The Poor Me Manual – Perfecting Self-Pity—My Own Story
Hunter Lewis’s newest title, The “Poor Me” Manual: Perfecting Self-Pity—My Own Story is a tongue-in-cheek look at emotions. There is method in this madness.
The author in earlier books developed a unique theory of emotions and the reader will learn a great deal about which emotional strategies work and which don’t. Included is a guide to 20 different ways people get off the track emotionally.
The chapters lead you through the mysterious author’s 20 different phases, exhausting every imaginable kind of neurotic behavior.
The author finally asks “Do I Want to Be Happy?”—and the voice of the neurotic author answers emphatically, “No!”
This is fun reading as well as an interesting new approach explaining how people make mistakes with their lives and how they can reassess.
Hunter Lewis, co-founder of global investment firm Cambridge Associates, has written nine books on moral philosophy, psychology, and economics, including the widely acclaimed Are the Rich Necessary? (“Highly provocative and highly pleasurable.”—New York Times). He has contributed to the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as numerous websites such as forbes.com and realclearmarkets.com. He has served on boards and committees of fifteen leading not-for-profit organizations, including environmental, teaching, research, cultural, and global development organizations.
Perfecting self-pity is an unusual goal. But then I am an unusual person. Very occasionally unusual people attract followers. They change the way the world sees things, the way the world works. I am under no illusions that this book will find readers, or that if it does, anyone will want to follow my example. Perhaps at least some people will enjoy reading my story, regardless of whether it persuades them of anything.
As any reader will shortly learn, I have not always been of the same mind about almost anything. When young, I planned to be a stupendous, world-historical success. When all my hopes came crashing down in ruin, I explored other pathways.
My life has been rich in incident. When the French philosopher Montaigne heard a man say that he was a pathetic failure, he responded: “Have you not lived? Is that not the purpose of life?” This is not an exact quote, but Montaigne and I agree. I have lived. Indeed I may say that I have had an extraordinary life of exploration and discovery. If it was not successful by the world’s standards, did it not give me this opportunity to nourish and perfect self-pity, and to share my accumulated insights with others?
Some will doubtless object that self-pity is too private a pleasure, or too selfish, or not robust enough. I may even be reviled like that poor fellow Machiavelli, whose only fault was describing people as they are, not as they pretend to be. The world rewarded him by making his first name, Nick, synonymous with the devil, and his last name with untrustworthy behavior. If I am not misunderstood or reviled, my position will strike most people as odd. Well, even I did not appreciate the dignity and truthfulness of self-pity until I was well into middle age.
Before proceeding with my life, which speaks for itself, let me note that if some readers see their way to sponsor pity parties, in order to promote this book, I would consider it a very thoughtful gesture.
Herewith my life in four acts, so to speak, with a concluding postlude.
From: The Green Years
I was young. I was ambitious. It wasn’t just that I wanted to succeed. I had to succeed. It was a “must” situation. I couldn’t be happy for a moment otherwise. Of course, one isn’t supposed to admit this kind of thing. But why not? That’s how I felt. Why pretend otherwise now?
1. My “Gamesman” Phase
I knew from observation that life is a game. There was no mystery about it. The object of the game is to outsmart and out-maneuver other people in order to win. Winning will get you whatever it is you want. What you should want is money, power, sex, fame, looking good, staying healthy. But above all, the real key is that you need to impress people.
As important as people are, you need to avoid being friends with them. Make them think they’re your friend, sure. Get them to help you. But don’t worry about loyalty and especially don’t worry about keeping your promises. You have to sound sincere; that’s basic. But so long as you sound sincere when you make commitments, that’s enough. Time will pass and you can always deny whatever it is you said. Get whatever you can out of other people and move on.
Alas, this approach did not work out as well as I expected. Through a real stroke of luck, my first college roommate was some kind of computer genius. He liked me and asked me to become his partner in selling the software he was developing. Then an unexpected systems server bill popped up. I would have had to help pay it from my allowance, and I promptly denied that we had ever agreed to be partners. My roommate moved out and on, became a multimillionaire in a few years, and all I had were the “might-have-beens” along with a lesson in the limitations of “gaming” my way through life.
2. My “Prince” Phase
I decided to take a different tack. Had I been born royalty, people would rush to do my bidding. Why not act as if I were royalty and make it clear that I expected to be waited upon, that whatever I wanted, I got?
I wouldn’t be blatant about it. I would try my best to appear innocent, even charming. I was especially inspired by reading an essay describing Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of a famous illustrated little book named—what else?—The Little Prince. Here’s an excerpt:
[Exupery was] a starry-eyed innocent [who] worked from midnight to seven in the morning and thought nothing of summoning his guests at any time to show off a drawing of which he was particularly proud. . . . [Nor did he] hesitate to awaken his wife and the whole household, at two in the morning, to say that he was hungry, in dire need of a plate of scrambled eggs. In another two hours [he might call up the stairs] demand[ing] that his wife come down [to play] chess.*
*Stacey Schiff, “A Grounded Soul: Saint-Exupery in New York,” New York Times Book Review, (May 30, 1993): 15.
I wasn’t married yet, but tried the same technique on my girlfriend. It did not go smoothly. That put me in a very bad mood. The next day a friend refused to lend me money. Then, later that same day, I was bumped from an overfull airplane flight, despite having bought a ticket and traveled all the way to the airport. I demanded to be put on the plane, but the attendant wasn’t buying it. I had to admit: Saint-Exupery I wasn’t.