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Appropriate Self Concern


CF Ambassador
Jan 11, 2020
I was watching a movie about Theodore Roosevelt which was about the time after he got polio. He was very depressed and feeling sorry for himself, and he wanted others to feel sorry for him too. One of the nurses, who tried to help him, said: “I can’t help you out of the hole if I get in with you."

This reminded me of my mentor in early recovery from alcholism. I was feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t have a romantic relationship. She said to me: “Susan: you have a new life, friends, recovery, and God. Romance is the last thing you should be thinking about right now. That will come later when you have paid your dues.”

I was shocked at the time, but it helped me realize that I was feeling a lot of self-pity. I had suffered for so long that all I had left was the image of myself as a victim.

I wanted to end the self-pity, but I did not know how. I also felt that some really bad things had happened to me, and I had a right to regret this. My therapist said it was not good to “stuff” my feelings and that I should share them with others.

Now, I was really confused. Was I feeling sorry for myself or acknowledging what happened?

After awhile, I finally realized that I had fallen into the trap of “all or nothing” thinking and that there was a middle ground—what a friend of mine called “appropriate self-concern.”

The answer to most problems dealing with extremes is the proverbial middle ground. When you have come to understand how much you have suffered in the past, and are suffering now, you feel your sorrow, and grieve for yourself. At the same time, you do not dwell on this. You move on to appropriate self-concern which you feel when you are processing the past. You also feel optimistic about the future and look for a brighter tomorrow.


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