronic Pain and the Self Pity, Depression Trap
If you are someone who is currently in the grieving process because someone you love died within the last five years, some of the tips below by Dr. Trunzo (article: “The Best Life Possible”) about acceptance in regards to chronic health conditions may be useful to you as well in regards to your grief, so please scroll down to read that.
Don’t forget to see my two previous posts about Covert Narcissism, as those posts explain that sometimes, people with Covert Narcissism will either exaggerate or lie about physical or mental health illness to garner sympathy and attention from others, and they often have a “victim mentality.”
In particular, in (Link): this post about Covert Narcissism, scroll down to find the section entitled “The Psychosomatic.” (That section is located about half-way down that page.)
You’ll notice that a lot of the tips and advice in the first article below, which was reviewed by a medical doctor, echo and repeat the same set of tips and advice I have given to (Link): people I’ve known before, people who insist these tips do not work (though some of it worked for me or for other people, in regards to clinical depression), or they dismiss this advice as being nothing but mere “platitudes” or “pep talks,”, or, (Link): some of these people dismiss this type of advice on other grounds.
Recap on my situation:
I was diagnosed with clinical depression by a psychiatrist at a young age, had it verified by three additional psychiatrists as I got into my 30s.
I lived with depression for over 35 years, and largely found my way out of it (on my own), and I can tell you that escaping depression involved doing some of the very things mentioned in the articles below.
Other than lower back pain I’ve dealt with since a teen, I’ve not had chronic physical pain.
Chronic Physical Pain & Mental Health
From my research into the topic of chronic pain and mental health, I’m finding articles by people (some doctors, some lay persons) who live with a chronic pain condition who do talk about the possible slide into self pity, how to avoid it, and how to manage any depression that results from, or accompanies, the pain.
So obviously, things can be done to change here – it’s not as though a person is doomed with no recourse if they live with a physical health problem to necessarily stay in a hopeless, despondent emotional or psychological state (this is also true for physically disabled persons who (Link): must use wheelchairs)
(Link): The best life possible by Joseph Trunzo
Living with chronic illness is hard. But there are psychological techniques that make it possible to thrive even when ill
‘Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.’
John Wooden (1910-2010), NCAA basketball coach
by Joseph Trunzo, professor of psychology at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and a clinical psychologist. He is the author of Living Beyond Lyme: Reclaim Your Life From Lyme Disease and Chronic Illness (2018).
—- — —-
Before Donna got her diagnosis, she thought of herself as a musician, a busy professional, a volunteer, a mother, a grandmother. After she got her diagnosis – Parkinson’s disease, at age 58 – she thought of herself as a patient.
The time she used to spend engaging in the things that gave her life meaning was eaten up by doctor’s appointments, diagnostic tests and constant monitoring of her symptoms, her energy, her reactions to medication. Her sense of loss was profound and undeniable.
Unfortunately, Donna’s experience is all too common. Heart disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, depression, cancer, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease: the list goes on.
I would guess that most people know someone close to them who is suffering from one of these debilitating chronic conditions, if not struggling with a diagnosis themselves.
However, as a clinical psychologist, I see many people trying to navigate the daily vagaries of chronic afflictions. I’ve worked with people who have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, Lyme disease, obesity, all manner of cardiovascular diseases, multiple sclerosis, brain injuries, paralysis and many other illnesses.
Naturally, I also see people on a regular basis who are dealing with chronic mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, bipolar disorder and so forth.
The causes of these conditions are varied and multifaceted. The underlying factor for all of them, however, is that, in the absence of a cure, people want to live the best life they possibly can, regardless of their affliction or disability.
While each person and each condition presents its own set of challenges, there are some unifying principles in helping people who are suffering from chronic illnesses to live better, more meaningful lives.
In my practice, I approach these issues from a therapeutic perspective known as acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT (said as the word, not the acronym). I encourage anyone dealing with similar issues to learn about this approach, as it has been helpful to my clients and countless others.
…Generally, living as rich and meaningful a life as possible when you are struggling with a chronic illness requires a great deal of psychological flexibility.
With chronic illness, rigidity in your thinking and behaviour is the greatest barrier to living well with your illness.
Psychological flexibility is the idea that we need to be present with what is happening right now, free of judgment, and to respond in a way that moves us forward rather than getting stuck in the emotions or feelings of the moment – anger, frustration, sadness, pain and so forth.
While becoming more psychologically flexible might seem like a daunting, if not impossible task, it is not a talent available only to a select few. Rather, it is a skill, and any skill can be learned by just about anyone with enough practice.
Below are some approaches that you can use to help you increase your psychological flexibility and, I hope, help you live a more meaningful life, even if you have a chronic illness.
These are the same things I try to help clients such as Donna do in our work together, and I like to think they’ve found them useful in navigating through the darkness of chronic illness.
If they resonate with you at all, I recommend doing some further reading on ACT and maybe working with a professional ACT therapist to help you live the best life you possibly can.
…Be the thinker, not the thought:
This phrase refers to how we handle our internal voice, the constantly running commentary that we experience all day, every day, and can never seem to silence. …
Be open to acceptance:
This is perhaps the most difficult and misunderstood concept of ACT.
For many, especially those dealing with a chronic illness, when they hear the term ‘acceptance’, they get upset.
They liken it to being told to suck it up, to just deal with it or to stop complaining.
In many contexts, this might indeed be the message that’s being sent with this word, but this is not the case from the ACT perspective.
In fact, sucking it up and not complaining is often the opposite of acceptance. If you’re doing those things at the request of ‘well-wishers’, you’re probably denying your experience, stifling your natural reactions and avoiding reality.
…The nature of chronic illness is that it is ongoing, and in many cases degenerative or permanent. Recognising when you have little to no control over something can help you to stop struggling against it.
Validating – not minimising or negating – your experience can help you to honestly assess your condition, your options and your choices.
Allowing yourself to feel what you’re feeling can help you to move through it, and turn your actions and attention to more meaningful pursuits.
For example, research on individuals with spinal cord injury in Canada suggests that those who reach a state of acceptance about their condition end up adapting better, being higher functioning and feeling more positive about their lives.
This is not to say that, if someone with such an injury had an opportunity to be able to walk again, they shouldn’t pursue it.
It is to say that spending all of one’s time and energy trying not to feel a certain way, or trying to change a currently unchangeable situation, is a fantastically inefficient and ineffective way to move through life.
There is a time and place to fight your illness, but it is not 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Dropping the moment-to-moment struggle, and accepting where you are and what you can do in this moment can be powerfully transformative. It frees up energy and time to engage with family, friends, hobbies, leisure activities, rest and so forth.
You probably hear a lot about being mindful, meditating, staying focused on the now, not getting stuck in the past or caught up in the future. This is all good and wise, but what does it actually mean?
What if your present is painful and difficult, why would you want to stay there? Staying present is another tricky concept.
[The author goes on to explain how to “stay present”]
..The problem is that, when you are not present, it compromises your ability to move through your current situation. A big part of noticing your thoughts, for example, is being present with the moment.
Regrets about the past and worries about the future do nothing for your current situation.
You need to deal with what’s right in front of you, be it pain, anger, resentment, guilt, joy, fear or love. Whatever it is, it is with you right here, right now.
Your job is to try to be present with it, even dig into it, because when it comes to emotions and physical sensations, there is no way over, no way under, and no way around – there is only through.
And you cannot move through something if you are not present to it.
Not being present is often a form of avoidance, which tends to get us into more trouble than if we just allowed ourselves to feel what we’re feeling in the first place.
…Be here now, not there then:
No one wants to be sick but, when we are, we tend to think of what we were like when we were well, or how we hope to be at some point in the future.
There’s nothing wrong with remembering or hoping, but when you allow past or future versions of yourself to skew your perception of your present – when you make decisions based on how you felt then versus how you feel now – it can lead to bad outcomes.
…Being here now, not there then, is like being present with your current self versus your past or future self.
It doesn’t mean you’ll be this way forever, it just means this is where you are right now, so make decisions about your life based on that, not where you were or where you wish to be. Ultimately, this will allow for better decision making and increased functionality.
… Know What Matters
…Chronic illness might have robbed you of much of your abilities. You might feel like a shell of your former self. You might not be able to walk around the block anymore, or even to walk at all.
Some days, maybe you can’t even get out of bed. Maybe you’ll never get out of bed again. Your stamina might be gone. You might become incredibly fatigued by the simplest of tasks.
Maybe you can’t think clearly, or you can’t be in a room with the lights on. Eating might be a challenge; enjoying food might be a thing of the past. You might be in pain – all the time.
With chronic illness, you can easily spend all day cataloguing what you can no longer do, but to what end? Does this move you towards your values?
Maybe you can’t engage with your friends and family exactly the way you like; but if you can engage with them somehow, no matter how small, that is meaningful.
Our lives are ultimately determined by our behaviours – by what we do – and any action, no matter how small it might be, that moves you towards your values is better than doing nothing or shutting yourself down because it’s no longer the way it was or how you ideally want it to be.
Maybe you can’t read to your grandchildren anymore. Can they read to you? In what way can you engage with them that’s consistent with your values?
While it might not be the ideal way, it is a way, and anything that moves you in that direction, no matter how seemingly small, is going to be better for you and those who love you.
When we are actively engaged in value-driven behaviours, life is more meaningful, even if it is different than it was before.
…You have every right to be angry, frustrated and resentful. No one should tell you otherwise. You feel how you feel, but you don’t have to let those feelings – or your attempts to control them – dictate how you live.
If you can become more psychologically flexible, if you can break free of the rigid emotional confines of chronic illness, you can fashion a better and more meaningful life for yourself and your loved ones.
You might not have a choice about your illness, but you do have choices about how to live with it.
At any given moment, those choices are either moving you towards your values – the things that matter – or they are not. Choose the former – it will lead to a more meaningful life.
— end excerpts —
To read the rest of that page on Aeon’s site, please (Link): click here
Continuing on with more Resources…
By Lisa Marie Basile, October 2020
…When I started first experiencing ankylosing spondylitis symptoms, I was in my mid-twenties…
I felt misery welling up inside me
In the beginning, I did. I think I vented so much I lost friends. I felt a dark wound open up inside me.
The PTSD of my early life sort of jumped into overdrive — and after my diagnosis, I recognized something welling up inside me: Misery. Suffering. Trauma. Sorrow. I knew these feelings well.
I knew them closely for my entire adolescence and teen years into adulthood. I felt safe, familiar, at-home with these feelings — and that meant that I was at risk for falling in love with them, letting them swirl around me like a hazy, drunk albatross of pain.
When I was younger, those painful experiences gave me a sense of identity. I was the foster kid. I was the girl with the sick mom. It gave me a sense of other-ness, mostly so I could avoid getting close to people.
But the reality is, that doesn’t serve me — or any of us. We aren’t broken or bad or different simply because we went through pain. We are just people who need support.
And we deserve happiness — not to live in a dark, bleak palace of suffering just because it’s what we know.
I’m trying to choose happiness
I want to choose happiness — even if it’s not always easy and my body hurts. And because I deserve it. So do you.
Plenty of psychologists explore this addiction to unhappiness.
When we sit in our self-pity all the time (obviously, a little of it is totally normal) it means we don’t have to take accountability for our feelings, to advocate for ourselves, to embrace the things that give us joy. It’s not uncommon.
David Sack, MD, writes, “Lifelong struggles with trauma or other negative experiences may fuel an unconscious desire to continually return to the status quo of unhappiness.”1
Ain’t that the truth.
“In my experience, happiness is complicated….it may be true that happiness is a choice. To some extent, we choose our own thoughts and reactions, which impact the way we feel.
“We can improve our happiness quotient by taking steps to change our thinking (e.g., keeping a gratitude journal, staying mindful of the present moment, accepting what is, or developing healthier coping mechanisms).
We can view our emotions as a signal that some aspect of life needs to change and take action to return to a better state of mind.”1
I want to choose happiness. Not to see my life as a series of woes, including my illness. Not to give in to the ‘why me’ thinking that I definitely have felt before. I want to remember what is good and beautiful and luminous.
…I’m simply saying, sometimes we have to say no to the comfort of sorrow and actively seek joy. We have to advocate for others who deserve joy.
We have to know when to put a brake on the abyss.
— end excerpts —
Emphasis added to some of the work below, by me, via bold face type:
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD
on September 27, 2020
For millions of people, chronic illnesses and depression are facts of life.
A chronic illness is a condition that lasts for a very long time and usually cannot be cured completely, although some illnesses can be controlled or managed through lifestyle (diet and exercise) and certain medications.
Examples of chronic illnesses include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.
…Many people with these illnesses become depressed. In fact, depression is one of the most common complications of chronic illness.
It’s estimated that up to one-third of people with a serious medical condition have symptoms of depression.
It’s not hard to see the cause and effect relationship between chronic illness and depression. Serious illness can cause tremendous life changes and limit your mobility and independence.
…The combination of chronic illness and depression might lead you to isolate yourself, which is likely to make the depression even worse.
…The symptoms get treated, but not the underlying depression. When you have both a chronic illness and depression, you need to treat both at the same time.
Depression is treated much the same way for someone who is chronically ill as someone who isn’t.
Early diagnosis and treatment can ease distress along with the risk of complications and suicide. Many times, depression treatment can improve your overall medical condition, a better quality of life, and a greater likelihood of sticking to a long-term treatment plan.
…More than 80% of people with depression can be treated successfully with medicine, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
…Tips for Living With a Chronic Illness
Depression, disability, and chronic illness form a vicious cycle. …
To avoid depression:
- Try not to isolate yourself. Reach out to family and friends. If you don’t have a solid support system, take steps to build one. Ask your doctor or therapist about support groups and other community resources.
- Learn as much as you can about your condition. Knowledge is power when it comes to getting the best treatment available and keeping your sense of independence and control.
- Make sure that you have medical support from experts you trust and can talk to openly about your ongoing questions and concerns.
- If you suspect that your medication is bringing you down, talk to your doctor about other possible treatments.
- Talk with your doctor about pain management.
- As much as is possible, keep doing the things you like to do. You’ll stay connected as well as boost your self-confidence and sense of community.
If you think you’re depressed, don’t wait to get help. Find a therapist or counselor you trust.
— end excerpts —
Can’t Help But Notice (Again)
Notice how the tips above state to avoid self-isolation (to be around other people face to face more often), to “keep doing the things you like to do.”
These are among a few of the suggestions I reminded my ex friend of, but which she bit my head off over – she dismissed these valid, effective (for many people) approaches as being nothing but “platitudes.”
There is nothing on that list about recovering from depression from sitting around all day watching television, complaining to friends, feeling sorry for yourself, or receiving continual emotional support from friends, even if and when someone is also dealing with other circumstances in addition to having depression, such as chronic physical pain.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting or receiving emotional support, but it won’t heal you or solve your problems.
If you want to lessen or get rid of depression, you will have to become active, which involves making changes.
And nobody else can do that for you but you.
by Jordyn C.
There are not many things stronger than the bond many of us in the chronic illness community have with each other. Everyone deals with different conditions in different situations, but there are many resources available. The thing is, you have to want to help yourself.
Self-pity is the Achilles heel of chronic illness. It will never help you to accomplish anything. …
— end excerpts —
(Link): Grieving Your Losses by Bruce Campbell
One of the greatest challenges of chronic illness is coming to terms with loss and the accompanying emotion, grief. While grief is usually associated with the death of a loved one, it can occur after any loss. And chronic illness brings with it many serious losses. We may be forced to give up our job, which provides income, companionship and challenge.
…The pervasiveness of loss presents us with one of our biggest tasks: bringing meaning to life when so much has been taken away. Dealing successfully with loss is crucial to dealing positively with chronic illness.
Working through our grief can produce a double benefit. Not only are we resolving a key psychological issue in chronic illness, we may be helping ourselves physically as well.
Grieving is associated with the flare-up of symptoms, so resolving feelings of loss can help control symptoms.
…We will look at this topic from two perspectives. This article discusses how to work through loss. The next one will describe how to move beyond loss to build a new life.
Responses to Loss
There are several common responses to the losses brought by chronic illness. …
Denial and Disbelief
Receiving a diagnosis of ME/CFS or fibromyalgia may produce relief, because finally you have a name for your suffering, but this initial reaction may be accompanied by shock and disbelief.
Getting a diagnosis of either condition means being told you have a condition for which there are no consistently effective medical treatments and no cure.
Common reactions include ignoring the disease by continuing to lead a busy life or seeking a cure by going from doctor to doctor or by trying special diets or treatments.
Denial can be an adaptive response, allowing you to adjust gradually to all that is different and to the uncertainty brought by the illness.
Denial is a way to keep hope alive during a time in which your life has been turned upside down.
But if you get stuck in this reaction, you won’t be able to face your situation realistically.
Frustration, rage, and envy are common reactions to loss and the experience of having your life changed by something over which you had no control.
They are honest emotions that honor the recognition that life changed for no apparent reason, becoming much more difficult.
Frustration can also be triggered by the experience of uncertainty. Symptoms wax and wane, making it difficult to plan.
Self-management strategies can reduce uncertainty. Taking regular rests, for example, can help make your life more predictable by reducing the swings between high symptoms and times of remission.
Resting ahead of an event can make it more likely you can attend. A health log can enable you see patterns in your symptoms, showing you what makes your symptoms worse.
Feeling angry is normal and can have positive effects if it motivates you to work to feel better or moves you to channel your energy to help others.
But anger can be destructive if it is expressed in a way that drives away people who want to help and on whom you may be dependent.
Blowing-up, expressing anger by shouting or by being cruel is hurtful.
Sadness and Depression
Depression and feelings of sadness are common in chronic illness, natural responses to loss, uncertainty, limits and the discomfort of ongoing symptoms.
Depression is a response which lessens further stress or trauma by shutting down, allowing time to process what has already occurred.
Depression may also be triggered by a long period of suffering before receiving a diagnosis. Years of inappropriate or insensitive treatment may engender a sense of hopelessness.
Usually depression eases over time. If it lasts, you will have a sense of despair and inertia.
Several strategies may be helpful.
First, using self-help techniques such as those discussed in this article on depression can help you move forward, refuting the belief that all is hopeless.
Second, you can work to change your thinking so that it is more realistic and helpful. See the discussion of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in the second article on emotions.
Third, since a considerable number of ME/CFS and fibromyalgia patients suffer from clinical depression, you may be helped by professional guidance and medications.
This complex reaction involves a combination of factors. On the one hand, it involves recognizing that life has changed, perhaps permanently and certainly for an extended period of time.
Acceptance means letting go of your past life and also of the future as you had envisioned it before becoming ill.
But at the same time, acceptance involves the willingness and even eagerness to build a new life. I call this combination acceptance with a fighting spirit.
This two-fold attitude was summarized by ME/CFS patient Dean Anderson, whose account of recovery is posted in our Success Stories section.
He says that the key to his recovery was a certain kind of acceptance. He describes it not as resignation, but rather “an acceptance of the reality of the illness and of the need to lead a different kind of life, perhaps for the rest of my life.”
Fibromyalgia patient Joan Buchman describes a similar approach in another Success Stories article.
She writes that while she did not choose to have fibromyalgia, she did have a choice about how to live with it.
She reduced her symptoms through making lifestyle changes and developed a fulfilling life by “focusing on my many blessings.”
Both Dean and Joan came to an acceptance of the reality of their illness and the need to lead a different kind of life.
They found the key to improvement lay in the combination of accepting the illness and disciplining themselves to live with hope within the limits it imposed.
Strategies for Moving Through Grief
[This is only a partial list from their page; I will not be pasting in all strategies that the author lists]
Keep structure in your life:
Having a routine provides a sense of stability and familiarity, counteracting the feelings of disorientation and uncertainty brought by loss.
Writer Gail Cassidy suggests that routine also offers a distraction from loss.
“Do not make any unnecessary major changes in your life during times of loss, as they can further add to the existing instability and anxiety.”
Having to adjust to the many changes brought by illness is traumatic. In a situation in which you are already overloaded emotionally, it’s best to avoid people and situations that add more stress. Gail Cassidy suggests you “stay away from negative people and situations that trigger negative emotions.”
Respond positively to self-pity:
Almost everyone with chronic illness occasionally feels sorry for themselves.
It’s not surprising that we would sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotions, given the losses and stresses we experience.
Here are four ideas about how to fight back.
- Recognize self-pity is a part of serious illness: Just as symptoms wax and wane, so do emotions. Acknowledging that self-pity is happening can take some of its power away.
- You might say something like “Oh, there’s self-pity again” or “I’m feeling sorry for myself.” Also, it can help to say consoling things like “I’ve felt this was before and it’s always blown over, so probably it won’t last this time either.”
- Rest: Strong emotions are sometimes triggered by fatigue and other symptoms. In those instances, rest may help alleviate both physical symptoms and emotions.
- Connect with others: Reach out via phone, email or in-person contact. Sometimes just being in touch can change a mood. At other times it helps to have your mood acknowledged.
- Help others: Shift your attention off yourself onto what you can do for your family, friends or others in your life.
Source for above:
The ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help Program, website URL: cfsselfhelp.org.
— end excerpts —
by Contributed by LuAnn Pierce, LCSW
Many people flow in and out of anger and depression, rather than progressing neatly through one stage and into the next.
It is often said that depression is anger turned inward, which makes expression of anger in a safe and effective way very important. Getting adequate support from formal and informal support networks is critical.
It is not unusual for tempers to flare and fuses to shorten during this period of adjustment.
People who are typically long-suffering seem to be constantly on edge; those with fewer coping skills may be in a chronic state of agitation and irritability, if not outright rage. It often seems as if they are pushing away those who are closest to them at the time when they need them most.
Loved ones may unconsciously spend less time with the person who seems to find fault in their best efforts. Children are often left confused and afraid. Doctors and other providers frequently find themselves being blamed for their inability to help.
This is all part of the process of adaptation.
The uninvited house guest often stays on well beyond the point of “wearing out his or her welcome.” Likewise, for many people, chronic illness/disability is not a short-term inconvenience but rather a long-term, often permanent way of life.
In the early stages of adaptation, the changes that happen in our lives and families may seem tolerable—at least while we still think there is a chance that the diagnosis is wrong or the cure is in the magic pipeline offered by big pharma.
Eventually, denial and bargaining give way to anger and depression. The uninvited guest is still ever-present, and no amount of cajoling or suggestions result in change.
Bouts of anger may become a way of life for a while.
…Most of the time, the person who lashes out or treats people badly feels guilty and needs the opportunity to make amends.
Depression often occurs during the adaptation process, and may happen at other times or continue. Clinical depression can be very difficult to manage.
It is more than sadness or disappointment; depression is a collection of symptoms that exist most days for two weeks or longer and create some level of impairment in daily functioning. [The site goes on to list the symptoms]
…There is also a type of depression called situational depression that is a normal reaction to a loss or change. Almost all people with chronic illness or disabilities and their loved ones experience this. The same symptoms are involved, but the symptoms may not be present most of the time, or may not be severe enough to impair your ability to function (relationships, work, taking care of your kids, etc.).
…The best treatment for depression is believed to be a combination of talk therapy, exercise (I know—it is very hard to exercise when you are depressed), a good diet, and medication, if deemed medically necessary. The right intervention for depression depends on which type of depression you are experiencing.
For those with a few symptoms that are not present all the time, self-help may be sufficient.
People with four or more symptoms that are present most of the time probably need to see a therapist and possibly a psychiatrist.
I recommend that people talk with a therapist when dealing with situational depression and try to get as much activity in as possible.
This may mean simply walking outside to get the mail, sitting on the porch for 20 minutes to have a cup of coffee or juice, watering the plants, or walking the dog.
Sunshine is another natural remedy that increases vitamin D, which is often deficient in people who are depressed and those who do not go outside often.
Eating properly is also critical, and there are natural supplements available at your local health store that may help with situational depression. Talk to your medical provider or therapist about these options.
— end excerpts —
Medically reviewed by Kendra Kubala, PsyD — Written by Hope Gillette
While it’s natural to feel a little self-pity at times, staying in this state of mind can prevent you from moving forward and being present.
….When you’re wrapped up in self-pity, it can prevent you from “seeing the forest through the trees,” as they say — meaning it may be hard to see past self-pity to the present moment and the joy in everyday life.
“When we don’t get what we want or feel like we weren’t appropriately validated for the work we did, it’s not uncommon to withdraw into a state of self-pity,” explains Dr. Wayne Pernell, a clinical psychologist out of Benicia, California.
Self-pity can make you feel like nothing ever goes your way, and so there’s no point in trying to solve your problems.
It’s an “energy suck,” according to Pernell.
“Self-pity isn’t something a person just suddenly snaps out of,” he says. “Several pints of ice-cream and numerous friends offering supportive comments don’t make it better.”
Chronic feelings of self-pity may not always stem from an overwhelming amount of stress.
Sometimes, what you’re feeling presents as self-pity, but is really a need for validation.
A need for validation can mean — for good or bad — that you feel you deserve the outcome of events. When something negative happens, you can feel as though it’s because you did something to warrant the unpleasant result.
That negative self-validation can then be reinforced by sympathetic reactions from those around you, creating external validation.
“Self-pity is a form of external validation that something bad has happened to us or that our circumstance is out of our control,” says Rebecca Mores, a licensed psychotherapist in Beverly, Massachusetts.
“The validation happens when a person gets attention from others, reinforcing a way to get attention,” she explains.
The antidote to self-pity
“The best way to snap out of self-pity is to have a strategy to interrupt it when you can feel it coming on,” Pernell recommends.
This requires self-awareness to recognize when you’re entering into a self-pity state and allows you to focus on a healthier state of mind: self-compassion.
….Having self-compassion can mean accepting that sometimes “these things happen,” rather than asking yourself: “Why do things always happen to me?”
Switching self-pity to self-compassion can start with your perspective. When you’re focused on self-pity, the problems of those around you can seem insignificant.
By reminding yourself that everyone struggles and has stress, you can help shift your perspective. You’re not the only one who faces problems each day.
If other people can overcome, there’s a chance you can, too.
“Self-pity becomes a negative thing because it maximizes the (Link): victim mentality,” Mores says. “If you believe you hold the role of the victim, you are removing your power and personal responsibility.”
Coupling mindfulness with gratitude can help encourage a sense of contentment — the opposite of what happens during self-pity.
Even small moments of enjoyment during the day, like savoring a well-cooked meal, are positive experiences you can be grateful for.
Gratitude may do more than just help you focus on the positive. Recent research suggests gratitude is directly tied to a positive sense of overall well-being.
Self-pity can be isolating and repel those who’d like to support you.
External validation from others during self-pity can also create a vicious cycle.
You may have told yourself you deserved something negative, and loved ones offered you comfort. Now, to get that comfort again, you may be tempted to come to them with more negativity.
People who care about you can lend a sympathetic ear if you vent productively, and they’re there to help support you through difficult times.
Identifying the sources of your stress briefly and being solution-focused instead of problem-focused can help you overcome challenges in life.
Almost everyone has moments of self-pity. Daily life can be a challenge — and when it rains, it sometimes pours.
Staying wrapped up in those negative feelings can keep you feeling stuck.
— end excerpts —
And there we have it, many comments by either physicians, psychologists, or laypersons with chronic physical pain who explain there is a way to not give in to self pity or depression even in the midst of chronic pain, or there are steps one can take to lessen any depression that does exist.
I didn’t make any of this stuff up. It’s not just me saying any of this.
If you’re quick to dismiss any of the advice above by these other authors, or to write it off as being not “sensitive” or “supportive” enough, or as being too “pep talk-y” or too “platitude-y,” get honest with yourself, and ask yourself, why is that?
(Link): 10 Signs Someone’s Always Playing the Victim (6.05 long video)
(Link): The “Victim” Narcissist | How to tell who is playing the victim (17 minute long video)
Related Posts on this Blog: