Why does it feel so good to feel so bad for yourself?

Why is it? You know what I mean, that odd, yet powerful, sense of satisfaction that comes from angst. We make fun of it all of the time (OMG GOTH EMO QUERR LOL) but damned if I understand it. It seems to defy logic, that a person would find satisfaction, even pleasure, in self-destructive actions. I remember in high school kids practically bragging about what mental diseases they had or how much they would cut deep into their arms and thighs with blades. I thought it was dumb, but I still felt, if not understanding, an empathy for it. I knew what they meant, what they felt, but not why. Even in popular culture you see this. How many of today’s comic and movie protagonists are “tortured”? It seems that often our heroes are one step away from being stark raving psychopaths. And there is something cool and desirable about that, but what?

“Between grief and nothing, I would choose grief”? (Faulkner, according to the chick in Breathless).

Hmmm, I think I read somewhere (and I’ll probably mangle the explanation all to hell), that it has to do with control.

If you feel bad, as in heartbroken over a love or some such, it is sort of a defense mechanism, it allows you to wallow in self pity, thus protecting yourself against going out there and getting hurt again.

Also (again, I’ve read this, don’t have my psy books handy and will likely mangle it), it’s sort of an “I’ll feel as horrible as I can POSSIBLY feel, and then if anything does happen, it won’t seem as bad next to what I put my own self through” sort of.

Sorry, I’ve got insomnia, it’s like 230am, and I’m probably not making sense as well as I’d like here.

Hope that sort of made sense.

I find it ironic that Muad’Dib posted this. In fiction, my guess is that it allows you to have a more important main character without the story getting overbalanced. If you have a guy who’s fallen in love and worshipped by 3/4 of a planet, it goes to his head and reads like “It was so cool! They all did whatever I said” fanfiction. But if he’s avenging the death of his parents, and forced by his conscience to marry against love, it’s cooler. I’m not explaining well, am I?

IRL I think it’s sometimes similar - it makes you feel special. And sometimes habit - there is a comfotable mental place you understand, and being happy is scary, because you risk much - and even social pressure - if, not everyone, but your friends are…

But someone who’s been there more than me can talk about it better.

Jean Seberg

Speaking from recent personal experience:

After my wife died last January I had days when I didn’t want to do anything. I got up, got dressed, and went to work but it was like I was on autopilot. Anything that required any real physical or mental exertion just didn’t seem worth the effort. And the weird thing about it was it felt good to have an excuse not to do things; there was a kind of freedom in knowing that people didn’t expect me to be able to function properly. In fact, since I tended to keep to myself on the bad days, a number of my friends used to comment on how well I seemed to be coping with the situation, and on the rare occasions when my grief overtook me in public it was accepted as a normal response; which of course it was, but it served to my mind to justify my lack of interest in other things.

And, just to let you know, I’m feeling better now. My doctor has me on a mild anti-depressant, which is helping a good deal, and he expects to be able to take me off it in a few months.

Sometimes it’s simply cathartic to wallow for a while. If I’m really feeling in the pits I get to a point where it seems to remain for as long as I try to deny it. If I can take a day or two to wallow, it dissipates. Kind of like a dog that just wants to have its ears scratched before it goes and takes a nap.

And who hasn’t occasionally played a rousing game of “Ain’t it awful?”

That being said, I cannot understand self-mutilation, etc. That’s something else entirely.

Attention. A lot of people - at least those who make their feelings or self-destructive behavior known to others - simply desire attention. In fact, many people only attempt suicide just to get attention. (Though they may not understand or want to believe that they don’t actually want to die.)

But, I’m not saying that all or even most people who do such things only want attention for attention’s sake (although some do). Some have real problems which they want solved, but need help. And rather that just asking for help - and exposing themselves openly - would rather have someone come to them.


Knowing that you have the most miserable life there is makes you feel noble and strong. You’re Atlas, carrying the entire world on your back while your soft-palmed princessy peers sit back and have their pathetic lives handed to them. They can’t possibly know what you’re going through.

I’m sorry about your wife, Lurk. I lost my dad a year ago and you’ve described perfectly how things were for me this past year in college (he died a week before my junior year). Professors didn’t get mad at me when I would get too depressed to come to class, and it was perfectly normal to not want to hang out with my friends because I wasn’t in the mood. You DO go on autopilot when someone dies…all you really need to do is survive, really.

Do you think there’s a point where this behavior has to end though? Not yours, but other people’s behavior. I know that with genuine grief it can take anywhere from months to years–I still find myself crying about Dad’s death–but what about the people who are “angsty”? What is their “excuse”? Especially the teens who have two happy parents and live in suburbia and have everything they could possibly need.