13 April 2012

A Minestrone of Self-Pity

From a speech given by the British psychiatrist Anthony Daniels (better known under his pen name, Theodore Dalrymple) at a meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey in May of last year:
As I have said, resentment can, and indeed often does, last a lifetime; and this is because it has certain sour satisfactions. Among these is the satisfaction of being morally superior to the world while remaining -- objectively speaking -- in a grossly subordinate, inferior or undesirable position. Resentment satisfactorily explains all one's own failures and failings; ‘I would have been a success in some respect or other, if only I had had the same opportunities as...’ And here you need only fill in the name of the person or persons more fortunately placed than you to succeed in that respect. 
Resentment is a universal human emotion. It is a permanent possibility for all of us, and it takes an effort to control it. I doubt whether any reader, if he examines himself candidly, has failed ever to feel it. I suspect that those who have never felt resentment are as rare as those who have never felt pain. 
Unfortunately resentment, though universal, at least potentially so, is not only a useless, but a harmful emotion: for it encourages him who feels it to dwell not on what he can do -- that is to say his opportunities -- but on what he cannot do, that is to say his lack of opportunities. From the moment of one’s birth, there are many things one is destined not to become; how easy, and I should add pleasurable, it is to blame others for this fact, while vegetating in a soup, a minestrone, of self-pity.
Daniels has also discussed resentment in essays for The New English Review and Psychology Today.