How to Deal with Regret

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The last time I felt a true sense of regret I was careening off the side of the road into a 30-foot ditch. For a split second I thought I might die.
That day there was a downpour, the road was collecting water, and, while I was going the speed limit, it was too fast for the conditions. I wanted to get to the next business destination.
Suddenly I could feel the car hydroplaning, and I struggled to keep the car straight. I’m guessing I kept the car on the road for 50 feet or so, before it caught enough ground to veer to the right, over the edge of the embankment.
I was eight weeks pregnant, and my daughter was 20 months old. It was a frightening experience, yet my feeling of fear paled in comparison to this powerful sense of regret.
Clear in my mind was the mistake I made (going too fast), and for one speeding moment it was possible I could take two lives and leave my daughter without a mom, and my husband without a wife.
Yet as quickly as I felt regret, it was replaced with relief. My car bottomed out in a wide ditch, nose down, but not excessively. I sat in the car, shaking, and made a few phone calls, then calmly got out and climbed to the edge of the road. I had lots of time to think, both at the edge of the road and for months afterwards.
It was in those months I realized regret is a wasted emotion. It is a draining, low-vibrating feeling based on action, which can’t be changed. As with any life altering moment, I’ve learned from it, and haven’t felt regret since that day. I hope you consider the effect regret may have in your life, and can take steps to eliminate it for good.
Regret. It almost always occurs when something wrong happens which you cannot fix. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as grief caused by the want or loss of something formerly possessed.
I believe regret goes even deeper than that. It is grief from the loss of something because you made a mistake. If you lose something, yet did everything right, you might feel anger, sadness, or frustration, but you won’t feel regret.
It is the irreversible mistake, which holds such power. Mistakes can include wrong words (or not communicating), careless behavior, or unthinking actions. Have you ever lost a relationship with a lover or friend? If you feel regret around it, you probably remember the mistakes you’ve made.
But that memory, and your feelings around it, can affect your happiness right now. Here are four lessons I’ve learned on how to deal with regret and the necessarily steps to overcome the experience of regret.

4 Lessons: How to Deal with Regret

1. Learn to Forgive

Regret happens when you don’t forgive yourself. When your mistake feels final, like going too fast on a highway, it is too easy to feel regret. However, forgiveness is a powerful catalyst, and is one of the most loving actions you can take for yourself. While regret holds you back in the past, forgiveness helps you to move forward.
Tell yourself, “That was part of who I was then. I didn’t know any better or I would have made a different choice. That mistake helped me to grow into who I am today. I forgive myself and resolve to move forward.” Believe what you tell yourself.

2. Let Go of Negative Feelings

Send negative feelings about your actions into the past, where the action occurred. They don’t do you any good now.
Visualize moving those pent-up feelings from your body back to the moment they occurred, with the more innocent version of yourself. (Here, you can forgive both yourself and those feelings.)

3. Find the Lessons

Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” When you make a mistake, there is ALWAYS something to learn.
Learning equals growth. It is more difficult to feel loss when your focus is on gain, and on bettering yourself.
My main lesson from my accident wasn’t simply to slow down; it was to listen to my intuition. It told me to slow down before I slid, but in my rush, I didn’t listen. I learned my lesson.

4. Letting Go of Old & Creating New

That person or thing you lost – what did it symbolize for you? What feeling did you enjoy (or wish to enjoy)?
Did your ex-spouse provide comfort and personal connection? Did a foreclosed house symbolize accomplishment and success for you?
Move feelings of comfort or success away from something in the past, and connect them to something new. Focus on new accomplishments and connections so you can move forward, away from memories, which no longer serve you.

Parting Words on Regret

The common thread in each of these lessons is to let go of the past, and create a better future. When you do this, there is no longer room for regret, for it serves no active purpose.
Concentrate on now. Put your passion into a new relationship, a new skill or a new adventure. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and move forward with a clear conscience.
What part of yourself will you forgive in order to move on?
What are your hopes and dreams? What part of them exists right now (the seed to them coming true)?

Put Your Past Behind You - 8 Steps to Implement Now

“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.”  ~ Deborah Reber
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Has this ever happened to you?

You are in a good place in your life, grateful for your lovely house, and happy with most of your decisions and opportunities. The days tick by nicely, until one day someone from your past appears out of the blue. They may be an old flame, an old neighbor, or your friend's creepy uncle. Suddenly, you are transported back in time, back to a day of uncertainty, frustration or grief. 

They say "hello." And their voice brings memories rushing through in technicolor. Or perhaps you never forgot it, not quite being able to let it go.

We all have discomfort in our lives, and much of it is based either in the past or the future. For the most part, we try to learn from our mistakes, or we try not to worry about something that hasn't happened yet. The thing is, emotions are the connectors to strong memories. When we are confronted with our past, those emotions can come flooding back with the memory.

And yet we know, on some level of our consciousness, that allowing ourselves to get pulled back into the past does us no good. When we relive an old moment, our bodies don't know the difference between a memory and a current event. Our heart starts to race as if it is happening now. Our throat tightens, our limbs stiffen, and our thoughts get extraordinarily focused...on this unproductive memory. We lose awareness of ourselves and sink into that old moment. Unfortunately, some of our reactions may also then become old ones. When we have a second to step away mentally from the memory, we may give our heads a shake. "What was I thinking? Why did I just react like that?"

There are other situations in life that we may fall into this unawareness. Where we lose our current consciousness and best decision-making skills. This happens if our brain is hijacked by our fight or flight responses. It happens if we relive a traumatic moment, or if we allow a fear or phobia to take over.

So, how do we put our past behind us? How can we stay present and aware so that our memories, thoughts and emotions don't unconsciously take over?

1. Practice mindfulness throughout your day. This includes being aware of your thoughts, and which ones follow what, down the road to an emotion. Once you can be aware of thoughts and emotions, you will be able to more readily shift them both so that you don't fall into an old reactive habit.

2. Sit in a safe space with a safe person, and, if viable, relive and process that old memory to allow you to work through it and come out the other side with a different frame of mind. If your memory was a serious or traumatic one, please make a counsellor or therapist the safe person.

3. Practice multiple perceptual positions. In a conversation, focus on being YOU. Feel your feelings, notice your surroundings, hear what is happening, use your senses to be as present, in your body and with the other person, as possible. THEN practice observation. Pretend you are the watcher of your thoughts and feelings. What are you thinking? How are your emotions displaying on your face? What are your responses? Ask these questions as the observer of yourself. THEN if possible, observe the observer, as if you are watching yourself, watching the conversation on a movie screen. If this one is difficult, focus on moving in and out between the 1st and 2nd position. If you want help moving into the 3rd position, let me know.

When your daily habit becomes awareness and mindfulness, and observing how you respond and react, you will be more informed of your emotional response and better able to remove yourself from that past moment.

If you are also able to work through some of the more intense emotional moments, you can effectively release the attachment to that memory. There are additional methods to this process that are helpful, but not appropriate through written instruction.

When you find yourself falling back into an emotional memory, try taking these actions in the moment:

4. Take a deep breath, and let it out. Then take another. Focus on your breath. This will help to keep you present.
5. Summon up a positive emotion - think of a moment when you felt love, joy, happiness or peace - then imagine sending a dose of this emotion to the person that created the memory rush. If this feels uncomfortable, acknowledge your discomfort and send it anyways. Like the act of forgiveness, that process is more healing to you, than to them. But there is a chance they may need an extra dose of love, care, or happiness in their life.
6. Like above, Acknowledge your feelings. Allow them to reside in your body long enough for them to dissapate. Stay aware of how they feel in your body.
7. Speak of your discomfort honestly if you can. (“I’m sorry we ended the way we did.” Or “Wow, I’ve thought a lot about you since the last time we spoke.” Or, "I haven't seen you in a while.")
8. Recognize where this emotion is coming from (your past). Then get present.

Life has a way of surprising us, and the surprise isn’t always pleasant. So make an effort to recognize how an old relationship may affect you, and how your current response can inform your future.

Don’t let negative past emotions color the present moment any more than it needs to. Take steps to keep past anxiety where it belongs. If it feels really fresh, then you probably never let go of that moment. Use the steps above to let go of that anxiety right now, before it saps any more of your energy. 

Recognize how far you’ve come since that moment, and take steps to forgive, if forgiveness is needed. 

Whatever the current moment brings, give yourself a gift. Face it with courage and honesty, and move on with a smile and with awareness of all you are grateful for now in your life.

6 Steps to Help a Spouse Through Job Loss

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“Peter hides it well, but I know he is miserable, and the tension in our house is unbearable at times,” Pamela confesses to me over coffee.
Pamela’s husband recently lost his job. She is nervous about spending a single unnecessary dollar, and the only way she agreed to meet me is after I offered to treat her – a frank and necessary reality.
“I wish I could help him, but he balks at any suggestion I make, as if I’m the cause of this problem.” Pamela’s story is increasingly familiar in this economy.