Friday, 16 November 2012

Maurice the Self Pity Monster

Me and Maurice go back a long old way. I never really got on with him, truth be told, but he always seemed to turn up on my doorstep when I wasn't expecting him, usually bedraggled-looking and in need of a hug, and so I would let him in. It was getting rid of him that was the hard part.
Maurice isn't a real person, just to make that clear. Maurice is the Self Pity Monster. We all have a Maurice. He's the part of us who, when things don't turn out as we'd like, pushes his bottom lip out and folds his arms, tears welling in his huge puppy-dog eyes. He asks 'why ME?' and compares himself to all those people who aren't suffering right now, demanding to know why he always gets the bum deal.

He's so easy to listen to, so hard to ignore. It's his vulnerability that is so inticing. Maurice needs love and care. How can anybody say no to that?

But this is his trick, you see, and he will always want more. More love, more care, more attention... no amount is ever enough. There will always be another wound to kiss better, another insult that needs smoothing, another hurt that needs nursing. Maurice is utterly draining.

There are many forms of self pity, and this is, I believe, where it is easy to catch ourselves out. I speak entirely from personal experience here. I have spent a long time now observing my own behaviour and am perfectly content in admitting I have let Maurice take control for a hefty chunk of my life. Funnily enough, it is only now that I am happier in many ways that I can look back and see how often Maurice was there in the driving seat. It's not like I identified him and tried to get rid of him, I just changed my actions in many small ways before even realising he was there, and that allowed me to see him more clearly.

Self pity, in its most obvious form, is when we relinquish responsibility of a bad situation. As soon as it becomes someone else's fault, it is easy to feel hurt by it (no matter what it is.) We wish it wasn't us it was happening to, we feel like this sort of thing goes on all the time, we want someone to make us feel better. In this sense, self pity is an attention-seeking form of behaviour, even if we hide ourselves away when we feel it. Deep down we just want to be cared for when we feel self pity.

But it all becomes more complicated when we start to analyse our own self pity. Nobody wants to be thought of as self pitying. We all know a self pitying person is a drain. In trying to fix the problem, we may very well say "RIGHT I'm going to take responisibility for this- it's NOT someone else's fault, it is my own," but often in doing this, we are only internalising the self pity rather than nulifying it.

To use myself as an example:
I was a shy child. I clearly remember sitting on the school bus imagining I was invisible. There was a big bubble around me and nobody could see inside it, it was as if I wasn't even there. I would say to myself "Why am I the wierd one? What on earth is wrong with me? How come all the other kids get to have friends, how come they get to laugh and have fun while I'm sitting here invisible? I hate my life so much. Oh, why can't someone just come and change it for me?"

But then I would feel guilty for being so self pitying about the situation, and my internal monologue would change to "I hate myself so much for being like this. I should just be talking and joking like everybody else is. I'm so wierd, I'm just abnormal. Nobody is ever going to like me if I'm like this, unless I can change I am going to be miserable forever."

It felt as if I was taking control by changing my viewpoint in this way. I didn't have to feel guilty because I wasn't trying to blame anyone but myself for my own problems. But what I didn't see was that Maurice was still the one behind the feelings! If I spoke to anyone about it, I would speak with the second voice, feeling that it was OK to talk about how much I hated myself for these problems. What I didn't realise at the time is that I was still asking for the same response- the same care, the same love, the same attention. I was still using behaviour that was draining to other people... and to myself for that matter!

We really have to be careful where Maurice is concerned.

So what do we do about these issues? If we can't ask for care and attention, and we can't blame ourselves and take responsibility... what can we do?

I'd say, for one, try acceptance. Yes, I was a shy child. Yes, I did sit alone on the bus while other kids were laughing and joking. But if I'm honest with myself, it was never as big a problem as I felt it was at the time. There were days when I was too tired to care, or too happy to really notice. On those days I just sat and watched the world go by, or listened in on their conversations, thinking about what these kids were like, working them out without them even realising I was doing it.

You may not have got the job you wanted so badly. You may be a stone heavier than you'd like. You may have met the man of your dreams only to discover you're not the woman of his. You may be sitting at the roadside because your car has broken down, or be in bed with the flu on the day of that gig you'd been dying to see, or be too broke to buy that beautiful coat you just found in Urban Outfitters...

Don't even let Maurice in!
It's really sad that you didn't get the job, be sad about it and then get back on the jobhunt- other jobs are out there, maybe even a better one.
Don't hate yourself your whole life for not being the shape or size you'd like. Is anyone you care about telling you don't look perfect? Chances are, probably not.
He wants someone else. There is nothing you can do to change it. Let him go. It hurts but before long it won't any more and the quicker you accept it, the quicker it will stop.
Your car will be fixed, it will be over soon.
The band will play again.
Maybe you can ask for the coat for Christmas...

It's not easy and I know as well as anyone, sometimes Maurice is just too damn pursuasive...

But this doesn't mean isolating yourself or trying to hide the fact that you're upset and hurt by things when they go wrong. If you are genuinely upset, then your friends and family- the people who care about you- will want to help you out, they will want to get you out of whatever situation you're in. The trick, as far as I can tell, is to try to accept the situation first. Then you can think about what you would like to do about it. Your friends and family will find it infinately more easy to help you if you have identified what it really is that's upsetting you, than if you simply ask them for attention.

I read a fantastic quote today by someone called Eckhart Tolle, which I will finish with:
"Accept, then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”


  1. I'm struggling with Maurice at the moment and sadly his favourite food is my guilt. I don't have anything to be particularily guilty about but self loathing can make you think that way!

    I enjoyed reading this, as always.

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  3. Aw my lovely... it's an exhausting circle, I know how you feel. Don't let that monster get the better of you. Big hugs xxx