Your child is going through something difficult and wallowing in misery. Maybe it's you having a rough time and feeling sorry for yourself. Perhaps you’ve said or been told :
* Snap out of it!
* How long are you going to sit there feeling sorry for yourself?
* It's not as bad as you think.
* Put it into perspective.
* What do you have to feel bad about?
* Time to get on with your life.
There is truth to some of it. Yes, there are people experiencing the horrors of illness, war, death, poverty and more. You mean well, and yet... the roads are strewn with the casualties of these well-intentioned words.
Then there are times when people commiserate; they are miserable together. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone in your difficulties; however, the path to coping and problem-solving is not to feel sorry for yourself. Feeling better doesn’t come from rehashing and reliving the pain. What you really want is to feel hopeful and to get out of the mess.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t wallow in misery at all. There are benefits to temporarily going into the self-pity pit.
When emotions are stuffed and avoided, they may seem to be under control. In reality, they are festering, taking on a life of their own. They will quietly, or explosively, hijack your sense of calm and order. Hidden emotions will infiltrate your relationships and have you reacting in unproductive, controlling, even hurtful ways. Unaddressed feelings can impact your ability to make reasonable, thoughtful decisions.
Now consider your kids. They are often at the mercy of their emotions. They feel abnormal, weird and avoid sharing them. They feel lost and don’t know how to pull themselves out of their misery.
Expressing sadness, disappointment and anger helps diffuse their intensity. Feeling sorry for yourself can be helpful… just don’t turn into the proverbial broken record.
On a personal note, I used to stew in my emotional soup for too long. There I was, in a rut, the same thoughts and feelings going around and around. There was no creative thinking, no relief, just feeling stuck and without any control. And then I berated myself for being stuck. Down the rabbit hole I went.
Then came the moment of clarity. It’s okay to moan and groan. Be mindful that you’re doing it, and create a deadline. “I will cry and whine for 30 minutes/two hours/a day, and then I’m done.” You’ll be amazed at how cathartic and energizing it can be when you give yourself permission to feel lousy. When you’re done (and it may take less time than you expect), decide to be ready to move on.*
The path to change and feeling better is action: actions you take yourself, asking for help from someone who knows more than you, or has worked their way out of a similar situation.
New mantra? It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. Set a deadline and then GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND INTO ACTION.
*You may have concerns that will benefit from and/or require the help of a mental health or medical professional. These tips do not replace therapy, medication and interventions.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.
Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.