- in Self-Care
“We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow."
~ Fulton Oursler
“Your past has given you the strength and wisdom you have today, so celebrate it. Don’t let it haunt you.” – Unknown
Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. Isn’t that the truth?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. We aren’t meant to know the future, or have Back to the Future like powers, and rewind to the past. However, often times it feels like our brain and our hearts live like as if we do have these abilities- keeping us stuck, with guilt, shame and regret, ultimately, experiencing the pain of regret, without turning the experience into something productive.
It’s incredibly difficult to do this in the moment, so give yourself some time. Process through the pain, that moment when you realize, things could have been different if only, sit with it for a while.
Then, MOVE ON.
Challenge yourself to perceive these uncomfortable feelings, as a step towards evolving yourself into a better, stronger, healthier person.
1. What have I learned from this?
- In case this, or something similar happens in the future?
- How would I respond differently?
2. What made me respond or react in the way that I did, leaving me with feelings of regret?
- Identify triggers, emotional cues, or cyclic patterns.
3. Is this a pattern?
- Have I found myself in a similar situation, with similar outcomes? What do I need to own, and work through, in order to BREAK THE CYCLE.
- If you don’t take a cold hard look in the mirror here, you are asking for a repeat. The characters may look different, but the outcome, is all the same.
4. Leaving your heart open.
- Recognizing that things may have gone down for a good reason, that may be beyond your comprehension.
- Providing an opportunity for more beautiful and wonderful things in your life.
Jessica Hopkins, MA, NCC – www.thriveccofco.com
Regret is like quicksand. It stops you, holds you in place and slowly you start to subsume to it and start to sink in the quilt, fear and often times shame. No longer do you have to be held prisoner by your regret!
1. Befriend your regret.
Your regret is trying to get your attention. It’s trying to tell you something. Did you not go after a dream? Hurt someone? Do something that’s not in line with who you are (steal, say something mean, have a one night stand, drink too much, the list can go on and on, with things you wished you had done or not done). Often times, regret comes from not being true to ourselves. So, where were not true to yourself?
2. Learn from your regret.
Now that you are friends with your regret, what does regret want you to know? What can you learn about yourself or life from your regret? Do you need to make amends? Apologize? Be nicer to yourself? Look at your situation and see what you can learn and places you can do damage repair.
3. Set it free.
You have befriended you regret. You have learned a valuable life lesson from your regret. Now, thank your regret and let it go. Regret does you no good if you let it take up residence in your life and your heart. It’s here to help you on your journey to being the amazing person you are and sharing your awesomeness with the world.
BONUS- Feeling stuck.
Write about your regret. Set a timer for 10 minutes and let the words flow. Don’t censor, just let them flow. See what you are holding on to. Places that need love and attention, people you might need to talk to.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to people about your regrets (especially if they were involved) write them a letter (you don’t have to send it to them), write your regret a letter.
If your regret is a person, what kind of person would it be? What would you say to your regret? What would your regret say to you?
Once you have made peace with your regret, let it go!
Rip the paper up, bury it, burn it in the fire place. Do what feels right to release it and let it go. Your regret has done its job and it does you no good by hanging around, weighing you down and keeping you from your awesome potential!
Margaret Bell, MA, NCC – www.forwardkindheart.com
One thing we all know for sure is that we are here to learn. Certainly we have all made mistakes that we regret. I prefer to call them learning experiences in this journey of life. We also know that we cannot change the past, however, we can learn powerful lessons from these experiences. We always have a choice to move forward or repeat the lesson.
If we can learn to focus on the things that are within our control it can help us to take positive action rather than falling into the vicious shame cycle of repeating the same negative behaviors over and over. Feeling regret is an opportunity to discover what your motivation was to begin with that ended up with you feeling this way.
Embrace your vulnerability and know that you can restructure your past regrets. Focus on appreciating everyone and practice being more in the moment for this is all we have.
If we can accept the fact that we do things that are not always in our highest good and accept the consequences, then we have taken a big step into our own healing and can focus on new possibilities.
If you have hurt someone and you are feeling regret, now is the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with this person. The words “I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you” are very powerful. While nothing is perfect, we can learn to be thankful for everything we have.
Connie Clancy Fisher, ED.D. – www.connieclancyfisher.com
Regret is one of the most uncomfortable emotions we can experience, and it contributes to additional feelings of powerlessness.
As a therapist, I look at regret as a difficulty in finding acceptance. It’s hard to accept the fact that we didn’t take action that we thought we should have, or that we said something we now wish we could take back. Here are a few ways to explore feelings of regret, and to try to move through them.
Sometimes it can be helpful to ask someone to help you play out the scenarios of the situation from which you experience regret.
You’ve already done and continue to do this alone, in your own head – so talk with a friend or your therapist about the potential consequences of pursuing the action you wish you had taken. Externalizing these feelings is the first benefit of this action, and the second benefit is allowing someone else’s perspective to show you alternative outcomes you may not have considered.
Contemplate what you have because you did not pursue that dream job or love of your life.
For example, ask yourself what if you had taken that job – would you have met some of the people you currently have in your life? What insight do you have now because of this experience? Maybe it’s that you do not ever want to pass up an opportunity like that again, or that you wish you hadn’t done what you did. Asking what you’ve learned can influence how you make future decisions for your life.
Moving past regret, and towards acceptance involves the process of forgiveness.
If you acted like a complete jerk, what can you do to own and accept that? Reach out to that person and talk to them or write them a letter, or if they are no longer a part of your life, write a letter anyway expressing all of your feelings of regret. If your situation involves feeling that your choices were not enough to help yourself or someone else, this is where you can explore if you did everything you believed you could with the information you had.
Regret reminds us that we are fallible; give yourself the opportunity to change the story you are telling yourself about who you are, by accepting the fact that you are human.
Aimee Aron-Reno, MA, NCC, LPC – www.aimeearon.com
We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of.
We’ve all made mistakes, even big ones that we think we’ll never recover from. We’ve all outgrown who we used to be, and look back on it and feel embarrassed or ashamed of our actions from that time. Regretting things you’ve said or done in the past only happens when you have taken the time to reflect on your actions, and you only reflect on your actions when you have changed and grown. Congratulations! You’re on your way to growing even more.
It’s difficult to look back on your life and feel badly about how you have treated people.
You know you wouldn’t do that now, and you wouldn’t. You wonder how you ever could have thought that was a good idea. You beat yourself up and feel generally bad about the person you once were. You make a promise that you will never, ever, do that again. All of that is normal, and all of that is what we call regret.
The problem is when you keep replaying the situation in your head and you can’t let it go.
You build it up to being something so big that it overwhelms your life and you make more mistakes because you’re trying not to think about it.
If something you’ve done in the past is keeping you awake at night, it’s time to do something about it.
You can never entirely fix something once it’s done, but you can repair it. You will still see the cracks and the places where it is cobbled together, but you can make it whole again. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to apologize or in some way make amends.
Depending on the situation, you might want to do this anonymously or be very vocal about it.
You must choose what is right for you. But what if you can’t find the person you harmed or if they don’t want to talk to you? Then pay it forward. Donate time or money in that person’s name to a cause they care about or find some other way to pay it back to their family or community.
If it’s yourself you hurt, find a way to forgive yourself.
If the person you want to apologize to is no longer living or alive and doesn’t want to talk to you, write them a letter that you never intend to send and let go of the regret in that way. Envision yourself talking to that person and apologizing if you can’t do it in person. Be sincere. And then live a good life in which you take care of things right away so there’s never a need to regret what you’ve done.
Becky Bringewatt, MA, LPC, NCC – www.mantiscounselingandcoaching.org
Ruminating on regrets of the past causes stress and anxiety.
We cannot change the past. The past is over, forever. It can be helpful to really let that sink in and accept it fully. The best we can do is learn from past events and make different choices in the future. There are some things we regret that we had no control over, such as the death of a loved one or being left by someone we love.
In these situations we may be stuck in irrational thought circles like “if only I had…, it wouldn’t have happened if….” The pain of some regrets can be overwhelming.
Here is an important message for you: YOU DID THE BEST YOU COULD DO AS THE PERSON YOU WERE AT THAT TIME.
The following tools can help you to overcome regret:
1. Bach Flower Essences are homeopathic remedies that affectively change negative emotional and mental states.
Here are some Bach Flower Essences that are helpful in overcoming several aspects of regret.
Honeysuckle – Brings you into the present and helps you to let go of the past
Pine – Allows you to let go of guilt
White Chestnut – Helps to calm the mind and decrease mental chatter and unwanted thoughts
Chestnut Bud – For people who fail to learn from past mistakes
Gentian – For discouragement after a setback
2. There are many Mindfulness exercises that will help you to live in the present and to disengage from harmful thought and emotional patterns.
We are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings. Mindfulness exercises teach you to observe your emotions, thoughts, body sensations, and your environment without being led by them. S.T.O.P is a simple mindfulness tool that will help you to find space from your regretful thoughts and emotions.
S – Stop
T – Take a breath
O – Observe your inner and outer experience without judgment
P – Proceed and go about your day
Health Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging.
Jeannie Herman, MS, NCC – www.ashlandcounseling.org
What is regret? It is our mind’s way of dealing with what we consider a loss.
Loss of a dream, relationship or something we felt we should have or could have done differently. The words should and could are one way of saying we feel we have failed ourselves. Looking at regret in that way can help shift the thinking from negative to positive.
The first question to ask yourself is; “Why do I feel regret about this particular thing?”
What was the loss experienced because you made the decision you made instead of the decision you now regret?
For example; you wanted to take a day off work to watch your child’s play. You ended up going to work instead. What was the loss? Of course you didn’t get to see the play, but the real loss is the experience of watching your child perform and to have that memory forever.
What can you do about regret?
Sometimes people get stuck in a cycle where they can only see one small part of the whole picture, which in the case of regret is usually negative. Take the play example above. Maybe you didn’t make it to that one play but you were there for all the soccer games, class parties and you are a room parent.
If you focus on just the fact that you missed that one event and discount all the other good things you have done, you are filtering your thoughts in a negative way. With a little perspective you can poke holes in any always/never/nothing/all the time situation. If you can see the positive in the larger picture instead of focusing on the one thing you regret, usually that can help change the thought pattern.
Kristen Burrus, LMFT – www.enlightencounselingservices.com
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