How do I get over feeling pity for a friend?
March 21, 2011 7:51 PM   Subscribe

How do I get over feeling pity for a friend?

I was out of touch with a friend for many years; during that time, she made some poor choices and had to move back in with her mother. I know it's my problem, but I feel helpless about it - every time I think of her, I can only see her poor choices and feel pity for her. She sees herself as a tragic figure, so that doesn't help things either. How can I see her for the positive things in her life (even when she can't see them herself?).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total)
make a list of everything you liked about her and send it to her.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:58 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Feeling pity for someone as a way to elevate yourself is certainly something to try and stop. Feeling pity for someone because they are pitiful is not. Don't accuse yourself of the former if it's really the latter. If your feelings for your afflicted friend make you want to help lift her out of her quagmire, then by all means, help her. Don't feel guilty about it... do something she is obviously not able to do right now - let it motivate you.
posted by brownrd at 8:21 PM on March 21, 2011

Keep in mind that pitying your friend doesn't help her. She needs to identify her own strengths and abilities right now, in order to pull herself up and get back on her feet.

You can only see the poor choices and recent hardship because that's what's current and you were out of her life for so long. There were surely some good things that happened to her, during your separation, but neither of you can see them right now. She can't bring them to mind because she's too fresh on her own current bad times, and you can't because you weren't around and aren't aware of them. Use the excuse of catching up on your years spent apart to learn about good things that happened in her life that you can focus on.

When you spend time with your friend, you need to discourage the tragic posturing. Wallowing in self-pity is the very last thing that will get her on her feet. And, she also needs to avoid getting depressed.

Take advantage of the fact that you haven't seen each other in a while and therefore you aren't in a negative cycle of being her foul-weather friend, and encourage her to use you as her "clean slate"—someone who doesn't know all the bad history and with whom she can practice being the successful, self-sufficient woman she wants to be. Don't allow her to fall into negative self-deprecating talk. Be her audience for "fake it till you make it."

Your friend will be faking the self-confidence until she makes it on her feet. But you'll also be faking that you don't feel pity for her... till one day, you realize you have in fact seen her strength, and you really don't feel pity anymore.
posted by pineapple at 8:27 PM on March 21, 2011

This is going to sound strange, but I've never understood why we dislike pity so much. When someone in the movies spits out, "I don't want your pity," I ask myself why not? What's the matter with pity?

Pity is defined as "sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy." What's the matter with that?

When you say you feel pity, does that mean that you feel contempt? Or self-righteousness? *Those* I can understand not wanting to feel. Do you want to help her? Or do you just want to feel lucky (or proud) that you aren't in her shoes? If *that's* what you're feeling, then humility is your cure.

If you're of the mind to do so, reach out and talk to her. Find out what happened, listen and learn. She's been through a lot, she might have things to teach you. And you might find yourself feeling something more like compassion or empathy, along with a genuine desire to support or help her.
posted by jasper411 at 8:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

You can't really keep yourself from feeling pity from her if that's what you seem to be feeling, but you can try to accept that you feel that way ("I feel pity for her ... yep") and not dwell on it or give it more importance than it deserves (it's just a feeling. It doesn't mean it's right, or true, or important.).

Trying to reason with your feeling or wrestle it into submission will just make it more all-consuming, in my experience. I guess the thing to watch out for is if you're conveying that to HER, since you say she already has a tendency to view herself as a tragic figure. So let yourself feel whatever comes up (because what else can you do, really?) but try to monitor your behavior and communication with her so you don't reinforce her victimy sense of self. In time, you'll probably stop feeling pity for her, because you won't be fixating on the feeling so much, and if you do feel it once in awhile, it's no big deal. You'll get over it when you get over it. The more important thing is how you act, especially how you treat her.
posted by little cow make small moo at 7:34 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Start dating. When you break up there won't be any pity left, believe you me.
posted by clarknova at 2:09 AM on March 23, 2011

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