Overcoming failure: I once heard a therapist say, “my clients seem to be ‘haunted.’” She chose the word “haunted” because it best described how her clients continued to be troubled with sad, depressed, and angry feelings from memories of past failures. Though experienced long ago, these failures still lived-on within their minds, as if they had just occurred.
I recognized my self. I realized how I was “haunted” by dwelling on my past errors and how my obsession with them caused needless anxiety and shame. For instance, thoughts of my errors and failures would drift into my mind while doing the dishes or they might be triggered by things like seeing a commercial of someone else’s failure or success.
Overcoming failure requires acceptance of our humanity: its grandeur, imperfections, and limitations. The past is done and gone. In my instance, it was I who kept my old failures in my present life. It was I who haunted myself.
Trained in psychology, I knew techniques to help my mind. I knew that it is important to learn from mistakes, then move on, to use that learning in future situations. I knew that mistakes are a part of being human and that trying to be perfect (perfectionism) harms the spirit. It invokes criticism (of self and others), drives a lot of unnecessary activity, and robs the simple enjoyment of life.
I knew that life is made up of instances; trillions, kagillions of instances. Too often, it is the negative instances that capture attention when in reality there are many positive experiences one could focus on too.
Yet out of all of this knowing, I found the wisdom of a poem, Last night, as I was sleeping, most healing. I share an excerpt of this poem by Antonio Machado with you now in hopes that it may help your healing too:
Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Machado’s words helped heal the anguish of my memories. They disrupted habitual patterns of worry and fret in a way that techniques, analysis, and argument could not. They spoke directly to my soul.
Overcoming Failure Key Points
There are many ways to help natural healing.
Yet, sometimes even with the best of efforts you can get stuck in habitual and harmful ways of thinking. I found that the use of arts, like poetry, can help one become un-stuck. They can bring profound healing by working directly with the soul.
Sources and Resources
Michado, Antonio, Times Alone, translated by Robert Bly (Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press,1983).