Article by Melany M. Rivera-Maldonado, PhD
The last time you promised yourself not to do it again, it happened. You texted back. You called. You overate, overdrank, you ______ (fill the blank). You went back to the same old habits. But let’s focus on the positive for a second. You are now trying to put the pieces back together. Ready to make another promise that it won’t happen again in the new year. After a few weeks into 2020, you might be able to hold yourself accountable. Great! If this is not the case, you might be finding yourself tempted, frustrated, anxious and still battling with that little voice that tells you that you are about to mess things up again.
Well instead of blaming yourself or promising that it won’t happen again, we sit down with our broken attempts? Before moving forward, let’s start by giving yourself space. In a world where stories last 24 hours and text and email responses are expected almost immediately, we all need a place where we can breathe. Instead of spending hours asking Google for advice or following some inspiring people and trying to get their success formula, let’s brainstorm in a journal and find a therapist. Zoom in before moving forward. Healing and closure take time… and space from other’s opinions.
Now, let’s sit down with what happened for a second… maybe minutes or days. Don’t get me wrong. Doing it might hurt (fair warning). Even more than when it happened. It will remind you of all the first times that were not the last ones (even though you thought they were). Be kind to yourself in this process. You’ve made it this far (be proud of that!). Connect what went wrong with other experiences. Find patterns. See how family, partners and others have shaped the way you respond. If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to people you trust and seek professional help in the same way you would do if you have a chest pain. Developing a therapeutic relationship could be the safety net you need to unfold all of this.
Find closure and repair. Like you would do with any wounds, take care of the side of yourself that changed because of it. Find self-care activities that can bring joy and space (always space) to re-connect with yourself. Elaborate on what you could have done differently, if anything, not to blame yourself (be kind!), but to find new possibilities and alternatives now that you have decided to move forward. Let go of negative feelings that might get in the way by connecting with what this experience has taught you. Be mindful that other’s suggestions and opinions about what happened are colored by their own stories and you are in control of deciding what is best for you. It is okay if what worked for them does not work for you.
Lastly, keep a space for the possibility that it might happen again. Give a place for this in your vision board, or in your agenda. While you cannot control what others do or what life throws at you, being aware of your own reactions creates an opportunity to change how you respond to it. Who knows, in this trial and error process, you might end up finding a stronger version of yourself, on the other side of your comfort zone.
So cheers to our broken attempts and pieces because they are part of our story. But more important, to the first of many moments of being kind and mindful of ourselves before moving forward. To be aware that even though it might not be the last time you walk into something that you fear to regret, you have changed yourself in the process.
About the Contributor
Melany Rivera-Maldonado, PhD is a clinical psychologist, professor and consultant providing psychological assessment, individual therapy and workshops in Jersey City. As the owner of Round Room Psychology, LLC, she specializes in working with children ages 0-12 who are experiencing behavioral, emotional and social difficulties. Dr. Rivera-Maldonado also has expertise in working with adults who are trying to heal from their past and improve the way they relate with others.
Social Media: @roundroompsych on Instagram; Round Room Psychology, LLC on Facebook.