Bestowing pity

Bestowing pity

Pity is an especially problematic and painful treatment, although it might seem very close to kindness. When someone hears of a problem we have, they may ask us with concern how we are doing; they will inquire if they can get us anything at all; they will say they imagine how awful things are.

To be pitied is to be placed in a category of loneliness and freakishness at the very moment when we really long for solace and confirmation of being human.

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The pitying person knows how desperate our situation is, but then use their energy to make it clear that our sorrow is ours alone and that any similar horror could not ever touch them.

They need to create a wall between our condition and theirs. Their intentions are sweet, but they will not recognise that they are as open to madness, foolishness, accident, and suffering as we are.

Both the pity-bearing and sympathetic person will recognize our troubles; they both may say 'poor you.' But the pity bearing person does something cruel by implying that the mess we're in is only ours. They must remind us of the distinctiveness of our situation and keep us at arm's length.

The consoling friend is mature enough to know that everything we are suffering from could touch them one day too. This emotional background will lend sincerity to their words of consolation.

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RELATED IDEAS

When we are sick in our minds, we have this punishing sense of how terrible we are, even if we often can't point to a specific crime. We are appalled by, and unforgiving of, who we are.

In this situation, a loving companion can make all the difference. They don't try to persuade us of our worth. They make pleasant conversation about something that won't make us anxious. They can tolerate how ill we are and will stick by us. They love us for who we are rather than what we do.

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Trauma

Trauma is a distressing experience that affects our mental and physical well-being. It is the unresolved emotional response to a frightening event that occurred.

The concept of trauma was first observed in military contexts, but we can experience trauma anywhere from our childhood to adulthood. Traumatic events vary from witnessing your parents fighting when you were young to being involved in a city bombing.

Weeping Over Life

‘What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.’ - Seneca.

This dark remark gets to the heart of Stoicism, which says we get weepy and angry not only because our plans failed, but because we strongly expected them not to. Seneca thought the less we expect, the less we will suffer. Seneca was trying to spare us the kind of hope that inspires bitterness and anger.

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