I hate pity. Men say self-pity is bad. So what, suppress it? Judge myself for it? Pretend not to feel it? But shaming does not work that well. And even if I do not express it or if I dissociate from it, I do not become more efficient.
And in all the time I pitied myself and suppressed my self-pity and protested against victimhood while feeling like one, I lacked the simple critical thinking skill of wondering what pity and victimhood actually are.
If they are there, they must serve a purpose, right? But I did not know of it.
Until the fateful day I took a look at the Wikipedia entry.
Or diva-station? Anyhow.
There is a chapter in The Guide to Rational Living which deals with the need for approval. It goes something like: Even when I do not get approved of, it is no tragedy, although it feels bad.
The author traces the problem to the word tragedy. Dispute the word and stop using it and the extreme negative emotion goes away.
Intriguing, although I am simplifying for the sake of this article.
But what does tragedy mean? Why such a profound change due to a word? Tragedy could mean tree or car without hurting us, so what does it refer to?
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
A person experiencing pity will experience a combination of intense sorrow and mercy for the person or creature, often giving the pitied some kind of aid, physical help, and/or financial assistance. Although pity may be confused with compassion, empathy, commiseration, condolence or sympathy, pity is different from all of these. Nietzsche pointed out that since all people to some degree value self-esteem and self-worth, pity can negatively affect any situation. Additionally, pity may actually be psychologically harmful to the pitied: Self-pity and depression can sometimes be the result of the power imbalance fostered by pity, sometimes with extremely negative psychological and psycho-social consequences for the pitied party.
And about self-pity, which is basically the same response directed at oneself:
Self-pity is the psychological state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have the confidence nor competence to cope with it. It is characterized by a person’s belief that he or she is the victim of unfortunate circumstances or events and is therefore deserving of condolence.
Okay, that somehow fits my observation. When my mother pitied me for failing with a girl, I did not feel like she was helping me. I felt that she was throwing me down, attacking my dignity.
She said ‘One day, you will find a girl that loves you’, but her words somehow did not seem congruent with her displayed emotions at all.
What I heard was: You are a hopeless case. You will never find a girl. But that is okay. I will not say it in order to not upset you. You can trust me to understand your hopelessness without verbalizing it.
Maybe she, as a woman, subconsciously knew how undesirable I really was. The idea is hard to admit for me, but it is also freeing. Because.
But she, for some reason, wanted to convince me or herself that that was not true, that she had not failed that miserably. Of course, such dishonesty makes it impossible to even challenge the idea that my fate can neither be redeemed nor my life fixed.
When Keating had gone, Roark leaned against the door, closing his eyes. He was sick with pity.
He had never felt this before […]. But this was pity – this complete awareness of a man without worth or hope, this sense of finality, of the not to be redeemed. There was shame in this feeling – his own shame that he should have to pronounce such judgment upon a man, that he should know an emotion which contained no shred of respect.
– The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
Hey, Ayn, you bitch. Keating may not be a good painter, but something in you just could not resist the drama of painting a hopeless man in contrast to Roark, could it? Bitch, bitch, biiiitch.
So, let me put two and two together here.
Pity is an emotional state of extreme sorrow and mercy towards someone or the self.
When is such an emotional state appropriate? For loss? No, that would be grief. It is more suited as a form of compassion towards someone whose life seems not worth living, while being convinced that the person has to keep living it without a way out.
Serious brain damage, chronic pain, loss of genitals, shameful exile. These are states that are worthy of pity in my eyes. Because they are so fucking hopeless and yet have to be endured.
No way out
So is it not very inappropriate for my mother to pity me for not getting a girl I like? Sure, it hurts, but pity does not seem right.
Her pity actually seemed less related to the situation at hand and more like a rediscovery of some dark unspeakable truth about myself.
Some kind of curse that everybody but me knows of, but she can not tell me about. So, instinctively, terror came up in me and I wondered: What? Oh god, what? What is wrong with me? What do you see?
In short, her pity told me that my situation was hopeless.
And indeed, pity is appropriate for a hopeless situation. It is somewhat self-soothing.
But more importantly, pity provides an acceptable alternative to action. The sorrow just feels so right.
And that is the key.
Pity is based on the belief that no matter how hard you try, you will not succeed.
It is a protection mechanism to keep you from pursuing fruitless endeavors. And in this, it makes perfect sense.
Suppress self-pity and your cognitive dissonance will look like this: Accept reality. I know it is hard to accept, but there is no use in protesting it.
And such, every little fallback and failure will only fall into harmony with the suppressed pity and bring it to the surface. Oh, I fool. I should have listened to momma. This world is too cruel for me.
Pity is resignation.
And resignation, at least regarding a particular matter, is the appropriate response when there is zero chance of success.
Are you hopeless?
My mother never said I was hopeless. Then I could have protested at least. No, she told me I would find a girl, but her intonation revealed it as a lie.
So that is what I learned for myself: A vapid cycle of heroically protesting against my own hopelessness, while being convinced it is no use.
The essence of my mother’s intellectual legacy in my head: You can never win. But you have to keep trying, in order to look like a hero.
I wonder why my mother pitied me. I think she projected her own helplessness on me. Who knows, maybe her daddy was a victim player and needed just that from her, who knows. It was wrong for a few reasons:
- She was old, fat and ugly. I was 17 and a bright kid with potential.
- She was a bitch. Women have a passive sexual role and are dependent on a man choosing them. I am a man.
- Men can live solitary lives without despair. Women less so.
It is curious to notice how deeply engrained this mechanism and belief system became for me. So deeply that I automatically discarded all positive female feedback and good experiences in order to feed the belief that I am a helpless victim. If a woman showed interest, I automatically found reasons for why that observation can not be real.
There may be three cases where you feel self-pity.
- You gave your best for a reasonable amount of time and failed, then concluded that it was useless.
- Somebody told you or made you feel implicitly that it was useless.
- There is objective proof of the impossibility. For example, you want sex, but have no dick.
In all cases, I encourage you to never fight the feeling.
Instead, acknowledge the intent of the emotion: To protect you from unneccessary frustration.
Say Thank you to the self-pity for this service.
And then, in all 3 cases, dispute it. Not violently, but with innocent curiosity and without trying to reach a certain conclusion.
- Are your past experiences really that prophetic? Or did something about you change?
- Is it really hopeless? Or just hard?
- Were you making some fundamental mistake in the past? What can you improve?
- Can you get a new penis?
- Did mommy really see some real curse in you or was she just delusional?
Let your mind float freely among those questions. Attempt to not discard any ideas or new questions that come up in your mind as a chain reaction. Attempt to be mindful of thoughts you discard because of a judgment, shame, fear or another negative emotion. Remember that you are just thinking here, it can not harm you. You are safe. From no thought or emotion follows any obligation to act on it.
Curiously follow each line of thought. Leave behind the lines of thought that lead nowhere and follow those that do. Allow yourself to be confused about your own thoughts, do not force clear answers. Sometimes the right answer is: I do not know.
Do not cling to lines of thought and do not categorize into important and unimportant. After all, your habits of judgment are compromised.
And note that it is not important whether something is the truth. It only matters whether you think it is.
Alternatives to pity
The best would have bern a father to box me playfully and say: Meh, bitches. That means nothing, son. You are blowing this up. Keep at it. Here, I will give you some tips…
But in the end, it would also have been cool if my mother had meant the words she said. If she would have joyfully said: Do not worry, you will find a girl who likes you.
And maybe mocked me for being disappointed. C’est la vie.
Or just have respected my fucking privacy and not burden me with her dystopical fantasies.
If she had loved me, she would have treated me like a man. She would have told me that women do not like men who cry over women.
But she did the opposite. She encouraged my desperation to the point of fabricating it. She encouraged in me the traits that would make me an impossible man for any woman to love.
Conclusion and mommy
Now, in my mind, I speak to my mother, see her pitiful face and say: Mother, you pity me? How dare you. You bring me into this situation and then give up and insult me with your pity? I did not get a girl, mother. Your pity does not make any sense. It is not the fucking end of the world. Idiotic, toxic bitch. Stay away from me.
While writing this article, a somewhat apparent truth came into my awareness. A surprisingly painful and freeing one: My mother is a woman. My mother knew, at least on some level, that I was undesirable as a man. She lied to me, but probably even more to herself.
That thought sounds very dooming at first glance. But on second thought, it solves a monstrously cruel, lifelong cognitive dissonance / double bind: The fact that my mother and other girls were telling me I was a good man while I failed with women. I was endlessly confused. But in the light of the idea that my mother knew the truth, I can finally find peace in my head and know the right direction to take.
That thought also explains her pity. Maybe my mother pitied me because she knew that she would never let me be the man that would actually attract women, thus dooming me. But she could never speak those words. She could never look into my eyes and say: You need to be your own man to get girls. But I will not let you be that, because I need you for myself, need you to be a nice boy for me, so that I am not alone. I know that I am abusing you, but I will not change it. You still get my pity for your situation, though.
Does anything else make sense? Not that I can think of. If she really wished me well, pity would have been misguided, overly dramatic and silly, because she would have known there is hope for me. I think she pitied me for being a victim of her own cruelty.
Something I can understand from my own rape fantasies. You pity your victim, but you know you will not help. Which powers the pity. Knowledge of your self and your power translates into knowledge of the victim’s fate. And since your own desire takes precedence, the guilt can not be redeemed through a helping act; thus requiring the contemptuous alternative to calm it: Pity. Because pity counteracts the guilt with the illusion of mercy, making the oppressing party able to deal with their conscience. And that mercy could then find expression in giving the victim everything on earth – – but the one thing it needs: Freedom from you.
I can understand it.
But I can not forgive it.
Also interesting: Since pity contains an insult and a form of contempt, this can be interpreted in the sense that my mother secretly despised me for letting her control me. Even though she may have rationally understood that I was helpless to her conditioning at a young age, she could not help but feel contempt for the weakling I had become, which she expressed through pity. Shit fucking test.
Regarding that, more about pity from Wikipedia:
David Hume observed that pity which has in it a strong mixture of good-will, is nearly allied to contempt, which is a species of dislike, with a mixture of pride. It is an emotion that almost always results from an encounter with a real or perceived unfortunate, injured, or pathetic creature.
My mother, the old psycho bitch. Damn, I am so glad I left her behind. Maybe I will never have a girl. But I will have no one pity me at least. I will have no one abuse and insult me for being abused.
Update 25.11.2015: Another thought entered my mind. If my mother really thought that I would find a girl some day, why did she pity me? Shit test? Oh, you poor man.