Because our self-pity isn’t personally or socially attractive, we have developed masks to disguise it. The first post in this series was Mask # 1: Righteous Anger, which exposed explosive, angry emotion, resentment, irritation, and impatience as a family of weaknesses that create bad explanations, shrink our powers, and leave us writhing inside our own egos.
Mask # 2: grief and regret
Grief and regret are emotional rejections of something that has happened. They are a state of consciousness that—prolonged beyond the initial experience- becomes self-pity and victimhood.
When we feel grief or regret, we shrink up, blaming others, life, God, or something outside ourselves. Or we feel that life is hard, too hard to bear.
Full of pain, we drag our pain bodies around, as Eckhart Tolle says, infecting every precious new moment with our angst. Grieving or regretting, we live in the past. Now we are actually insensitive, numb, off course, our love rarely available to us—no matter how we defend the self-absorption we like to call “being human.”
Grief and regret are—like righteous anger—default responses to challenges.
Indulging in grief and regret, we cannot sustain our poise”
v We cannot be present, a main tenet of a poised consciousness. We are obsessed with what has happened, reliving in our thoughts over and over what has been lost.
v We cannot feel connected. Grieving and regretting, we have lost our connection to others and, even worse perhaps, we have lost connection with ourselves. We don’t like our life right now, and may even wish we were dead in order to escape our pain.
v Obviously we don’t feel grateful, a requirement for sustained poise. Just the opposite—we feel that our cups are empty.
v Poise uses creativity for fuel, but creativity evaporates when we grieve and regret.
Poised, we respond to challenges with improvisation but, grieving and regretting, we are simply numb.
v Needless to say that we don’t feel light-hearted. We are heavy and earnest in our response to whatever has been lost.
Grief and regret make it difficult or impossible to have our love at our disposal. If our love is flowing, we are poised. Instead, we have little to give right now.
Grief and regret are bad explanations for what is going on.
An example: a woman’s husband leaves her for another woman. Surprised and stunned, she is overwhelmed with grief and regret. She grieves the loss of her 25 year marriage, and she regrets that she is now alone, that their wealth is about to be divided up, and that she will have to navigate her life alone. She is fearful and cries often.
She tells her friends this bad explanation for what has happened:
v John has abandoned me after I gave him 25 years of my life
v John is an unfaithful, unreliable man who has profoundly disappointed me
v I have been a faithful wife and mother, and I also provided most of our financial support for the last few years when John seemed unable or unwilling to work
v I am deeply wounded by John, who frequently expressed his unhappiness with me, my sexual unresponsiveness, and my inability to create the relationship he wanted.
v I am filled with grief and regret. I can’t sleep. I can barely move.
She has lost her poise, obviously, but why is this a “bad explanation” for her grief and regret?
Hers is a bad explanation because she doesn’t take responsibility for the life she has created. If she did take creative responsibility, she would report to her friends a good explanation for what happened:
v John and I failed to create a marriage that we both wanted and John has had the courage to try to find what he needs.
v I have been roiling in self-pity and cooking up victim stories that I know are not true.
v I knew that I haven’t met John’s sexual and emotional needs for some time, but I wasn’t able or willing to change.
v I know it looks like John left me, but, actually, I pushed him out of our marriage because it wasn’t working for me either. I took the easy way out by not divorcing John. I set it up so he would be the bad guy who leaves his virtuous wife.
v Everything is perfect. We both needed a big change, and John, braver than me, took the lead. I wish him good journey. Now we both have a chance to find the love we want in a marriage.
v All I have are my challenges and my decisions. This situation is plenty challenging; I’ve been asleep in our marriage. Now I’m awake and I am about to decide what I will create in the next stage of my life.
Grief and regret when a loved one dies
But they don’t. Instead, they prove that we will reject life if it doesn’t align with our ego’s desires. Our ego does not like losing anything it deems valuable. The ego lives a small life, protecting its fragile, false construct.
Everything in nature dies eventually. We will all die. If we really know this energetic fact, we know that all of our loved ones will die. With a keen awareness that death is always hovering in the background, we are awake, alert, humble, and grateful to have in our lives the people we love.
Awake, our love flows to our loved ones every day, every moment. But if we don ‘t know about death, we will be in shock when someone we love dies. We will recoil, rejecting death as an inevitable outcome to every life.
The ego will invent a bad explanation for what has just happened. Full of self-pity, the ego cries out in pain, and then creates this bad explanation for what has happened:
v My loved one should not have died—not now.
v I have been hit with an unbearable loss
v My grief proves how much I loved her
v I haven’t done anything to deserve this loss and pain
Overcome with regret and grief, our poise shattered, we cannot be present, connected, grateful, creative or light-hearted.
And we don’t think we should be poised. We think we should sustain grief and regret.
Sustaining our poise when a loved one dies
If we can sustain our poise at the death of a loved one, we will be able to be present, connected, grateful, creative and light-hearted.
We will have a good explanation for what has happened:
v A wonderful person in my life has died, and I am feel very sad right now about my loss..
v I have a treasury of good memories about our shared time together.
v Naturally, my loved one’s death has prompted a recapitulation of our relationship. Perhaps I could have shown my love more consistently, but mostly my loved one felt loved by me.
v I miss my loved one and think about her a great deal.
v This death has been a gift, in a way: I am reminded how short and precious life is.
I have no time to waste.
Next in the series on the masks of self-pity: Mask # 3 Cynicism and Negativity