It’s football season. Everywhere you go, the stores are displaying pendants of your favorite teams. The sport channels and radio stations are dedicating programs, 24 hours a day to football. The newspapers publish whole sections about professional, college, high school and even peewee football. Wherever you go, you can hardly help but be bombarded by the sport. Go out to eat and many of the restaurants have televisions showing three or four different games at the same time.
During the week, sportscasters make their predictions and talk about game plans. On the weekend, you watch, listen or go to a football game and, on Monday, if you don’t watch Monday Night Football, you become a football critic. You expound on what your team should have, could have and might have done. Then you read the injury reports, review the highlights of last week’s game and make prognostications about the coming weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, I like football, but sometimes I feel like I’m overdosed by the whole process. Why? Because my primary interest is people: what you feel, what you do, how you do and why you behave the way you do. I’m concerned with helping you to recognize who and what you feel, to own what you discover and to forgive, accept and love yourself, in spite of or because of it. I’m of the opinion that when you can see clearly who you are and accept that person, you come to genuinely love yourself and, as a result, you are better able to love others
The problem is, how do you honestly begin to see yourself introspectively? It’s almost impossible because of your natural tendency to rationalize, justify, deny and to use any number of defense mechanisms to avoid getting in touch with your shortcomings.
That’s where the game of football can help you. Think about how many times you’ve heard sports announcers talk about coaches and players spending Sunday night and Monday mornings watching game films? The purpose: to slow things down sufficiently to allow them to see clearly the errors they made or whether they were just outplayed by the opposing athletes. By watching game films, players and coaches can see their mistakes and use that awareness to learn how to improve their play.
Let’s apply that to interpersonal relationships. Think of it in terms of interactions you’ve seen between husbands and wives, whether family members or friends, in the course of spending time with them. As a spectator, you could see readily the pain they inflict on one another through “humorous,” but barbed comments, the silence they exchange or the passive-aggressive behavior they demonstrate. All the while you know that, sometime later, each of the parties will recount the interaction in a highly one-sided biased manner, which by that time, they’ve come to believe
That’s when game films can come to your aid. They serve as a way to replay and review your behavior in order to help you to see accurately what you did or didn’t do or say. You see, game films don’t lie. Despite your defense mechanisms, they force you to see the truth. But, one word of caution: They aren’t intended to be used to beat yourself up. That isn’t their purpose. The purpose is: One, to learn from the errors you made, particularly when they’re ones you’re most reluctant to own, and two, to alter or improve your behaviors so that you don’t make the same mistakes again – the axiom being, “you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broke.”
My thought is that it would be absolutely wonderful, if everyone wore a camera, much like the ones we advocate that police officers wear. The film replay would allow you to review your daily game and help you to determine how often you should feel shame or embarrassment over your actions. It would provide you an opportunity to see, evaluate and alter your behaviors – not because of what someone else says, but because of what you’ve seen. I see it as essential, because you don’t learn a great deal from your successes, but you certainly can from your mistakes. After all, you all make them because no one is perfect, although some of you spend an awful lot of time trying to be. However, any effort in that direction only serves to create more stress, increase procrastination and cause you to become far less productive. That’s why so many coaches say to players “go out and have fun; enjoy the game and, lastly, learn to take the punches; don’t personalize them; instead react in terms of your goal to win the game, not to protect your fragile ego.”
I can say the same thing for everyone I see in therapy, as well as myself. I certainly am not exempt from making mistakes. Ask anyone in my family, and they will reassure you of it. Sometimes, I feel they do it to excess, but when I stop defending and allow myself to honestly see me, I usually wind up regretting my behavior and go on to correct it. So, I’d have you consider that, every night before going to bed, you review your game film for that day; honestly evaluate each scene and give it a thumb up or a thumb down.
You need to swallow your pride, feel regret and allow yourself to lament your mistakes openly, your childish reactions and your inappropriate or excessive display of anger. Identifying and recognizing them will very often leave a bad taste in your mouth, sick feeling in your stomach and guilty emotions in your heart. Hopefully, it also will result in a conscious decision in your brain not to act that way again.
Fall is football season, but fall, winter, spring and summer are all people seasons. So, I’d have you consider reviewing your game film every day of every season of the year. Doing so will, in the long run, decrease embarrassment, mitigate guilt and reduce feelings of shame over errors you’ve made in the past – all because you’ve learned that mistakes are inevitable and that, although seeing them may initially cause you pain, you later will benefit, because awareness and acceptance of who you are, generally, initiates emotional growth. The end result is that you rid yourself of negative emotions, which leaves more room for positive feeling of love, which you can direct, first to yourself and then to others.