by Louise Stanger Ed.D, LCSW, CDWF, CIP
Along with 70+ other esteemed faculty, Dr. Stanger will be presenting at the 10th Annual West Coast Symposium on Addictive Disorders, May 30 – June 2, 2019 in La Quinta, CA. View the brochure and learn more at www.c4events.org/wcsad.
One of my favorite sayings that the indomitable David Zint, a motivational coach and Soul Cycle instructor says is: “We repeat what we do not repair.”
Such was the case I recently experienced. Sometimes you want something so badly that you err. I wanted so badly to be a part of something that I was graciously allowed to rejoin a group that in my heart I know is made up of lovely wonderful folks and that I ultimately did not fit in. Nothing bad, nothing awful, I just wanted to be a part of this group as a free agent. However, I can never match up to their rules or regulations. I so wanted to belong I went against my instinctive nature and did it anyway.
Things went swimmingly well for a while till one day I knowingly with full responsibility broke the rules and violated confidentiality of the group. I thought long and hard about my action which I took as one of advocacy. As a former social work lecturer and social worker, I was taught that sometimes if the rules or policies seem extreme and violate your own values of doing good then you must advocate for what is right. We even ask students to write and extrapolate on how a policy may help or harm. In a moment of advocacy, I violated group rules norms. I was wrong in doing that and offended many – for that I make amends.
As a social worker who values “to do no harm” the tack the group was headed – perhaps I was ill informed about – was besmirching an entity that did not deserve besmirching. And so rightly I was let go from the group. I am responsible for my actions and make amends to those I offended.
That being said, I trust there are no outstanding grudges. Recently I read an outstanding New York Times article on Grudges ( Jolie Kerr Jan 2, 2019), which gives the reader a synopsis of How to Hold a Grudge by Ms. Hannah.
The writing is prolific, helpful and in line with 12-Step work:
- A grudge can actually be helpful as it’s a story that we can benefit from so “treat your grudges as protective amulets.”
- “Write down your grudges so you can remember how you felt and accurately how you felt.” She has a grading system and a quiz based on carets (like diamonds), which lets you take an inventory (her own kind of fourth step) that allows you to look at the intention of the person who wronged you.
- Make a grudge cabinet where you can file things away (here Ms. Hannah reminds me of the process of putting things in a god box, talking to your sponsor and letting go doing a fourth step.)
- “Rewrite the Narrative.” This is the part that if you could have done something differently what would you do. I ask myself this question over and over again as I probably should have trusted the group process to make all right instead of muddying the waters with a superwoman cape or should I have never joined the group. Since what is is all I can do is stop think and not repeat again my actions.
- “Use the story to forgive yourself.” Since I did the action, then the only person I can hold a grudge against is myself. Forgiving my actions keeps the negativity towards myself so I don’t begin to think I am not good enough, which leads down a shame spiral. Seeing the action as an error allows me to rise to my best possible self.
Will I repeat what I don’t repair? My intent is I will not. I will pause and reflect and seriously consider what my values are and how they match up with whatever groups I am in. I will be true to myself and to my profession.
To the group I wish they soar to the highest heights and continue doing the good work they do. I hold them in high regard and know they do a good job.
As I enter 2019, I am reminded how powerful the Serenity Prayer is as a guide for all of us:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”