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In your journal, summarize how you currently treat yourself regarding your regrets. Use adverbs (cruelly, lovingly, contemptuously) and analogies (like a good friend, a stupid child, a perpetual loser) to describe your relationship with yourself when your thoughts turn to your regrets.
If you relate to yourself in an attacking, self-destructive manner, are you willing to make a commitment to change that way of relating to yourself? If so, describe in your journal how you will treat yourself from now on in dealing with your regrets. Begin by using adverbs. For example: I will treat myself lovingly, patiently, sympathetically, and compassionately.
Now use analogies to describe how you will treat yourself. For example, I will treat myself like a caring older brother, a loving friend, a patient teacher.
Courage is not the absence of fear—it is the overcoming of fear. Courageous people, like cowardly people, are fearful, but they don’t give into their fear. They summon their spiritual and psychological resources and conquer it. The difference between the brave and the cowardly is not the presence of fear, but their response to it.
Courageous people understand that excessive fear is an impediment to growth and happiness and that it can be overcome through spiritual resources and the support of others. As you undertake the Ten Steps to letting go of regret, remember that you are a courageous person, whether you yet realize it. All the courage you need will be made available to you as you work the steps. That courage will come from many sources, including the Ten Steps and the spiritual and psychological tools that you will use to assist you in working them. These tools, how they are applied, and what they can do for you are discussed in the next chapter.
Using Spiritual and Psychological Tools
In combination with the Ten Steps, the spiritual and psychological tools described in this chapter will provide you with the means you need to let go of your regrets. These tools draw upon three types of resources available to all of us as human beings: intellectual, psychological, and spiritual. Our intellectual or mental resources allow us to analyze ideas and events in a logical, rational way in order to determine cause and effect and to make sense of the world. Psychological resources enable us to marshal our intellect and our emotions to change the way we think and feel about ourselves, about others, and about events. Spiritual resources summon powers greater than ourselves to help us do what we cannot do alone.
Each of the spiritual and psychological tools is effective, but each serves a different purpose. Only two of the tools are mandatory: journaling and thought analysis. The others are optional, and whether you choose to apply them to a given step will depend on whether you need them to complete that step. If you encounter resistance to working the steps, more tools will be called for as a means of helping you overcome that resistance. The spiritual and psychological tools and some of their purposes are:
• Thought analysis: to analyze your regrets, the events associated with them, the feelings you have about them, and the way in which you think about them; to change the way you think and feel about your regrets.
• Journaling: to catalogue and analyze your regrets, to clarify your thoughts about them, and to express your feelings.
• Prayer: to gain the insight, courage, discipline, strength, and other resources you need to work each step.
• Sharing with others: to gain insight and emotional support from others in working the steps.
• Affirmations: to overcome resistance and to facilitate your working the steps.
• Creative visualization: to overcome resistance and to facilitate your working the steps.
We are in constant conversation with ourselves. We are always silently observing, commenting, challenging, criticizing, joking, or debating with ourselves. This constant internal chatter isn’t surprising really. After all, that’s how we think. I once asked a psychiatrist friend of mine if it meant you were crazy to talk to yourself out loud. “Not at all,” she replied, “but it’s not very private.” Most of us don’t expose the committee of voices in our head to the general public; we keep them to ourselves. But we don’t necessarily pay much attention to what we’re saying to ourselves, either. Oh, we’re listening, but we’re not listening with a critical, challenging ear. Unless, of course, we’re trying to make a decision. Then we have a serious debate with ourselves, and we listen intently as we weigh the pros and cons of our actions, trying to decide.
Thought analysis is a process through which we analyze what we are saying to ourselves about ourselves and others to determine its validity. The goal of thought analysis is to become aware of what we are thinking and expose those thoughts to critical analysis. When we tell ourselves something concerning our regrets that isn’t true, isn’t realistic, or isn’t warranted, we reject the thought, replacing it with a more accurate thought.