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Banned EmotionsHow Metaphors Can Shape What People Feel$
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Laura Otis

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190698904

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190698904.001.0001

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Wallowing in Self-Pity

Wallowing in Self-Pity

(p.39) Chapter 3 Wallowing in Self-Pity
Banned Emotions

Laura Otis

Oxford University Press

The United States and some other Western cultures discourage adults from crying and publicly expressing pain. Metaphors for self-pity show the cultural pressures brought to bear on people who try to make their suffering known. In recent novels and films, metaphors of enclosure, paralysis, and filth depict self-pity as so shameful that they may drive people to suffer in silence. The films G. I. Jane and Bridesmaids illustrate the social rewards offered to women who shun self-pity and the peer pressure directed toward women who “wallow.” Findings in the field of self psychology raise doubts about whether self-pity is as detrimental as popular metaphors indicate. Depictions of self-pity as filthy and entrapping probably have physiological roots but can serve political ends by making injured people feel too ashamed to speak out.

Keywords:   crying, self-pity, metaphor, gender, G. I. Jane, Bridesmaids, self psychology

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