(An excerpt from
The Pocket Guide to Inner
The process of resolving an inner or interpersonal conflict
or handling an emotion that we have struggled with for many
years or decades, such as anger or fear, in a healthy manner is
one that frequently entails making progress and suffering
setbacks. We usually feel excited and pleased with
ourselves when we make some surprising progress and discouraged
and disappointed when we regress or backslide.
When we do suffer a discouraging setback, it tends to feel
like we are back at square one, but that is almost always not
the case. The progress we have made prior to the setback
is real; it is not to be discounted or negated, though our
feelings of disappointment, shame, or remorse and our subsequent
loss of perspective may try to convince us otherwise. One
key indicator that we have made and are continuing to make
progress is that the setback will not keep us down for very
long, not nearly as long as it may have in the past.
Progress is evident after a setback or moment of regression or
* We quickly apologize or make amends to the
person(s) we may have harmed.
* We spend less time and energy beating
ourselves up and forgive ourselves more quickly.
* We regain our perspective and see our
setback as a setback and nothing more than that, and
certainly not as anything that detracts from our value
as a human being.
We assess what factors were at play in our setback, such as
feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, and try to recognize these
warning signs in the future.
We recall specific times and situations in the past when we had
a taste of success in this particular area of struggle or
We are able to poke a little bit of fun at ourselves and not
take our moment of regression with such deathly seriousness.
We realize that we are neither alone nor unique in experiencing
setbacks, but simply an imperfect and mistake-prone human being
like everyone else.
We extend the compassion to ourselves that we would to another
person if he or she had suffered a similar setback or moment of
For instance, if we have recently lost our composure (which
happened to me just the other day when I was discussing religion
with someone), we usually feel disappointed with or even ashamed
of ourselves (Why did I let that happen? I should have
recognized that our conversation was going nowhere and either
agreed to disagree with this person or changed the subject!).
Our inner critical voice may be champing at the bit, as mine
always is, to put in his or her two cents worth.
But as is
often the case, a setback or regression of some type precedes or
paves the way for even greater progress. For some unknown
reason, a setback almost always seems to be necessary at times
in order for our next growth spurt to occur. Perhaps we
have another significant lesson to learn. Or maybe we need
to be reminded that whenever we react in familiar
counterproductive ways, such as yelling, the silent treatment,
blaming, retaliation, and the like, we are setting ourselves up
to suffer inevitable feelings of remorse or shame. A
setback, though often painful, is not without potential
redeeming value, for it frequently paves the way for a comeback
and gives us the momentum to grow more than we would have had we
not suffered the setback. Go figure! Personally, I
would prefer to make significant progress without having to
suffer setbacks, but life doesn't usually seem to work that way.
this upbeat guide, Gary Egeberg combines encouraging
theology with practical suggestions for finding inner
peace. Egeberg explores common obstacles such as
self-criticism, stress, conflict, frustration, resentment,
and the struggle to forgive others or accept forgiveness.
He demonstrates ways readers can work through these
challenges with prayer, affirmations, liberating rituals,
and other creative exercises.