Collecting data about oneself – how to write a mistake

1. Introduction to data collection about oneself

In the previous chapter, we discussed some examples of mistakes and how they can be categorised. In this chapter we will be looking at collecting data (i.e. mistakes) about oneself and how to write/document them.

To begin the personality defect removal process, try and write mistakes that you become aware of or mistakes that someone else may tell you for about 7 to 10 days. This could also include mistakes of your own that you become aware of when someone else’s mistakes are being discussed and you feel that you too have committed a similar mistake. By writing down our mistakes we are in fact collecting data about ourselves so that we can further analyse our personality. Initially the awareness about where we are going wrong is very less or there is no awareness at all, so we can take the help of others. After about 10 days one will get an idea of what mistakes are reoccurring and this helps one to understand what to work on.

2. Be specific when writing mistakes

When writing mistakes, one needs to learn how to write mistakes in a specific yet simple manner so that it is clear to the mind where one has gone wrong.

It is the tendency of the mind to protect itself. It is for this reason one’s mind tries to hide mistakes or keep one in a confused state so that one does not get help where one needs to improve. As a result, the mind confuses and fools one and tries to reinforce the feeling that ‘I am right’. Thus, the briefer and clearer one is when writing mistakes, the better it is.

Let’s look at an example of an incorrect way of writing a mistake.

“Today there have been several instances where I had to shout at my kids. They are not keeping anything clean. No matter how much I tell them they are not learning.  I had to be a little strict today.  Ana’s behaviour is more and more troubling. She always wants something new. As a parent I am trying to balance things, but her demands do not reduce.  My dilemma is that if I give in to her demands she won’t understand the value of what she is getting. On the other hand, if I don’t give in to her demands, then the kids might feel that their parents are not supporting them.  I know it is a passing phase but in that moment I had to shout.”

You may notice that in this mistake there are too many aspects mentioned so it is overwhelming for the mind. It is better to write one aspect at a time that is worrying or irritating us. In this case there are 2 mistakes.

So in relation to the above example, the following would be a more effective way to write the same mistake.

1. When Ana (my daughter) did not clean her cupboard despite me reminding her, I became angry with her.

2. When Ana (my daughter) asked me to buy her an expensive pair of sandals, I had a reaction that if I give into her wishes every time, she will take me for granted and think that everything comes easy.

In the earlier case, one will find it difficult to pinpoint the exact issue. If one cannot pinpoint the exact issue to one’s intellect, then there is little chance that one can analyse the mistake or get any help on it. In order to tie the mind down to the cause of a certain issue/reaction, it is important to be specific. By breaking the whole incident into small mistakes and writing it so that mind and intellect becomes aware of exactly where one has gone wrong, it helps to better identify the defect responsible for the mistake.

3. Let the focus be on oneself

Sometimes one recognises one has made a mistake by having a reaction towards someone else. However somewhere their mind tricks them into believing that they were justified in having the reaction. Accordingly, when the person writes the mistake, the person writes it in such a manner that the complete mistake of the other person is brought out. This makes one more focused on the other’s mistake as opposed to being introspective about one’s own part in the incident.

Example – mistake written in an extroverted manner that focuses more on the other’s mistake

My husband Jimmy is always into his mobile phone and he never gives me time. Today it happened again. I wanted to discuss a few issues with him and he said he will take some time and then kept on being engrossed in his phone and just kept me waiting. I thought it was rude and a downright bad attitude on his part so I got angry.

Example – mistake written in a manner that is more introspective

I got angry with my husband Jimmy when I expected him to give me time while he was engaged with his phone.

As you can see the rewritten mistake would steer a person towards being more introspective. It becomes a catalyst for one to question oneself. A person is then more inclined to reason in the following manner,

“Ok Jimmy was busy with his phone but why did it affect me so much? After all I did not give him any advance notice. Lack of communication may be his issue but the anger that consumes me is only giving me grief. Also I assumed what I had to talk about was more important that what he was doing. How can I go about reducing my anger?”

4. Write the mistake honestly

Using incorrect words

Sometimes we have observed that when seekers write their mistakes they will add some words that reduce the gravity of the mistake. For example, one person wrote his mistake in the following way.

“When Joanne insulted me in front of my colleagues I was a bit upset and I felt like saying something back to her.”

Actually he was very upset but did not want to admit that it affected him so much. Also what he really wanted to do was insult her back in front of her friends to teach her a lesson. So it would have been better if he wrote the mistake in the following way.

“When Joanne insulted me in front of my colleagues I was very upset and I had a strong urge to insult her in front of her friends.”

It is better to refrain from using words like ‘a little’ or ‘a bit’ in conjunction with the personality defect. This is because it sends the wrong message to one’s mind and intellect that it was not so bad after all.

Admitting defects to oneself

Many a time even seekers can find it difficult to admit to themselves that they have certain personality defects. For example, it is okay to admit that one has anger towards their spouse as this is quite normal. However, it becomes more difficult to admit that one has envy or jealousy towards another seeker who has been praised in a satsang for his efforts. PDs such as envy, jealousy, greed and lust are more difficult to admit to having as opposed to laziness, lack of planning, irresponsibility, etc.

Sometimes the need to protect one’s self-image is so great that one may not note such a mistake down even though they are aware of it.


5. Other tips to facilitate mistake writing

Download a sample chart for PDR and Ego Removal

  • Brevity, clarity, simplicity and honesty are key attributes to keep in mind while writing mistakes.
  • If the same mistake happens a number of times a day – one can note the mistake once but also keep a count of each occurrence to understand its severity.
  • Try to be regular with writing mistakes. You can use the spreadsheet template to write your mistakes. Column B in the worksheet ‘My mistakes’ is where you would need to note down mistakes observed along with the date in column A. This entire chapter is about how to fill column B of the PDR spreadsheet.
  • Sometimes one can get a fleeting thought of jealousy or pride. One should note it down then and there as one is likely to forget about it at the end of the day when one sits down to write one’s mistakes.
  • Always keep something handy to write your mistakes, whether it is a pen and paper or a smartphone notes app.
  • Attend satsangs with SSRF as it will help you become more aware of what is considered a mistake, how to be more alert to identify mistakes and how to write them.

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