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Owning Mistakes

There's this video clip that I like to use with clients who like pop culture references and struggle with feelings of shame and barriers to connecting with other people.

It's from the movie "Suicide Squad," a movie about anti-heroes who are seeking the same goals as anyone else but they've learned dysfunctional, illegal, and destructive ways to reach those goals. In the movie, they are forced to save the world in order to get the metaphorical carrots that are dangled in front of them, and the movie casts doubts about the moral fortitude of the people/system that are trying to control this group of people in the first place.

Spoiler alert, in case you have not seen the movie.

El Diablo is hating himself for a past event where he was loved by his family and then he accidentally killed them all with his fire powers; Harley Quinn offers a harsh response: "OWN IT." It makes us who we are.

Other group members tell her to back off, and they offer harsh judgment for her own behavior. She brings it back to the point that we all have issues, so why judge others and ourselves? It is what it is. Nobody's perfect, so why are we so concerned about the mistakes we've made? Appropriate guilt is a good thing, when we know we've done something wrong and feel remorse, but it gets out of control when we feel guilt for things we are not responsible for, or even feeling shame for natural behavior. The best we can do is own these mistakes to understand how they've shaped us. This is how we can improve on them.

She offers kind of a duality here: At first she sounded harsh, but in reality it was more of an acceptance for El Diablo's suffering: It exists, so what are you going to do about it? It's basically another example of Radical Acceptance. While the other group members are showing empathy for El Diablo's pain, she's asserting the idea of personal responsibility and agency as our tools for control. In it, there's freedom in knowing that we are no more imperfect than anyone else, and we all have our past mistakes to bear.

Finally, the colonel who'd been ordered to control them sits down and automatically experiences rejection from this group. He offers his vulnerability and lets go of worrying about holding onto control; the group accepts him after this expression.

Just FYI, the clip has the F-bomb (cursing) in it. If you'd like to see the video, here's the link:

It's fun to use pop culture to dissect common social themes.

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