I CARE ABOUT OTHERS IN PAIN –
but my first responsibility is to my own!
PREVIOUS: “Feeling Sorry For” – Unhealthy
REMINDER : See ACRONYM page for abbrev.
2. For Others – POSITIVE:
“Feeling sorry for” someone can be considered a positive quality if it’s an aspect of: (from Wikipedia)
A. Compassion: a human emotion prompted by the pain of others. More vigorous than empathy… giving rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering. It is often, though not inevitably, the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism …
B. Altruism: a selfless concern for the welfare of others…. tending to do good to others, regardless of self…. a behavior that costs the doer and benefits others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions.
• ‘Feeling sorry for’ may be generated by any situation we personally identify with, or simply having a compassionate heart for the plight of others who are less fortunate. It is considered the highest form of love (Agape) – where we put our own needs aside to help someone else
• We may or may not be able to do anything practical for the millions who suffer, but on a one-to-one basis, at the very least we can LISTEN to someone who needs a caring heart & ear, without judgment or advice
➼ For this type of ‘feeling sorry for’ to be legitimate – the recipient of our concern must be truly in need of help & not have the ability to do for themselves – at least temporarily. This is not always easy to determine, especially is it’s someone we care about, who is acting out of the victim role. See “Rescuing” -vs- “Healthy Helping”.
3. For OURSELVES
From some 12-step programs, religious communities, family & friends, & various self-help gurus / books – we often hear these admonitions even when we’re expressing genuine pain: “Get off the pity pot” , “You’re JUST feeling sorry for yourself” , “Don’t wallow in your pain” , “Don’t live in the past” , “That was a long time ago” , “Are you still going on about that?” ….
These comments tell us they’re coming from someone not working to heal their old wounds (even in Program), but instead are clinging to & protecting their victim-hood. However, there are 2 different aspects to consider about focusing on the past:
a. Negatively – when ACoAs keep rehashing old traumas, only as a way to:
• not take care of ourselves – stay in the victim WIC mode
• blame others, instead of focusing on what we can do now
• stay in the anger – which is ‘safer’ than feeling the pain underneath
• not have to grow up & ‘leave home’ (S & I) — then we are escaping the responsibility of being in charge of our life.
b. Positively – when we are beginning to understand the scope of the abuse & neglect we endured growing up – not getting sympathy, empathy, comforting… when we were in any kind of pain, especially emotional. Our suffering was ignored or punished & we were expected to suck it up. ‘They’ said we were being a baby, too sensitive, over-reacting, making things up, being crazy…. This has left us with a tragic inability to be kind & understanding toward ourselves! We are as unsympathetic as our family was – indeed, just as cruel in the way we talk to & treat ourselves! (Self-Hate)
First & foremost, we need to have great compassion for ourselves – for what we endured as kids, & also as adults. Feeling sorry for & comforting our WIC is NOT selfishness, as we were told. Gaining the trust of our WIC is the only way forward. We need to:
• be able to clearly understand exactly what happened to us in childhood. As long as we can’t identify & acknowledge it, we’ll keep repeating it
• have others validate our experience, without blame or judgment, because we never got the right kind of mirroring growing up (a crucial aspect of our damage)
• go over & over the traumatic events of childhood in order to get to the emotional pain which they caused – to be able to process it & get it out of our body
• cry & rage & mourn – in safe places, with safe people – so we don’t have to carry it around anymore or take it out on others
➼ These can take a long time, because there’s a huge backlog of pain which we can’t access quickly or easily – & our resistance to change.
Bobby had been working on connecting with his Inner Child for several years. While sharing in an ACoA 12-Step meeting, he suddenly visualized his kid sitting on the floor, hunched over – with knives sticking in him, all over. So that’s what all that early verbal abuse had felt like! Bobby started to cry. In that moment he saw & felt the terrible distress his kid was in but which he wasn’t allowed to object to or express. As his Loving Parent self, he was able to feel a great rush of sorrow & compassion for his younger self. After that he couldn’t be harsh with the kid any more (negative voice coming from either the WIC or the PP). It was a turning point in his recovery.
• Remember: The only source of self-esteem is unconditional love. Having a strong, healthy identity means being able to treat ourselves with loving kindness, patience & perseverance. We do need to ‘feel sorry for’ our wounded part – the real-life child we were, who suffered unfairly & alone thru endless days & nights, in our home, school, church & neighborhood – without people noticing, caring or helping!
• If we – as the Loving Inner Parent to our WIC – can feel genuine sorrow for what we lived thru, thru no fault of our own, we can begin healing those wounds. The child part of us is waiting to be heard!
NEXT: Personal Responsibility – #1