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How shall I tell the Dog


The Power of Self-Pity

Dear Gill,

People are making a lot of money out of self-help books these days, and I would like you to be one of those people.

By helping to promote my new self-help book.

Which would be about self-pity.

Did you notice in my first letter that I referred to the jumble of self-pitying thoughts I first had when I was diagnosed with cancer?

My immediate response was to be apologetic for this stance, because we are always taught not to be sorry for ourselves, as if there was something dreadfully feeble about it. There are no nice words in English at all for ‘self-pity’. There are lots of disapproving ones. Whingeing, sulking, moping etc, etc.
(Personally, I think we are entitled to indulge in a little self-pity when we are told we have cancer as long as we disguise it as something else. Shock, a nervous breakdown, long sobbing fits. Something like that.)

But self-pity is so common that it earns no respect at all, only disapproval, as in phrases like: ‘Sitting around all day feeling sorry for herself’ or ‘You’d think he was the only one who’d ever had leukaemia.’ Which quickly leads to phrases like: ‘Why doesn’t she just pull herself together?’ And ‘Cheer up, dear – it’s only bi-polar disorder!’

My brilliant idea would be to turn it all round and treat self-pity as a potentially positive force.

It’s certainly a very strong force.

It doesn’t have to be cancer. It need only be a cold. Especially if it’s a man involved. Close up to a sufferer, you can feel the concentrated power of how sorry, especially men, feel for themselves. What needs to be done is to turn that power into a positive force!!

‘The Positive Power of Self-Pity’

‘How Whingeing Can Work For You’

‘Release the Grumble Factor!’

One of the nurses in the chemotherapy unit said to me the other day that it was very important to listen to your body, as very often your body knew instinctively what was good for it.

I told her that I often had a quick word with my body, looking for advice, and it was not unknown for my body to say: ‘Poor old you!’

She was not impressed.

Like all medically trained people, she wanted the body to be more specific, and to offer clear- cut instructions.

Well, I told her, sometimes it told me to go upstairs and lie down and have a rest.

‘Excellent!’ she said. ‘So have a rest!’

I didn’t tell her that what my body actually says to me is: ’You poor old thing! Nobody really understands, do they? You go and have a lie-down right now. And I am really, REALLY sorry I am causing you all this bother…’

Of course, if self-pity is left undeveloped and untreated, it can go slightly poisonous and feed on itself. (That doesn’t really mean anything. It’s the sort of thing people write in self-help books. I am just practising so I can write my own self-help book.)

It’s not difficult to recognise the danger-signs – the sufferer starts to enjoy his self-pity and will dominate the conversation, talking endlessly about his blood tests and wobbly veins, about platelets, lymph nodes and metastasis. However sympathetic at first, his audience will eventually lose patience. What he should be doing is converting that dead weight of self-pity into positive power…

‘Brood Your Way Back to Health’

‘Tap The Inner Energy of Apathy’

‘There For The Taking – The Hidden Power Of Hypochondria’
I definitely think there is a book there.

I would go into a little more detail except that I haven’t been feeling that good today.

I didn’t sleep well last night, for a start, and the chap across the road has been using a strimmer all morning, which really gets on my nerves.

And if that was not bad enough…

I bet you’ve switched off already, haven’t you, Gill?

That’s because I’ve gone into self-pity mode.

Old self-pity mode.

But now I can see how to convert that useless sulking into positive power and action!

Already today, for example, I have sent my agent an idea for a best-seller, telling people how to convert crude self-pity into refined personal energy!

Yes - it really works!

Tell me what you think.

Love Miles

How Shall I Tell the Dog - 2007

Book Extracts
The Man who had a Flower in his Teeth
Book Extracts