Feeling sorry for yourself is usually regarded poorly. However, what about feeling sorry for your future self? Or your past self?
There seems to be a case for feeling sorry for and being nice to your future self, by planning and acting now (de Lazari-Radek, 2013). Economists describe not making provision for the future as “discounting the future”.
We know we will be rather different people in the future, but we still feel concern for our future self. I have seen jocular remarks made about how one’s “drunk self” has looked after one’s “sober self” by setting the alarm for him to get up. That is easy to understand. Feeling sorry for oneself further into the future is more of a mark of maturity. Very few 20 year olds are concerned with what life will be like for their 60 year old self. However, both empathy and a capacity to imagine oneself in the future are usually thought of as typically human. One of the advantages of empathy for others may include having empathy for one’s future self. Is a lack of empathy even for one’s future self part of what makes a person a psychopath?
Moreover, if it is somehow wrong and self-indulgent to feel sorry for ourselves when something goes wrong, perhaps we can more appropriately feel sorry for our past self, since he or she is to some extent a different person? It seems we may feel sorry for our ten year old self without being accused of self-pity.
Another question that has occurred to me is an ethical one. If, despite Ned Flanders of The Simpsons, it is not considered wrong to “lust after” one’s wife, is it nonetheless wrong to lust after one’s younger wife, for example in a photograph? Is she the same woman in the photograph as your present wife, or is she in some sense a different woman?
de Lazari-Radek, K. “Be nice to the tomorrow you”. New Philosopher Magazine, November 2013, 103.