Friday, October 21, 2011
I happened to run into a pretty down and out group of semi juvenile delinquents who were hanging out in front of the coffee shop where I stop to get my morning coffee. I was in an unusually expansive (and brave) mood which resulted in our having a conversation about self pity and self loathing. One of the young men suggested that his self pity is when he feels sorry for himself for circumstances that, through no fault of his own, are real handicaps. In his case he was raised by a single Mom who was mentally ill and had no job. His childhood was not an easy one and he felt stigmatised and different than other kids his age and he feels resentful, angry and sorry for himself - self pity based on negative circumstances inflicted on him by the world.
One of the other young men said he experiences self loathing which he described as a form of self pity based not on external circumstances but rather on the guilt he feels for being imperfect or "less than" - for example being a self described "selfish, impulsive, asshole who keeps fucking up and should know better"... -- self loathing based on negative circumstances inflicted on him by himself. This is then made worse by the fact that being an impulsive selfish asshole is a disadvantage of his own making which makes him feel more guilty which, in turn, makes him hate himself more and on and on.
Our conclusion was that self loathing is a lot like self pity but with the added ingredient of guilt. We also decided that in both cases these feelings served as a basis to justify bad choices as in "I have it so bad that my angry, resentful attitude (coming from either self pity or self loathing) is justified. (almost as if the attitude had a will of its own which manipulated its host (the brain) into believing it was justified so that the brain would not adjust thereby prolonging the life of the attitude rather than allowing the brain to see that the attitude is mal adaptive, does not work (i.e.,it does nothing to improve our circumstances) and therefore make a change).
As an aside I was really impressed by the level of thought of this rag tag, fucked up, limited, semi comatose collection of misfits. It was like the Dirty Dozen meets Wittgenstein.