When you have a roaring Tyrannosaur in your braincase, it’s easy to make some cognitive mistakes. Nothing so bad as hunting down and eating whomever happens to be around, but it sure feels that way because, as we know, Tyrannosaurs aren’t known for their emotional stability. When you don’t have that emotional centering and don’t recognize the problem when you try to interact with others, you just might see them as ‘prey’.
Not a good idea at all.
Then again, our poor extinct friends the Tyrannosaurs did not have the option of recognizing when they were being a problem. They were built for problems: fight rivals, get mates, eat everything in sight, hang out and be the bullies. And I’d bet a dollar they were not too willing to sit down and talk about problems with others.
And sometimes you let that Tyrannosaur out and, lo and behold, the failure begins. The screaming, too.
“Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
– Ambrose Bierce
Everyone has spoken out of anger. It’s a major failing for humans in that our brains don’t work before our mouths do. And the carnage! We strew anger left and right, up and down and all over our enemies or worse, our loved ones. And this mistake is something that happened the other day; I went directly to Tyrannosaur mode and bit the head off of someone I love. It sure made me unhappy because I love the people I love. Still, anyone can be driven to the point of explosion.
Where I failed was that I didn’t recognize the point where I should have walked away, calmed down and approached the subject of the argument from a more effective and sympathetic direction. But sometimes it’s hard to recognize that moment where backing off is the best tactic for you and for them.
So I spent a great deal of discussion, research and thinking about just when that moment of back-off appears and it turns out that it’s not just a mental assessment, it’s a physical one; there’s a moment when my chest contracts, a sense of desperation appears. There’s a moment when the need to explain my side of an argument becomes the only thing in my brain, when there’s nothing more important than being heard and completely understood.
As it turns out, that’s not a good place to be unless the person with which you are trying to communicate is open and listening. If they’ve stopped hearing you, they’ve set the emotional explosives. If they push the button that says ‘I am ignoring you’ or ‘I don’t want to hear it’ then you hit the point of explosion.
“People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.”
– Will Rogers
But there’s a way to prevent it: observation. See, if the kid above took a second to observe that his front wheel is the wrong shape, he’d change it and have a much more effective (and less emotionally draining) method of getting around. All this square wheel is going to do is shake him up, make him mad, make him cry and more than likely cause a nasty round of vomiting.
I will fail, you will fail. Again and again. Failure is a thing that humans do very well. But a thing that many of us do not do well is to forgive ourselves. I know that for me it’s a hard thing to do and in this instance of allowing my inner Tyrannosaur to leap out and behead someone I love, well, that was pretty bad, I must say. And I did all of the things to heal it as best I could, from apologizing for the Jurassic Park scene I made to doing all I can from that point forward to ensure that I do better when it comes to this kind of failure.
But forgiving myself? Well, that takes some doing; guilt and shame for behavior are hard to shake. The sadness that guilt and shame create within is almost intolerable, and the recognition of my childish and out-of-control behavior just makes it all that much more painful.
What’s the most important thing to remember when you fail? That’s right. Your failures do not define you. Rather it is how you deal with your failures that defines you, or is that wrong? I decided to deal with this failure by taking steps to prevent the situation in the future if at all possible. Is that not a good course to take? Is it not the only effective course to take? Well, actually, there’s one more step.
Forgiveness means a great deal more than just making amends and choosing to do the right thing; the last step is to forgive yourself. If you don’t quite know how to do that, here’s a great illustration:
Let it go. Just let it go. You’re doing the right thing to let all that internalized, self-directed anger and pain float away. The more you hang on the worse it all becomes. The more you let it fester within the harder it is to let the breeze take it from you. You cannot free yourself to truly learn from the experience of failure without experiencing self-forgiveness.
“Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.”
– Hannah Arendt
It’s hard. You might want to hang on to your pain. You might make another mistake in thinking that the pain is the lesson. It isn’t. The lesson is that when you experience failure, letting go of the pain and keeping the lesson learned is the lesson.
Everyone benefits when you learn a lesson like that.