In my last post, we started the Guiltbusters exercise. I hope you’ve had a chance to think about your insights — and the advice you gave our dear friend, Mr. Doh. Now it’s time to apply that advice to yourself. You’re ready to take that advice and make a plan.
Make a Plan
On each of your Error Sheets, write these sentences in capital letters:
I MADE THIS MISTAKE, AND I WILL DO MY VERY BEST TO FIX IT. HERE IS MY PLAN:
Read through your “Do” and “Don’t” suggestions to see which ones apply. Using those suggestions as a guide, make a plan to fix your mistake as best you can. Here’s an example from Mr. Doh:
Mistake No. 1
I spent too little time with my son when he was in middle school. Now he’s a junior in high school and he barely speaks to me.
I take responsibility for that mistake.
I think it’s time to discuss the subject with him. I will set up a good time to talk about it next week. I’ll explain to him that I’ve realized how much I miss him and how much I do want to spend time with him. I’ll ask him to make some plans with me for things we can do together. I’ll acknowledge that if he’s busy, I’ll arrange my schedule to make sure we have time together.
If he rebuffs me, I won’t blame him. But I also won’t bribe him with expensive gifts or lavish vacations. I’ll just invite him to do some nice things together.
If he becomes angry and abusive, I’ll let him know that verbal abuse is not appropriate, even though I can understand why he is angry.
I won’t let the outburst discourage me. I’ll just be patient and keep inviting him to spend time with me. I am determined to restore our relationship.
Every week I’ll look carefully at my calendar and make sure I have at least three hours to spend with my son every night, even if that means that we both do our work together at the kitchen table, the library or sometimes a café.
I know that even though I made this mistake, I did some very positive things as a parent. Here are some things I’m proud of: [List]
I might talk to _____ about this. Maybe I can discuss my progress with him/her. Maybe (s)he can help hold me accountable to carry out this plan. Maybe I could do the same for him or her if (s)he also wants to fix a mistake.
I think I can forgive myself for this mistake if I work hard to fix it. I meant well. I wanted to be a good provider, but I got swept up in all the demands of my job. It was a hard lesson I had to learn. I have learned it now.
In making this plan and committing to it, Mr. Doh has moved his guilt from the back of his mind to the forefront. Now that he has addressed it rationally, he has no need for it. He can let it go. Instead of feeling badly, he can work the plan.
If you’ll pardon my bad English, doing good is better than feeling bad.
Guilt is like a snooze alarm. When you’re asleep and that snooze alarm keeps going off, you may stay partly asleep. But it won’t be sound, peaceful, restorative sleep. You will probably feel lost in some murky limbo between dreams and reality. Each alarm ring is like a painful thought. You may be aware of it, but only dimly. You may hear it and feel disturbed, but you clumsily press the button and go back to sleep.
To release yourself from this limbo, you need to get up, turn off the alarm, make coffee, and start the day. Once you’re wide awake, the alarm has no purpose.
You’re waking up and on your way to the coffee. Congratulations!
In my next post, I’ll give you another exercise to keep guilt from creeping back into your mind.