Letting Go of Suffering Course: Table of Contents

Even though the Letting Go of Suffering course is over, you will still be able to access the lessons any time you want to. Before long there will also be an icon on the right sidebar of my blog that will lead to this list.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Lesson 1 The Beginning

Lesson 2 The Beginning (continued)

Lesson 3 What Would Your World be Like If You Didn’t Suffer?

Lesson 4  Why Do I Suffer?

Lesson 5  Why Do I Suffer (continued)

Lesson 6  Using Affirmations To Heal

Lesson 7  Stopping Passive Behavior

Lesson 8  Getting Off the Drama Triangle

Lesson 9  Mistakes

Lesson 10  Failure

Lesson 11  Stopping The Critical Self Talk

Lesson 12  Using Contracts To Heal

Lesson 13  Holding Yourself Accountable

Lesson 14  Making It Bigger

Lesson 15  Changing Your Suffering Profile

Lesson 16  More Tools!

Lesson 17  Lighten Up!

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Seventeen: Lighten Up!

The more we become immersed in suffering, the more difficult it may be to get out of it. Sometimes it may feel as if we are being pulled down into muck. In this course, you have learned many techniques for letting go of suffering. This last lesson will be about consciously working to “Lighten Up!”

One of the ways to lighten up is to do things that will make you laugh. Decades ago, I gave one of my psychotherapy clients a toy frog and encouraged her to carry it around with her when she was suffering. She was irritated with me at the time, but soon thereafter brought clown noses to group and distributed them. She wore hers whenever she realized she was suffering and found that it helped her to lighten her mood. I imagine seeing her also helped lighten the mood of a lot of other people!

Many years ago, I learned a technique from a therapist named Mary Goulding. She instructed us to push our tongues into our cheeks and then talk nonstop about all of the things we were suffering about. When we say those statements that way, they may lead to laughter instead of suffering.

Another way to lighten up is to talk about the problems that are bringing us down in a dramatic and highly exaggerated way. This past December, I was at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India when the the Western residents performed their annual Christmas play. There was a point in that play when an actor portrayed his suffering in a way that resulted in the audience bursting into laughter. To me, the scene and the song that went with it, are a perfect example of this type of lightening up. Listen to the song and see if it might be a useful tool for you to use in the future!

You may also help yourself to lighten by going for a walk, immersing yourself in  nature, going to a movie, reading a book, watching a funny movie, or listening to music.  In the balloons below, write your favorite ways of lightening up.

Every day this week, spend some time practicing ways to lighten your mood. At the end of the day, journal about your experience.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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As I mentioned in the beginning, this is the last lesson in the Letting Go of Suffering series. Thanks so much for participating in all or part of it. I hope you find the tools you have learned during the last seventeen weeks helpful in your life journey.

Sometime this week, I will be publishing a post that will provide links to all of the lessons, and will put a widget on the sidebar that will link to that list. I will also be publishing a poll asking some feedback questions.

 

To find all of the lessons in this series click here.

Photo Credits: Pixabay.

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Sixteen: More Tools!

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

During this course you have been introduced to many tools which can aid you in moving out of suffering. In this  chapter, you will have the opportunity to learn how to use seven more tools.

#1

Suffer Box

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
  1. Stand in a cardboard box (or on a pillow).
  2. Suffer out loud, i.e. whine, bitch, moan, pout, etc.  Say anything and everything that comes to your mind.
  3. Exaggerate your feelings and thoughts.
  4. Stick with it until you feel an energy shift (may be 5-10-15-20 minutes).
  5. Step out of the box
  6. Identify one thing you will do to work on the situation you were suffering about.

(The Suffer Box was adapted from the Fuss Box concept, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson, Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children.)

#2

Suffer Ring

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia
  1. Pick a ring to be your suffer ring.
  2. Wear it anytime you are suffering.
  3. Check in with yourself several times a day to determine whether or not you should be wearing the ring.

(Suggestion: Keep the ring on your watch band or necklace when you aren’t using it, so you have access to it at all times.)

#3

Distract Yourself

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
  1. Go for a walk, watch a movie, play tennis, talk to a friend (on any topic other than what you are suffering about), listen to music, read a book, exercise, etc.
  2. After the suffery energy has shifted, identify one thing you are going to do to solve the problem that is related to your suffering.

#4

Release Anger

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
  1. Make a written list of all the things you are angry about. I am mad that_____. I am mad that_____. I am mad that _____.
  2. Write a poison pen letter saying all of the negative things you would like to say to the person you are angry with. Be sure to destroy the letter afterwards. This is an opportunity for you to vent. No one should ever see it.
  3. Hit a pillow with your fists or a tennis racket
  4. Stomp your feet.
  5. Twist a towel and let your anger flow into the towel.

#5

Release Fear

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
  1. Make a written list of your scares. I am scared that _____. I am scared that _____. I am scared that _____.
  2. Scream into a pillow.
  3. Call a friend and talk with them about your fear.
  4. Say positive affirmations to yourself
  5. Call someone and ask them for an affirmation.

#6

Do a Clearing

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

If you are feeling distant from someone, or you are aware you have unfinished business with them, then do a clearing. I find the model below to be very helpful.

  1. I feel _________________ (mad, sad or scared)
  2. Because when you _________________________
  3. I think it means ___________________________
  4. What I need from me is ______________________
  5. What I need from you is ______________________

Example 1:

  1. I feel scared
  2. Because when you didn’t acknowledge me when I walked into room
  3. I think it means you are mad at me
  4. What I need from me is to remind myself that I’m okay even if you are upset with me.
  5. What I need from you is to know if you are mad at me, i.e. check out your fantasy

Example 2:

  1. I feel mad
  2. Because when you do things I haven’t asked you to do
  3. I think it means you believe I’m incompetent.
  4. What I need from me is to remind myself that I am competent regardless of what you think.
  5. What I need from you is to know whether you think I am incompetent, i.e. check out your fantasy.

Most often our fantasies are wrong, but if you happen to be right, read what you wrote in the fourth line and focus on that. There may be problems that the two of you need to solve but wait until you are both feeling grounded and ready to work on them.

#7

Sharing Resentments and Appreciations

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  1. Ask a friend to work with you as learn how to share and hear resentments and appreciations.
  2. Share two resentments with your friend and listen to two of hers/his. Focus on events that have occurred recently. The person giving the resentment uses the format “I resent that you ______.” The listener responds “Thank you” or “I hear you.” When you are hearing resentments, remember that you are hearing the other person’s experience. It does not mean that you are “bad” or have done something wrong or that you have to agree with their perception. Do not defend or argue, simply listen.
  3. Share two appreciations with your friend and listen to two of hers/his. Focus on events that have occurred recently. The speaker uses the format “I appreciate that you_____.” The listener responds “Thank you” or “I hear you.”

Examples

I resent that you left the cap off of the toothpaste tube.

I resent that you didn’t put your dishes in the dishwasher.

I appreciate that you gave me a hug when I came home.

I appreciate that you called me today.

[Note: Thanks to Elaine Childs-Gowell, Jean Illsley Clarke, Al Chase, and the other therapists who created and/or revised the 1) clearing and 2) resentment and appreciation models.]

 

Every day this week, use one or two of these tools and then journal about your experience.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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See you next Monday for the seventeenth and last lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Fifteen: Changing Your Suffering Profile

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Suffering patterns often become rigid. Simply thinking about a topic that has brought you pain in the past, might trigger you into suffery behavior. One technique that may be helpful in breaking those patterns is to change your suffering profile.

In Week 2 of this series, each participant identified their personal suffering profile.  They did that by examining the following areas:

  • The time of day I usually suffer (e.g. morning, afternoon, evening).
  • Where I usually suffer (e.g. home, work, bedroom, basement).
  • The people with whom I usually suffer (e.g. husband, friend, employer).
  • The day of the week I usually suffer (e.g. Saturday, Monday).
  • The messages I usually give myself when I suffer (e.g. Nobody loves me, I can’t do anything right).
  • Where in my body I usually feel my suffering (e.g. head, stomach, chest).
  • Time of year I usually suffer (e.g. holidays, birthday).
  • What I usually suffer about (e.g. my children, my family, work).

If you completed that original assignment, go back and look at your answers. If you did not write down you responses, or if this is the first time you have learned about a suffering profile, then create it now. You can either use the list above, or go back to the original assignment and use the diagram.

Once you have identified, or reviewed, your suffering profile, you are ready to start this week’s assignment.

Each day this week, whenever you are tempted to suffer, go ahead and suffer! But this time, be sure you are suffering in different ways than those you identified in your profile. For example, if your profile is to suffer about work, at home, during the evening, with your husband, an alternative could be to choose to suffer about your yard, with a supportive friend, during the day, on a walk.

If nothing is bothering you, then intentionally find something to suffer about, so that you have multiple experiences of changing your profile.

Take a few minutes each day to journal about your experience.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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See you next Monday for the sixteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Fourteen: Making It Bigger

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Dr. Ed Beckham, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City, once developed a series of tips to aid you in ruining your day.

      1. Plan twice as much as you can get accomplished.
      2. Don’t be flexible
        -demand others do everything your way
        -know it will be a catastrophe if you don’t get your way
        -view everyone who disagrees with you as an obstacle
      3. Worry about anything that can be worried about
        -think a lot about anything that is going wrong even if you can’t do anything about it
      4. Take things personally
        -think about how others aren’t treating you fairly
        -ruminate about how others don’t have the right to do what they do to you
        -brood about how you don’t deserve what is happening to you
      5. Don’t be humorous about anything
        -take everything very seriously
        -consider everything to be a life and death situation

(Source: Stimulate Your Stress, US Air Magazine, p. 10, July 1991.

Paradoxically, these same tips can be used to help you stop your suffering.

Your assignment this week is to make everything BIGGER:

        1. For 15 to 60 minutes a day
          -plan twice as much as you can get accomplished
          -don’t be flexible
          -worry about anything that can be worried about
          -take things personally
          -don’t be humorous about anything
        2. Pick a specific time period to complete the assignment, i.e. do not do “10 minutes here and 10 minutes there.” If possible, do the assignment the same time each day.
        3. Do NOT set yourself up
          -don’t do this assignment at work
          -do not do this assignment around people who are not supportive of you
          -let the people who will be around you when you are doing the assignment know what you are doing
        4. If you are tempted to suffer at any other time during the day, tell yourself that it is important for you to wait until the assigned time.
        5. Each day, after you complete your assignment, spend a few minutes journaling about your experience and about your day in general.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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See you next Monday for the fifteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Thirteen: Holding Yourself Accountable

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It is easier to make contracts than it is to keep them. For example, if you made a contract not to eat chocolate, how long would you be able to resist if there was a piece of chocolate on the table next to you?

One way to increase the likelihood that you will keep your contract is find ways to hold yourself accountable. In my psychotherapy groups, clients do “Accountability Work” whenever they break their contracts. The structure we use looks like this:

The contract I broke:

How I broke it:

The mistaken belief that caused me to break the contract:

One or two things that I will do to prevent myself from breaking the contract again:

 

Here are some examples:

EXAMPLE #1

Contract I broke: I won’t eat junk food.

How I broke it:  I ate a bag of cookies.

Mistaken belief that caused me to break it: My feelings are not okay. [Note: People often use overeating as a way to shove down their feelings.]

One or two things that I will do to prevent myself from breaking the contract again:
1) I will remove all of the junk food from my house.

2) When I crave junk food, I will call a friend and ask for support.

 

EXAMPLE #2

The contract I broke:  I will not work more than 50 hours per week.

How I broke it: I worked 65 hours last week.

The mistaken belief that caused me to break the contract: It is not okay for me to say “NO.” [Note: You can’t say NO to everything you don’t want to do, but many people with this belief develop an unhealthy pattern of saying YES to everything.]

One or two things that I will do to prevent myself from breaking the contract again:
1) I will let my friends know that I am going to practice saying NO and would like their help. If they agree to help me, I will ask them for something every day for two weeks. [Note: This will also give you practice in hearing “NO.” When I did this exercise I asked someone to pay for my graduate school tuition!]

2) I will say the mantra “My needs are important” 1000 times a day for twenty-one days.

 

If you find yourself breaking a contract regularly, you may find it helpful to add a consequence to the contract.

Example #1 

Contract: I will clean the kitchen before I go to bed.

How I broke it: I watched TV after dinner. I went to bed without cleaning the kitchen.

Consequence: For the 7 days, I will not watch TV until the kitchen is clean.

 

Example #2

Contract: I will exercise 3 times a week.

How I broke it: I did not exercise at all.

Consequence:  Any week I do not keep my exercise contract, I will pick up litter for 45 minutes. I complete this consequence within 5 days of breaking the contract.

 

The assignment for this week is to be accountable for your contracts. In the box below, write the two contracts you will focus on this week. They can be the same ones you worked on last week, or new ones.

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Do accountability work any time you break one of your contracts:

The contract I broke:

How I broke it:

The mistaken belief that caused me to break the contract:

One or two things that I will do to prevent myself from breaking it again:

 

After completing your accountability work, ask yourself if you need to add a consequence to these contracts. If so what consequence will you set?

Consequence Contract 1:

Consequence Contract 2:

 

Each day this week, journal about your experience with contracts and holding yourself accountable.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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See you next Monday for the fourteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Twelve: Using Contracts to Heal

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A contract is usually an agreement between two or more people but you can also use contracts to make agreements with yourself. It is a structure that can be invaluable when you are serious about making changes in your life.

Here are some examples of this type of contract:

Example #1

Problem: I work 65 hours a week

Contract: I will work no more than 50 hours a week for the next month and will reduce my work time to 45 hours a week after that.

 

Example #2

Problem: I constantly criticize myself.

Contract: Every time I am self-critical, I will internally say the affirmation “I am worthy of respect. I will not harm myself by thought, word or deed.”

 

Example #3

Problem: I eat when I am not hungry.

Contract: For the next week, I will record every time I am tempted to eat when I’m not hungry. Next to the date and time, I will write what incident or thought triggered my desire to eat, as well as the emotion that followed the trigger.

 

Example #4

Problem: When someone asks me to do something, I automatically say yes, even when it is something I don’t want to do.

Contract: I will not say yes to requests without taking time to think about the request first.

 

In the next section, you will make a list of your self-sabotaging behaviors, such as those in the examples above. After you make your list, you will formulate a contract for each one. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to commit to keeping a lot of contracts. The purpose of the first exercise is to help you learn how to write simple, clear contracts.

It is important that you word your contracts in a way that promotes you in being successful. For example, if you would like to exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes, it would be best to start with a contract that says “I will exercise a minimum of 3 days a week for 20 minutes.” That way you won’t break the contract if you only do 3 or 4 sessions on a busy week. You can always do more than your contract requires.

Exercise #1

In the box below, list 4-8 behaviors you desire to change and write a contract for each one. If you have trouble identifying the changes you want to make, you might find it helpful to look through the Week 1 and Week 2 lessons of this course. If possible, complete Exercise #1 on the first day of this week so that you have the rest of the week to work on Exercise #2.

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Exercise #2

Pick two of the contracts from the list above, and commit to keeping them for the rest of the week. At the end of each day, jot down some notes about your experience.

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At the end of the week, answer the questions below:

Was it easy for you to keep the two contracts?

If it wasn’t easy, then commit to continue keeping them. It takes time to change behavior patterns.

When you are ready to add one or two new contracts to the original two, write them in the box below.

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If you would like feedback about the contracts you write, feel free to put them in the comment section. I would be happy to answer questions or make suggestions.

Pen Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

See you next Monday for the thirteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published click here.

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Eleven: Stopping the Critical Self Talk

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Suffering is created or enhanced by critical self-talk. An important step in ending suffering is to replace the negative critical messages with positive nurturing and/or structuring messages.

Source: Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children.
Source: Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children.

Creating nurturing and structuring messages is a skill that takes practice. This lesson will focus on helping you to learn that skill by walking you through a multi-step process. At the end of the lesson you find a worksheet you can copy for future use.

EXAMPLE:

State the problem in one sentence:

I forgot to bring my children’s sack lunches when I drove them to the bus that would take them to summer camp.

What critical messages are you telling yourself?

1) Stupid! There were 300 children there and you were the ONLY parent who forgot her children’s lunches.
2) You are a terrible parent.
3) Why are you making such a big deal out of nothing? They won’t be allowed to go hungry.

Identify nurturing messages you can use to counteract the critical messages (messages that are gentle, caring, supportive, and unconditional).

1) You do care for your children and they know it.
2) You are a good parent even though you make mistakes.
3) It is highly unlikely that you were the only parent who forgot their child’s lunch.
4) It is important for your children to know that you make mistakes. When they see you make a mistake, they learn that it is okay for them to make mistakes.
5) You were feeling very sad because your friend Jean was leaving today and you won’t see her for a very long time. It is understandable that you didn’t remember everything.

Identify structuring messages you can use to counteract the critical messages (messages that set limits, show how and give options. 

1) Talk to the camp counselors. Tell them what happened and ask if they have arrangements for children who come without lunches.
2) Tell your children that you forgot the food and have them help brainstorm solutions.
3) Check and see if there is time for you to go to a convenience store and buy them some lunch. Continue reading “Letting Go of Suffering- Week Eleven: Stopping the Critical Self Talk”

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Ten: Failure

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You are lovable even when you fail.

Failing is a normal and necessary part of living.

You can learn from every failure.

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Another behavior that often leads to suffering is failure. Failure is “to disappoint expectations or trust; to fall short; to be or become absent or inadequate; to be unsuccessful.” (Webster’s Ninth New College Dictionary, Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Inc. 1988, p. 445)

The reality is that any time we choose to act, we take the risk of failure. In order to succeed, we must be willing to risk failing. There is much that can be gained from acting, even if the result is failure. As with mistakes, it is important to see that failure is a necessary part of living and that something can be learned from every failure. Continue reading “Letting Go of Suffering- Week Ten: Failure”

Letting Go of Suffering- Week Nine: Mistakes

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You are lovable even when you make mistakes.

Making mistakes is important for your growth.

You can learn from every mistake.

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Making a mistake is one of those life situations that often leads to suffering. A mistake is “a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge or inattention.” (Merriam-Webster, Inc. 1988 p. 760.)

An important step in letting go of the suffering is to adopt the mind-set that mistakes are an important and necessary part of living, and that something can be learned from every mistake. In time, you may even come to see making a mistake as a positive event rather than a negative one.

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This week, record every mistake you make. Write down the tiny mistakes as well as the big ones. Next to the mistake, write what you learned from making it and what you will do differently in the future. Add more paper if you need to.

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You are lovable even when you make mistakes.

Making mistakes is important for your growth.

You can learn from every mistake.

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See you next Monday for the tenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published click here.