The self-pity psychological trap

One of the most difficult psychological traps to avoid is what I call The Hole.

You might think of it as the self-pity party: you’re getting down a bit, maybe you’ve had some bad luck or maybe you’re in a bad mood (usually a combination of both) and it seems like it’s just getting worse and worse.

And it’s very hard to notice, but there will be this moment where you choose to suffer more, this moment where you actually become resistant to solutions.

You’ll become resistant to a philosophical view of things. You’ll push back on opportunities to climb out of this hole, and instead you’ll actually dig yourself deeper.

You’ll start to indulge in “pain shopping”, looking for reasons why you should feel even worse, and skewing the evidence you’re seeing to paint a picture of a painful, unfair life. You’ll ignore and forget all your pleasures, achievements, support and advantages.

You might even deliberately start sabotaging yourself and acting out in a way that adds more problems to your plate, or you simply try to sell the idea to yourself and everyone else that life’s extra hard for you, and that you have a right to think of yourself as a victim.

This tendency to dig the hole is often the difference between a bad day and full-blown depression. The true horror of depression is that one of the main symptoms is strong resistance to solutions and healing. If you’ve ever tried to talk a depressed person into doing something healthy that will help them, you know what I’m referring to!

I think one of the strongest things a person can ever do is learn to be humble in the face of that temptation to play the victim, and instead climb out of the hole.

Climbing out of the hole is about letting go of pride. It’s about recognising that you’re choosing to bathe in suffering. It’s about calling an end to the self-pity and victim indulgence, and opening yourself up to support, advice, healthy next steps, and helpful responses.

After studying confidence for nearly 2 decades, I would say that a person’s ability to climb out of the hole (i.e. how quickly they’re able to let go of being a victim) is one of the most accurate measures of self-confidence.

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One Response

  1. One way to break out of this trap is to find those people in the world who are objectively suffering and compare yourself to them, e.g. how am I doing compared with a Palestinian child whose parents were just killed?

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