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Self-pity is the psychological state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have the confidence nor competence to cope with it. It is characterized by a person's belief that he or she is the victim of unfortunate circumstances or events and is therefore deserving of condolence. Self-pity is generally regarded as a negative emotion in that it does not generally help deal with adverse situations. However, in a social context, it may result in either the offering of sympathy or advice. Self-pity may be considered normal, and in certain circumstances healthy, so long as it is transitory and leads to either acceptance or a determination to change the situation.
Self-pity can be remarkably self-sustaining particularly in conjunction with depression or other conditions. However self-pity is a way of paying attention to oneself, albeit negatively; it is a means of self-soothing or self-nurturing ("I hurt so much").
Self-pity can also be linked as an emotional response that emerges in times of stress. In dealing with self-pity and stress, the most common tendency of reaction to stress is by feeling sorry for oneself. However, self-pity will also show individual differences within an individual that can be related to certain personality characteristics. Some of these personality characteristics are self-insecurity, depression and overindulgence in their failures, hardships and losses.
Social-learning theorists say that self-pity is a method for gaining attention, where a child received attention, support, and nurturing while being sick or hurt. The child then grows up having learned to give attention to oneself (or ask for attention from others) while in real or dramatized distress. Thus, another form of self-sustainment can be sympathy offered by others (for example, someone might use the phrase "oh, you poor thing" to comfort the person in self-pity).
Though the primary focus of self-pity is on the self and ones own emotions within, it also has a strong interpersonal component. Being an interpersonal emotion is directing the emotional feeling or response toward others with the goal of attracting attention, empathy or help. However, some who are dealing with self-pity usually look outside of themselves for the source of their problems which only leads to a downward spiral of issues.
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- Stober, J (2003). "Self-Pity: Exploring the Links to Personality, Control Beliefs, and Anger.". Journal of Personality 71 (2): 183–220. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.7102004.