Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Monster: Self Pity

Several days ago I accidentally came across yet another review of my book (this time, on the Amazon site) which was somewhat mixed in tone. On the plus side, the reviewer said he found the book “easy reading.” (Goes down “easy as beer on a Sunday afternoon”, he says, although on second thoughts I don’t know if I am meant to take that as a compliment!) On the minus side he felt there was “not enough information about India” and that the attitude I displayed towards “Sarla” (the cook) was one of pity rather than understanding etc. (Don’t know how he could have thought that, since apart from being the cook, “Sarla” happens to be one of my best friends, and one really does not pity a friend!) Anyway, the reviewer had given the book three stars out of a possible five star rating.

The reason I introduced this bit of information, was not to defend myself or the book but to discuss quite another topic – that of feeling sorry for oneself. As usual the criticism made me feel a bit gloomy but less than an hour after I read it, a client arrived for a session. We spoke about a lot of things which surfaced in his sharing. Funnily, it was all about “feedback”, and the way we are so intolerant about what others say about us Ironically, talking to this guy made me see my own reaction to feedback as well.

During the discussion Satish began to realise how aversion to feedback or critical opinion restricted one, because it often led one to withdraw from whoever happened to have said “rude” or “mean” things. What one lost in the process quite often, was not only a relationship, but also an opportunity to transform oneself.

When the session ended I sat down with my folks on the balcony. Over a drink, I suddenly became aware of the fact that the slight pit in my stomach created by the critical review I had come across earlier, had not only faded altogether but had been replaced by a feeling of joy, bordering on elation. I had not even thought about that review in the last hour and a half! Not for the first time I became aware of the fact that so much of our suffering arises from a sort of self centredness, a feeling of self importance. Which means that every time our sense of importance is threatened or damaged we feel depressed or angry. There is absolutely nothing new in this bit of wisdom, except, I notice, that when any insight comes from your own experience it becomes so much more meaningful than when you read about it in a book.

How to stop being self centred? Yes, well, it doesn’t help to tell oneself not to be that way and to force oneself to be artificially interested in other people. Doesn’t work. What works for me, is to become intensely aware at any given point, of my own selfishness and ego. Being truly conscious of egoistic feelings when they do arise, helps you to see the results of such feelings and seems to somehow also help to dissolve them.

The difficulty is that most of us don’t want to do that. We don’t like to see ourselves as we are and even less, the way others see us. We have these images of ourselves in our minds of being “beyond all that” maybe. We feel it is other people who are mean or egoistic. Mean? Nasty? Who me???

(I am reminded of Alfed E.Nuemann grinning at the reader in his moronic fashion at this point. Mad Magazine readers get it?)

“Greedy? Egoistic? I live for other people, I do everything I can for my kids, my parents, my mother-in-law, for society.”

Ha ha.

I have often seen people wallowing in self pity because they imagine they are doing such good work and not getting any recognition for it. In fact people who suffer most from this disease are the very ones who imagine they are doing their best for the world, and not getting any pats on the back. Maybe it is time to wake up to the fact that self pity is the worst form of indulgence. As far as I’m concerned it’s a lot worse than smoking, drinking, manic depression, bad breath etc. etc.

If I show any signs of it, people go ahead and smack me! I will try really hard, not to smack you back.

Group website:


Hiran said...

Hi Umrang, Can you please let me know the name of the book, you have written


umarang said...

Hiran it is "Bombay to Eternity - Memoirs of a laidback rebel."