Self-pity is something that almost every human being will experience. From being a child who doesn't get one more sweet after dinner; to being the growing boy who loses a game of chess to his father and refuses to throw down his king until he finds a solution; to the moment when your partner or spouse walks towards the door, head held high in wistful attempt to justify a set of reasons you stopped listening to because your efforts were invested into winning your loved one back at that very moment. During these moments, self-pity is growing within us. Something twisting inside, and it’s malignant as hell. It feeds off the sorrow. It stores this sorrow up and, when pockets of positivity shine through like crepuscular rays bleeding between the clouds at dusk, suddenly this malignancy within us releases a small residue of our sorrow, until our mood has gone from a struggling positivity, to a state that is subdued and sombre at best; at worst, we’re surrounded by knives and warm baths, contemplating. Wine stains on the floor and tears stinging the eyes.
The human condition can be the checks and balances system of our morality. Our regulator. It can remind us that for all of our own worries and problems, we are a species that can feel for others. When hurting, we can be self-pitying; when struggling, we can be self-deprecating. Yet, we are never alone in our hurt, never isolated in this struggle. It is our struggle, and everybody’s struggle. There is no one person against the world. Think hard, how many people believe they’re the 'most' unique person they know? How many people claim it’s them against the world? We are all different, agreed. However, no matter how long our species survives and no matter how many different DNA patterns are formed, we will all be so very similar. We will always share the desire for attention when we are really feeling the pain. When the knife is twisting, and then lacerating open wounds, we will want people to cry on the shoulders of; we will need somebody sitting with us as we seek to explain our pain, and in their infinite generosity, they will blunder and grope blindly, like a lover in the darkness, for as long as it takes them to understand what we’re going through. They will, because they felt it too. A different lover, a longer or shorter period of time, a different set of motives, ambitions, past experiences. Culture clashes, religious schisms, moral divides. There could be a list as large as Emperor Mundane’s vocabulary (quite large, I've heard) that separates the relationship of the one in pain from the one offering those ears to listen, and the voice to sooth; however, it would be naïve and even selfish for the afflicted to feel cloistered or anomalous in this, the most experienced human emotion of all: heartbreak.
Equally, it would be jejune of the helping friend to use clichés. ‘I've been there’; ‘I know how you feel’. Sometimes these attempts at a joint effort against the struggle of pain are better invoked through actions. Silent nodding and the unwavering attention we give our tristful friend. Sometimes the pain, that twisted, malignant force, needs to be bled. It is a palpable acerbity that just needs to be cried away, and cried away, and cried away. Of course, hours of tears won’t cure the problem. Pain, be it bereavement, loss of a lover or the discovery of a betrayal — all of these are pain, and pain is not a guest easily dismissed. Uninvited, it overstays its welcome, and before long, it is corrupting other friends and uniting them to its cause. Pain pushes the happy memories aside and ushers the worst memories to the fore of this horrifying performance. The sufferer begins to hate his or herself. They question where it all went wrong, what could have been done — was instauration of this malnourished situation ever an option? And was there a missed opportunity to repent and be redeemed? Did you do something wrong that you never truly understood, and did the other half misinterpret this incorrigibly?
Eventually, after the friend’s valiant efforts, the afflicted person must face the world again. They must step outside and feel the fresh air once felt while holding their lover’s hand; they must hear the sonorous melodies of the early-morning birds and feel the gentle heat of the rising sun. All of these things, last experienced with the lover. They are challenged now to face this facet of life, the everyday part, by themselves.
Soon, the pain rises again. The person tries their hardest to regroup with life. Tries to become a part of social interaction, education, work, religion, politics. Investing time and demonstrating a willingness to blast as much effort as possible into pushing aside the hurt and the insidious bad memories. Distraction can bear fruit. Old friendships can be given maintenance, new ones might be kindled. The human being is renowned for its durability. For being able to segregate emotions somewhere deep within, fighting out their own tumultuous war while the human being strives to relight the beacons of their existence.
Once the internal war subsides, once the memories and the hurts have been exhaustively contemplated until finally there is nothing to say that would not be mindless tautology, leading nowhere new — once all of this occurs, we sweep these feelings under the rug of day-to-day life. During this time, boy do those emotions grow taut.
Inevitably, these ex-lovers bump into one another.
Inevitably, chaos, in its malevolently ambitious state, pulls that rug back just a touch.
Set free! Let loose! Those taut emotions are greyhounds on race day. They are gone already, chasing after the prey — the heart. Pangs hit. Not sadness but regret. What was, and what could have been. What is, and what will never be again.
Does the ex who walked away care?
The devil on our shoulder says NO!
Regret becomes resentment.
Resentment becomes anger.
Cue then, the rebound. Not something casual. The rebound is not necessarily inconsequential. If drunk and somebody is met at a bar and this before a night of hot and inchoate passion, leaving the two spent, only for them to never keep in touch…yes, I suppose that would be inconsequential in the long term. However, in the whorl of negativity, eventually somebody new pops their head around the door, and lo! suddenly there is a whole host of new emotions and feelings. Feelings that are slow burners at first, but damn if they are not the feelings felt at the start of the last relationship. Huh.
Reawakened spirit, rejuvenated motivation, relieved friends!
Sharing wine at the table. Cuddling on the sofa, a film on the television. That first night of new exploration and a shared excitement at what this means – the implications of taking a meaningful, emotional relationship into the atramentous realm of lovemaking. A realm where everybody is at a different stage. A realm where everybody has ticked different boxes and some people added new boxes that raised eyebrows and oh, these boxes, they stay hidden in the bedroom, don’t they just.
Can a full-blown relationship be a rebound scenario? I don't know. If I were to offer any advice, it would be to consider the feelings you feel towards your new lover and search deep within yourself for any feelings directed at your old lover. Really feel these sets of feelings. It doesn't necessarily matter which feelings are stronger — if your past relationship lasted for ten years, you won’t get over it in a hurry, I wouldn't have thought.
If you come away from that long and grueling self-diagnosis, and with the greatest honesty you admit that the feelings with more of a pull in the here and now are feelings for your new lover…well...what do I know?