The AffirNation is a community I have created to inspire and encourage you all to bring the power of positive thinking into your lives by using affirmations in an organized, consistent manner. Every week I will be sharing a new affirmation on social media and discussing it here in a post at The Worry Games. For more details, click here.
This week’s affirmation was inspired by my 8-year-old son Cooper.
I had asked him a few weeks ago if there were any memories or thoughts that he had a hard time letting go of or that made him feel bad. He replied “Just one. It’s about the time I dropped the iPad out of the window of the van.”
I knew immediately what he was talking about. One day about 3 months earlier, he decided he wanted to record the sound of the wind as it flew by our van as we cruised at 60 mph down the road. So he held my new iPad out the window, and then dropped it and it splattered all over the highway.
I confess, I did not react as well as I could have. I was pretty upset with him as we walked up and down the road trying to find the carcass of the iPad I had just bought a month before. But even still, it surprised me that he would hold on to the memory of that because I wouldn’t say I got any madder about it than I have gotten about other things, plus we were able to get it fixed pretty easily so it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal when all was said and done.
But that is the thing about memories and mishaps.
What seems like not a big deal to one person, can seem like a very big deal to another person. Cooper told me he hung on to that memory because he was embarrassed and he thought it was silly that he caused so much trouble all because he wanted to “record the wind”.
I told Cooper I thought it was really cool that he wanted to record the wind! It meant he had a scientific mind and it was something I would have wanted to do when I was a little. I then asked him if he understood that I wasn’t angry with him for what happened and that when I got mad at him that day, that was just me having a mommy tantrum, and that he didn’t do anything “bad”. He said “yes” but that he couldn’t stop feeling bad about it when it popped into his mind.
I then asked him if he thought he had paid a sufficient price for what he did, by feeling guilty and embarrassed for weeks and weeks. He said “I don’t know.” And I said “Well, let’s see. No lasting damage was done. Nobody is angry at you. You didn’t mean to do any harm…it was just an accident. And you have felt bad and have been punishing yourself about it for weeks. I would say you have more than paid your due for what you did, and it’s probably okay to let go of this, don’t you think?”
He thought about it and said “I guess.”
So I said “Ok, here is what we are going to do. First you are going to tell me everything you feel about that bad memory just to make sure that we get the “bad feeling bucket” good and emptied out. Then we are going to try to keep it from filling back up by turning this negative memory, into a positive memory. We are going to try to dull that sting you feel when you think about it, by turning it form a bad thing into a good thing.”
He just looked at me through his glasses, expressionless.
“How can we turn this into a good thing?”, I asked. “By turning it into a lesson. What is something that you learned from dropping the iPad out of the window?”
“Not to hang things out the car window”, he said. (You have to love him. He goes straight for the obvious.)
“Well there you go!” I said. “That is a pretty good lesson. A lot of people aren’t lucky enough to learn that lesson without getting really hurt. Now you know and you aren’t going to do that again, are you? Maybe you altered your destiny and now you aren’t going to lose your arm by dangling stuff out of the school bus when you are 15. And also, if you are ever with somebody who drops something out of the window, YOU are going to be able to say ‘I have done that too. Its going to be okay. I got through it and so can you.’ And that is pretty cool! Experience gives us inner strength and character and the ability to support other people through their tough times.”
He kind of smiled.
I said, “So every time that thought pops into your head and you get that bad feeling, I want you to say ‘Thank you memory. Because of you, I am a smarter, stronger person. ‘, and then smile to yourself and try not to think about it anymore. From now on you try to think nothing but good thoughts when you think about that memory, until we can turn it into a positive. Then, once it becomes positive, you will see that you start thinking about it less and less.”
He nodded his head and I sat with him while we had a good talk about all the ways the memory of that day made him feel bad, then we made an agreement that he would try to let it go.
Its only been a week but I asked Cooper earlier today how he was feeling about that memory and he said “Fine.” Not exactly a guarantee of success, but I am taking it as a sign of progress. My talks have a fairly decent success rate with my kids but some of them turn out to be clunkers. Time will tell.
A lot of us have painful memories about things we have done that are hard to let go of, and some of them need to be discussed with a professional because they involve some serious issues.
But I have noticed through my years of talking with people with anxiety disorders that most of the things we obsess and worry and feel guilty about are not necessarily things that have earned the amount of guilt, shame and embarrassment that we put ourselves through. Most of the memories that give us those pokes of bad feelings and regret such as Cooper described, are things that don’t really warrant a whole lot of thought at all. They are just things that our sensitive nature, big imaginations, and negative thinking personalities turn into what feels like “a big deal”.
Either way, big or small, it doesn’t matter what we did. We can always find a way to become stronger for our mistakes, and we definitely don’t have to punish ourselves forever.
Our natural tendency to “feel bad” about things we have done, whether big or small, is something that we need to stay aware of and be proactive about.
This week’s affirmation will help train your subconscious to stop associating your mistakes with failure and shame, and start associating them with strength and wisdom. It will help till that rock hard soil in your brain that our old thought patterns are cemented into, and create fertile ground that you can easily plant positive thinking seeds into the next time you start feeling bad about something you once did.
Remember, we ALL make mistakes. I have made so many mistakes, including some that have had some serious consequences. From bad relationship choices to career choices to hurtful things I have done to people, trust me, I have SCREWED up. Everybody does it. But turning some aspects of those mistakes into positives ……that is NOT something everybody does.
Be unique. Go rogue and dare to embrace your failures and “screw ups.” Imagine the positive chain reaction that could happen in your brain and your life overall if you use your power to make every choice you make, good or bad, work for you – somehow, someway.