Friday, September 23, 2011

52 Tool Cards: Mistakes

Going through cognitive therapy has taught me that at the base of my depression and anxiety are some self-defeating beliefs.  On page 147 of his very helpful workbook, Ten Days to Self Esteem, Dr. David Burns lists 10 common self-defeating beliefs:
1. Emotional Perfectionism: "I should always feel happy, confident and in control of my emotions."
2. Performance Perfectionism: "I must never fail or make a mistake."
3. Perceived Perfectionism: "People will not love and accept me as a flawed and vulnerable human being."
4. Fear of disapproval or criticism: "I need everybody's approval to be worthwhile."
5. Fear of rejection: "If I'm not loved, then life is not worth living."s
6. Fear of being alone: "If I'm alone, I'm bound to feel miserable and unfulfilled."
7. Fear of failure: "My worthwhileness depends on my achievements, intelligence, status, attractiveness."
8. Conflict phobia: "People who love each other shouldn't fight."
9. Emotophobia: "I should not feel angry, anxious, inadequate, jealous, or vulnerable."
10. Entitlement: "People should always be the way I expect them to be." 
To me it makes sense that these types of beliefs are formed in early childhood as a result of experiences with our parents.  Therefore, it stands to reason we can teach our children different core beliefs with conscious, positive parenting.

For example, how we react to mistakes (our own and our children's) will give them messages.  We can reinforce the beliefs, "I must never fail or make a mistake," and "People will not love and accept me as a flawed and vulnerable human being," by treating mistakes as bad, something to be punished, something to be ashamed of and something to hide, cover up and deny.

Or, we can choose a different path and instead see mistakes, those we make and those our children make, as an opportunity for learning and react accordingly.

Jane Nelsen suggests that families use dinner time to each share one mistake they made that day and what they learned from it.  This reinforces that mistakes are normal and expected, that everyone makes them, and that they are opportunities to learn something new.

I make mistakes all the time! I spill things, I make wrong turns, I am forgetful, I lose my temper, I misspeak, I make typos, I misunderstand.

As I go through therapy, I'm learning slowly but surely to treat myself gently when I catch myself in one of these mistakes or when someone else points them out.  Instead of overreacting, calling myself names, and going into an emotional tailspin, I can now take a breath and say, "Oops! I made a mistake!  It's OK, we can just clean it up!"  Or we can just try again, or just remember what to do instead next time...

When I treat myself gently, it comes more naturally to treat DH and C with the same kindness and compassion when they make mistakes too.

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