What If I Didn’t Beat Myself Up Over A Mistake?

I very much want to call myself a series of awful curse words.

I just got home (half past midnight). Left at 2:30PM. When I opened my door just now I realized that I didn’t leave any lights on. Meaning my puppers (Westley – pictured below) has been in a very dark apartment since sundown.

My dog means the world to me. I love him. I would never intentionally do this. Every other time I’ve ever left I’ve made sure lights were on and music was playing for him. I don’t know if he appreciates the music, but I figure it’s worth the chance.

Leaving him in the dark was a mistake. My girlfriend is out of town and I’ve had a particularly busy week. And amidst all the logistics I’ve been handling I simply forgot.

Now, the old me would not hesitate to call myself everything in the book:

You idiot. You piece of shit! You’re an awful dog dad! How dare you! I feel terrible.

And I was just about to bring on the barrage of internal insults when I had a new kind of thought:

I very much want to call myself a bunch of bad things.

As odd as this sounds to say, simply taking a step back from having the thought and instead thinking about the thoughts before I thought them gave me a brief pause. In other words, before I had the chance to call myself anything, I simply realized that I was going to that.

By thinking this thought and giving myself a second of hesitation before verbally flogging myself I realized that absolutely no good would come from this. My dog would not in anyway benefit from me hurting myself.

If I felt bad about what I did, he would not be affected positively in any way, shape or form. What he needed was my love and attention. He needed to be walked. He needed to hear my voice tell him he’s a good boy. And he needed belly rubs (so many belly rubs).

That’s what he needed to help him heal from a traumatic day.

And I could provide him with all those things. But doing say did not require me to hate on myself. Not only did it not require it, it would not in any way be aided by me doing so.

This is weird to me.

My knee jerk reaction to realizing a huge blunder has always been to throw shade on my psyche. To not do so feels foreign. To be honest it feels like cheating.

My brain is thinking: Why do I get to skip out on a punishment when I caused my dog pain?

And I think the answer is, ‘because I can’t go back and prevent the pain I caused, but I can – in the present – prevent more pain from being caused.’ If inflicting pain on myself (even just mentally) won’t help my dog, but will hurt me, why should I engage with it?

My assumption has always been that if I punish myself it will help me not do this kind of thing again in the future. But does it? The psychological wake up call of realizing the mistake was probably enough in and of itself to remind me to avoid this from now on. Maybe I don’t need self flagellation to help me remember something.

Right now my brain is tempted like crazy to curse at myself. Because I always do this, my neural pathways want to cut thru the same groove they always do. But I’m holding it at bay. This could be the start of a whole new trend for me psychologically.

I’m sorry to Westley that he had to suffer for me to learn this lesson, but in the long run I think he’s fine as long as I keep the belly rubs coming. =)

Image may contain: Rich Baker