How not to feel sorry for yourself?

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  • Stephanie

    How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    Hello fellow Treeleafers,

    Today I had a very disappointing setback--a job I applied for in the city I hope to move to ASAP chose another candidate for the job over me. I was almost perfectly tailored for this job, but it was my luck that the only person who was more suited to the job--someone who had done the same exact job before--applied at the same time. Now I have very few job options left. All of the "alternatives" I thought I had have dried up or proved to be dead ends. The last option I have is a job with the same agency that's below my professional training level, and a bit of a step back in my career. My current options, IF the job is offered to me after my interview, are to accept the job with the risk that something better suited to my education and training would come along shortly after I committed to this job, or to turn it down and/or apply for any new job that comes up right away and risk burning my bridge with this agency, which is the most likely place to have a better social work opening in the city.

    Even if I get offered the job, instead of feeling happy and excited to be starting a new phase of my life, I will already start out in my new city feeling down. See, I've not had a lot of luck in a lot of areas of life. I haven't had luck in love or romance. I haven't had much luck with friends. No matter how much I've tried in recent years, I've found myself watching others around me who seem to have people who are interested in their lives and who care about them, while I only have one real friend, who is currently on the other side of the country. I've had people stab me in the back and betray me, stop talking to me randomly without any clear reason (no fights or awkward issues), and flat out just never pick up interest in knowing me beyond an acquaintance level.

    The one area in my life in which I've had luck for the most part has been my education, and now, my career. Even when everything else was failing me, I could take heart in the wonderful places where I studied and worked. But now, at a time in my life that I've been wanting to manifest an overall change for the positive, I find even this one reliable part of my life is failing me. I face the prospect of moving to a new town with no friends (I originally had a friend there, who has proven not to be a friend, so I'm back to square one on that) and now a job that is definitely a few steps backward in my career path. I'm almost hoping I get turned down for it so that I'm not pressed with the dilemma of what to do if I'm offered the job.

    I've been coming to terms lately with the fact that I'm not the nice, good person I like to think of myself as being. I am constantly full of anger and resentment. I notice more and more how much of my mental activity is anger and judgment. I space out and when I notice my mind again, I catch it in the middle of some ugly thought about someone or something. It's like it's going on in the background all the time, even when I'm not actively keeping it going. I am learning that karma is all about the ruts we create for ourselves in our minds. And watching my mother, whose self-pity and resentment leaves little room for her to feel much else, shows me that hers is the fate that awaits me if I don't stop practicing resentment and self-pity.

    So I am trying to shift my perspective. I am trying to look to the good things I have and to feel grateful. I have a place to stay and food to eat. I do have people in my life who care about me. And I really don't know what the future holds for me. Maybe life will be good again. But it is tough, because I really don't feel grateful. I wish I was that gracious. But deep down, what I truly feel is resentment and self-pity. I am starting to wonder if my luck will ever change, or if my whole life will be sparse of affection and emotional support. I know I am not as good as I wish I was, but I feel deep down I've been a good enough person that I "deserve better." And yet I see people who are even better than me suffer even more setbacks than me. So how can I sit around feeling entitled to good fortune when other decent people don't get to have it either?

    I am not a very high-energy person. It is hard for me to constantly fight an uphill battle in every area of my life. Weight loss is extremely difficult for me and requires a certain amount of pain and hunger to succeed at all. And unfortunately, the reality of our society is that even beyond romance and in terms of platonic friendship, people discount you more as a woman if you're overweight. I find socializing draining and my luck these past few years has been that all the people and relationships I've put energy into haven't panned out. But I've got to keep trying, keep looking for people and hoping I will find even just one who truly sees something worthwhile in me and wants to pursue that. I'd like to have a family some day, but I wonder if I will ever meet someone I could trust enough not to leave me high and dry after I've had children with him. I feel like if even just one area of my life was easy, it would help so much.

    There's a Neko Case song where she sings about two different women, Margaret and Pauline. "Everything's so easy for Pauline." Everyone loves her and the setbacks she experiences are minor. But Margaret's life is very difficult and people just don't love her the way they do Pauline. I feel like Margaret a lot of the time.

    I realize sometimes that my perceptions are probably not that accurate. That the people around me probably don't have it as easy as they seem to, and that I probably don't have it as bad. But this self-pity is hard to shake. I can sit zazen, do The Work, whatever, and it's still there. I know it only hurts me to feed it, and yet somehow there is a strange comfort in it. It is a very stupid addiction, I keep feeding something that barely has any positive benefit or feeling associated with it. And the one thing I can take comfort in--that I am a good person--is not true, as long as I go around filled with such shitty thoughts about other people and my life. So why can't I give up this thinking? Why do I go around resenting the hell out of life and people, when it means I'm unhappy and sowing seeds of continued unhappiness?

    Has anyone else practiced with this difficult emotion and thinking pattern? How do we break free of self-pity? How do we experience the goodness in the world when it seems like life hardly ever gives us a break?

    I apologize for going on so long.

    Stephanie
  • Stephanie

    #2
    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JxmDZt2vDA[/video]]

    Everything's so easy for Pauline
    Everything's so easy for Pauline

    Ancient strings set feet a'light to speed to her
    Such mild grace
    No monument of tacky gold
    They smooth her hair with cinnamon waves

    And they placed an ingot in her breast
    To burn cool and collected
    Fate holds her firm in its cradle
    And then rolls her for a tender pause to savor

    Everything's so easy for Pauline

    Girl with the parking lot eyes
    Margaret is the fragments of a name
    Her bravery is mistaken for the thrashing in the lake
    Of a make-believe monster whose picture is fake

    Margaret is the fragments of a name
    Her love pours like a fountain
    Her love steams like rage
    Her jaw aches from wanting
    And she's sick from chlorine
    But she'll never be as clean
    As the cool side of satin, Pauline

    Two girls ride the blue line
    Two girls walk down the same street
    One left a sweater sitting on the train
    And the other lost three fingers at the cannery

    Comment

    • Keishin
      Member
      • Jun 2007
      • 471

      #3
      Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

      I don't know how not to feel sorry for myself.

      When I do, I do.

      Somewhere up there in your post, Stephanie you say 'other people seem to have luck, have it better...etc' the operant word is SEEM.
      Your chosen field of work is a very very very demanding one. I share a similar profession--I am a children's social worker.
      I know the topic of burnout has been brought up in the past and it is something--those of us who share such work or circumstances of similar nature--must develope a counterbalance to. It is of paramount importance or there is the risk to health and wellbeing on multiple levels.

      I would like to consider your post and reply more fully at another time, but I want you to know that this cry has touched me and I want to respond immediately. If you lived near me, I'd put on Patti Smith's Blakean Year. I'd urge you to watch The Good The Bad The Weird with me before I have to return it to the video store. I'd see if you were up for a skate on the little outdoor rink in town before they fold it up and take it away--I've been too sick all holidays to go out on it, but am feeling up to it now...
      Give yourself a little distance from the pressures, take that load off your shoulders for a spell.

      Take good care.

      Comment

      • Stephanie

        #4
        Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

        Thanks, Keishin. Your post touches me, I appreciate the fellowship.

        I like that Patti tune. I'll give it a spin.

        My problem right now isn't burnout, but the opposite. I've been home since the last week of October and haven't worked since mid-October. My life is pretty much "on hold" until I can get to a new city and start again. Now I face the prospect of my career being set back, in addition to not having it very good in the friends, romance, inner contentment, etc., areas either. I won't have much of anything to show for what I've done with my life for the past decade. Working a job someone with half my education could get, without any friends nearby, barely making enough money to get by. Nothing to brag about and not many creature comforts, wondering if and when my career will ever move forward again.

        You are right that "seem" is a key word. I know most, if not all of these stories I tell myself are false. But they are very addicting, they promise a false comfort. I know what it's like to feel tuned in to life in its immediacy but it feels like a long time since I've been tuned in. I know that the best thing for me is to take this as an opportunity to practice. I was reading Chogyam Trungpa earlier:

        "The point of the Shambhala training is to get out of the cocoon, which is the shyness and aggression in which we have wrapped ourselves. When we have more aggression, we feel more fortified. We feel good, because we have more to talk about. We feel that we are the greatest author of the complaint. We write poetry about it. We express ourselves through it. Instead of constantly complaining, can't we do something positive to help the world? The more we complain, the more concrete slabs will be put on the earth. The less we complain, the more possibilities there will be of tilling the land and sowing seeds."
        He's right. I find I prefer to stay in my cocoon of resentment and be "the greatest author of the complaint" than to look at what's actually around me and how it is workable. There is so much in my life that is workable, and yet I turn away from it and back into my mental theatre of self-pity. I know it's stupid, I know I'm working against myself, and yet I can't give it up, that sick pleasure I find in thinking about how unfair life can be, how hard it is for me, and so on. I could pick up the hoe and the shovel and make a beautiful garden but instead I sit and whine to myself about how nothing is growing there. I feel like I've put in "enough" effort to "deserve something," but what does that even mean?

        Comment

        • natezenmaster
          Member
          • Oct 2009
          • 160

          #5
          Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

          Hi Stephanie,

          Sorry to hear about the setback but perhaps it will be a setup for future good. I don't know many people that are 'the nice, good person' they like to think of themselves as being.. myself included. I also don't know that many that are as bad and damaged as they think of themselves as being. The mind is a funny thing.. it makes you a saint and a demon depending on the moment and its inclination. On that note, if you get the chance to read Buddha's Brain, which is a Buddhist book with a neuroscience slant, I think you might find it interesting. In the book, it breaks down the brain's functioning (as best we know it) and it talks about synaptic channels that form in the brain. As a thought is passed, the channel 'width' increases the more times we think that thought or type of thought.. and subsequently makes it 'easier' and more likely for similar thoughts to then pass. Its a system that feeds on itself. So if you have a negative thought then the channel widens to make further negative thoughts more likely or easier to pass, so it becomes a self-feeding system. This is the background to unshakable anxiety, negative reoccurring thoughts and so on. It also details the 'negative bias' that our bodies have, such that we respond more strongly to a negative impulse or stimulus than a positive one.. Afterall the touch of a delicate flower pedal is lovely but the touch of snake tooth is perilous. Thus we have a built-in bias or imperative that says PAY ATTENTION to this negative feeling and for you nice feelings, that's lovely - let's chase it again later. You might find it interesting.. I did...

          http://www.amazon.com/Buddhas-Brain-Pra ... 1572246952

          Your email wasn't the briefest but I appreciated it much because it was straight from what you feel and think, unadulterated and without consideration to whether it portrays you as a guru or a lost soul. I find those to be the best kind. I think you 'know' the answers you seem to want, in the sense of comparing yourself to others, whether others 'seem' to have it better than you or you're unjustly treated by the world at large, and how it is you pity yourself and how to 'stop'.. etc. Akin to knowing the sermon but having a hard time living the sermon.. And like you mention yourself, the karma creates ruts in our mind - whether from a physiological perspective such as the book above or from a Buddhist perspective without the scientific current.. and so it is that which makes it so tough to give up the pity.. or anger.. or blame.. depending on your vice of choice. And just as in the physiological sense (and the book gives you means by which to counter these ruts or channels), we need to create channels of a positive nature or karma of a positive nature. Both take cultivation... it seems there is never an easy or get rich quick answer (though I did get a lovely email today from a poor fellow in Nigeria needing a bank account so that he can transfer large sums of money out of his home country). I suppose you feel that you have paid your dues for positive karma, a break in this world and a little positive reciprocality.. but it is always those expectations and agendas, those views we cling to that are the bugaboos. I can only put my two cents in.. and its to go with whatever may happen and let your mind be as free as you can get it by being as mindful of right now as you can. There's no should be, there's just 'is' .. may this 'is' be what 'is' for you.


          _/_ Nate

          Comment

          • Stephanie

            #6
            Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

            Nate, thanks for the perspective. It is very clear. I like the neurological explanation of mental karma, it accords with my experience.

            I am working on changing my patterns, ruts, and habits. I know I could feel very blessed if I took a different perspective on my same situation. It is not so easy!

            But at least the work is beginning. At least I have some inkling that I'm creating and perpetuating this mindstate and can direct my mind in different ways. For that I am grateful. But this practice will only manifest in my life if I take it up in earnest and use it as an alternative to the seductions of the ego.

            Gassho...

            Comment

            • Keishin
              Member
              • Jun 2007
              • 471

              #7
              Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

              Stephanie:

              What part of 'Life is suffering' don't you understand?

              Comment

              • Stephanie

                #8
                Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

                All of it, apparently!

                Comment

                • Dosho
                  Member
                  • Jun 2008
                  • 5784

                  #9
                  Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

                  Hi Stephanie,

                  Sorry to hear about the setback with the job hunt and I know that stinging feeling of not having everything settle together like we'd like it to. I count myself lucky for the most part as my romantic life really fell into place and although other parts of my life have taken crazy turns, I'm not sure where I'd be if I hadn't met my wife. I actually shudder to think how much of my heart I used to put out to potential mates and how someone could have come in and trampled on my feelings. It's likely I would have let them do so without much argument. I don't say all that to rub it in your face that I'm married and your not...just that like much of life my having met my wife was the result of a moment; one that could easily not have happened.

                  Where I can relate is having "bad luck" with friends and I too have had folks just walk away with little discussion of why. I hope you know that I consider you a friend and that I believe you have many others here. I can tend to shy away from people I don't fully understand (which is most people I suppose), so if I ever seem that way to you it's probably because I feel intimidated. I'll try to work on that.

                  I don't think I can offer any answers to your questions other than to say that we all fall into these patterns, but I think when people come out of them they can be hesitant to recount those times. I know if I had more true friends I might not be as open to having new ones as I am now, so I try to remember where I have been fortunate and where others may not have been so lucky. I'f my circumstances were different I'd happily have given up half a dozen very close friends for one real relationship like I have with my wife, so I have little regret. But before I met her I spent a lot of time alone still living with my folks and wondering why I couldn't get a break. Fortunately, I did...I really don't know why you haven't. But I still feel that way about friends and having someone to talk with other than loading my wife with all my stressors once and awhile would certainly be nice.

                  So, that may not have made much sense since the hour is late and may have been spectacular only in its lack of helpfulness. I won't say "hang in there" since I used to hate it when people said that to me as it seemed to mean, "You'll get what I have someday." But I honestly do think things will work out for you if you keep putting yourself out there in all parts of your life. Please take care and feel free to drop me a line anytime as I'm not usually very far from my computer.

                  Gassho,
                  Dosho

                  Comment

                  • Stephanie

                    #10
                    Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

                    Dosho, do not fret, your words are more helpful than you realize. I do consider you and other Treeleafers as my friends and sangha, but it's never the same when you can't have true "face time" with someone.

                    I do not take offense to your discussion of your wife. I am happy you have her. You validate my feelings somewhat but also give me hope.

                    I have found you to be a warm and open minded person. I can intimidate because I'm like a bull in a china shop sometimes, I know. I try to work on that also, but often unsuccessfully

                    Comment

                    • Keishin
                      Member
                      • Jun 2007
                      • 471

                      #11
                      Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

                      The perfect weight
                      the perfect mate
                      The perfect house
                      the perfect spouse
                      The perfect job
                      the perfect hobby
                      Perfect friends
                      yet suffering still...
                      "Every day a happy day"
                      yes, suffering does and doesn't end

                      Comment

                      • Tb
                        Member
                        • Jan 2008
                        • 3186

                        #12
                        Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

                        Hi.

                        Some very good posts here, and more to come no doubt.

                        My 0.02, is that everything changes.
                        The only thing we can do is hold on for the ride and make the most of it.

                        Here's two posts about the subject...
                        when life hits you in the face
                        teachings of a daruma doll

                        And remember, if you feel down, we're here right by you.
                        Same goes when feeling up, we're here.
                        But at the same time, when feeling down, feel down; when feeling good feel good.
                        Thats it.

                        Mtfbwy
                        Fugen
                        Life is our temple and its all good practice
                        Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

                        Comment

                        • Dokan
                          Friend of Treeleaf
                          • Dec 2010
                          • 1222

                          #13
                          Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

                          Originally posted by Keishin
                          The perfect weight
                          the perfect mate
                          The perfect house
                          the perfect spouse
                          The perfect job
                          the perfect hobby
                          Perfect friends
                          yet suffering still...
                          "Every day a happy day"
                          yes, suffering does and doesn't end
                          Thank you for this Keishin...

                          Gassho,

                          Shawn
                          We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
                          ~Anaïs Nin

                          Comment

                          • Hans
                            Member
                            • Mar 2007
                            • 1853

                            #14
                            Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

                            Hello Stephanie,

                            wow, quite a few great posts there offering really sound advice in my humble opinion. Thank you all for that.

                            What you wrote reminded me of some situations I myself have been in....all that life taught me was...it ultimately always is what it is and not what I want it to be. That might sound a bit depressing at first, but the deeper truth is really that your life doesn't start at a particular point when you finally get that job or that partner you have always wanted, but it is NOW. Being in the Now is not a quick fix for everything ( no matter how much we might like Eckhart Tolle), but facing it on its own terms was the only thing that helped me over years to surrender to what is...and to start working with what is. I didn't become a famous rock star or a Hollywood director, I didn't turn into a deadly Ninja warrior...instead I still have my thin wrists and am only really good at cuddling cats. Seeing that that's the most wonderful thing in the world took some time. I am absolutely confident that you will emerge even stronger from whatever ordeals you might be facing right now. Thank you for being here at Treeleaf.


                            Gassho,

                            Hans

                            Comment

                            • Jundo
                              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                              • Apr 2006
                              • 39472

                              #15
                              Re: How not to feel sorry for yourself?

                              Hi Stephanie,

                              Sorry to sound like the advice columnist from the newspaper here, but a lot of what I am about to say is just common sense, I think.

                              So many people write me about unemployment and losing their jobs in this economy! If you have a roof over your head right now, be thankful. Keep looking for that better job, and something may come up you don't expect. Think about perhaps using your skills and degree in a position you have not considered.

                              As Keishin said, this is just life. Everybody has times like these, problems in life. That does not make it fun ... but it is just life. A friend who has had a real string of bad luck wrote me this week, "It's "just life" ... though not the hand I would have wished life to deal me, its ok."

                              It is good you recognize that the "mind theatre" is taking the situation and adding 1001 negative thoughts to it. Even though the mind says "it is the end of the world, life is terrible, i am terrible" ... it is probably not so. Thus, we sit Zazen, dropping the "mind theatre" away from awhile.

                              Accept the situations that cannot be changed.

                              Know that situations which seem like they will never change or never happen (finding friends, a life companion) most likely will change in time.

                              Further, know what you can change and work on it! There are techniques, skills that one can master to make friends, find someone to love and love you. In fact, it is one of the few times that you will hear me recommend getting a "self help" book, but their really are some good ones on those subjects ... teaching effective skills and strategies to meet people, make friends and settle into a new town.

                              I was just as confused in my twenties, pretty lonely, smoking two packs a day, stressed and (in my case) overworked.

                              It did not last forever, and it did get better with a little effort, some smart life choices ... and the non-effort of Zazen.

                              Gassho, J
                              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                              Comment

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