Psych Corner: How to Heal from Mistakes

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We all have dreams and goals for ourselves, especially when it comes to relationships. We have certain expectations for what kind of friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse that we want to be. For example, you might want to be the kind of friend who is supportive and uplifting. Or, you may prefer to date intentionally, meaning you are dating in order to find a spouse (as opposed to casual dating).

Whatever your goals are, we all slip up sometimes and make mistakes. You might find yourself nagging at your spouse or losing your temper. Maybe jealousy or envy has crept into your friendship, and you weren’t as supportive as you’d like to be. Or, maybe despite your decision to date with marriage in mind, you find yourself in a relationship with someone who isn’t right for you and who you can’t envision yourself marrying.

It can definitely be frustrating when you make a mistake and you might even be disappointed in yourself. While you might be tempted to be hard on yourself, remember, everyone makes mistakes from time to time. News flash: no one’s perfect! This doesn’t mean that you have a free pass to make mistakes without feeling remorse, but it does mean bouncing back from your mistakes is more important than the fact that you made one. Here are a few suggestions to help you heal from a mistake you’ve made.

  1. Forgive Yourself

When you make a mistake, your first reaction is probably to be upset and angry particularly at yourself. This can be especially difficult if you find yourself making mistakes frequently. But the best thing you can do to start healing from your mistakes is to forgive yourself. Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist and author of several books, says, “Forgiving ourselves allows us to recognize our own faults and then to correct them as much as we can without languishing in unforgiving guilt and shame.” Forgiveness means saying, “Okay, I made a mistake but I am not perfect, so instead of allowing myself to feel guilty for a long time, I am going to learn from my mistakes so that the same things don’t happen again.”

  1. Ask for Forgiveness

Another helpful step towards healing after making a mistake is to ask for forgiveness from the person you hurt. Dr. Robert Enright, one of the top researchers who studies forgiveness, says that one of the many benefits of forgiveness is that it reduces anger and resentment and can lead to an improvement in relationships. He describes forgiveness as “liberating,” and while it might be intimidating or difficult to think about asking someone for forgiveness, telling someone you are sorry and asking them to forgive you can give you the fresh start you need. When asking for someone’s forgiveness, meet them somewhere private without any distractions and tell them, “I’m sorry for XYZ. Will you forgive me?” Don’t be surprised if the person needs some time to work through their own feelings before they can accept your apology. Give them space and respect their decision because forgiveness can be difficult.

  1. Looking Forward: Learn from Your Mistakes

After you’ve forgiven yourself and asked for forgiveness from anyone that you hurt, the next step is to learn from your mistakes so that you can improve. Spend some time reflecting on the events leading up to your mistake. What were you feeling, what thoughts were running through your head, and how were you feeling physically? Were you feeling frustrated before you lashed out in anger at your friend/family member/significant other? Maybe you were short on sleep and so your lack of energy made it difficult to resist the temptation of “just one more cigarette.” Identify what you think you need to change to help you not make the same mistake again and then make a plan to put it into action. Finally, enlist the help of family and friends if you need to.

Making a mistake, though frustrating and disappointing, doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Choose instead to use your mistake as an opportunity to grow and become a better person. Learn from other people who have overcome their own mistakes.

That’s one of the reasons I love the wonderful and amazing qualities of the I Believe in Love community: contributors are willing to share their own experiences of how they overcome hardships and mistakes in their lives.

Shannon shared how, after a string of unsuccessful relationships, she decided to approach dating differently and now she has been happily married for ten years. She also shares her tips for successfully managing the battle against reacting in anger as a parent. Lourdes bravely shares her experience of being trapped in an abusive relationship and how, when she finally realized she could choose what type of relationship she was in, had the courage to leave. Hope shares how she and her husband recover from mistakes in their relationship. Read what they have to say and be inspired by their courage, creativity, and belief in the enduring power of love!

 

Flickr: Send me adrift.

Julia

Julia is a Licensed Professional Counselor who is passionate about building and strengthening positive relationships by applying the latest research to everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter at Julia_M_Hogan. (Her articles are not intended to be a substitute for or serve as professional counseling or treatment.)
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