How I Used Self-compassion to Manage a ‘Mea Culpa Moment’

Practicing self-compassion is beneficial when you need to forgive yourself

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by Dagmar Munn |

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You might assume from reading my column over the past few years that I’m the model of positivity. I certainly try to be, but sometimes I’m not. Like many who live with ALS, I also have moments of frustration that open the door to me saying the wrong thing to an innocent bystander, creating what I call a “mea culpa moment.”

Last week, while writing about a pilot study on self-compassion for ALS, a memory of a past mea culpa moment bubbled up in my mind, and I used self-compassion mindfulness to help me deal with it. Here’s how.

What is a ‘mea culpa moment’?

We’ve all said or done something we wish we could take back, do over, or say, “Mea culpa — I’m sorry.” Many of my such moments happened in the initial years following my diagnosis of ALS.

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For example, I felt awkward wearing my ankle foot orthotics while pushing a walker with wheels and often imagined others staring at me. If I caught them looking in my direction, what did I do? Why I’d stare right back. With a grim demeanor to boot.

Over time, as I adapted to living with ALS, I learned to dissolve my frustrations by seeing the humor in many situations. No more mea culpa moments. Until two years ago.

My moment

The pandemic lockdowns had just been lifted, and my husband and I decided to finally venture out to the grocery store. Fully masked and riding my mobility scooter, I felt the anxiety of having to follow all the new social distancing rules. While shopping, my husband left me alone with our cart while he scurried down a nearby aisle. The familiar feelings of frustration began building up inside me as I watched people milling around me, some wearing masks and others defiantly not.

Suddenly a voice startled me back into reality. A woman riding an electric grocery cart had pulled up beside me and asked, “Do you need help?”

Without missing a beat, I turned to face her and let flow an angry, “No! Do you?”

She simply muttered “OK” and motored off.

Within seconds I was filled with remorse and tried calling out, but she was already too far away to hear, plus my mask muffled my words. I resolved to find her in one of the aisles and offer my apology, but she was gone.

I truly felt bad about what happened and chose to just live with it.

Self-compassion works

So last week, it surprised me when the memory of that incident returned. Reading through the definition of self-compassion, I decided to try using mindfulness meditation to help me sort out and dissipate my lingering guilt.

First, I meditated on sending myself loving kindness and forgiving myself for the outburst. Then, I spent time thinking, “Grocery store lady, wherever you are, I’m sorry. Mea culpa.” I felt relief. I felt I could finally let go of that old memory.

Do you have frustrations or mea culpa moments? If you do, try my strategies.

Learn to recognize when they happen. Know what your triggers are. Use healthy coping skills to help you prevent them from happening and to resolve them after the incident is over.

And try practicing self-compassion. For me, it’s an essential self-care strategy for living well with ALS.

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


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