Wednesday, February 11, 2004


There are few things more repellent than self-pity. At the first sign of it in others, my usual empathy instinct shuts down immediately and I become grim and cold. I have good childhood reasons for this--I grew up in a house where people competed with each other to see who could feel the sorriest for themselves.

It's as if there is only a finite amount of sympathy available for a given interaction, and if you take it all for yourself there is none left for me to give you.

And self-pity isn't the same thing as sadness (which immediately rouses my deepest empathy). Self-pity is the opposite of sadness.

Sadness is the psyche's honest response to tragedy, while self-pity is fundamentally dishonest: It is cowardice shabbily and transparently disguised as sadness.

Sadness is private, while self-pity demands loudly and aggressively to be noticed.

Sadness is an internal process, while self-pity is a calculation designed to manipulate others.

I could go on for hours like this, but you get the idea.

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