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Should the process of describing your regrets grow painful, return to the spiritual and psychological tools for support. For example, you can journal about how much it hurts to analyze your regrets in such detail; how you wish you didnít have to do it; the fears that arise when you remember all that happened; how angry you feel; how difficult this is; how unfair you think life is; or anything else you feel about your regrets or the process. You can also journal about the hopes you have for what you are doing, the
benefits of letting go of your regrets, and the confidence you have that you will get through the steps to find a new freedom and happiness.
You may wish to pray to your higher power, asking for the courage and strength to complete this step. Ask for divine support to handle the fear and the pain you feel. If you need to cry, by all means cry. Courage in dealing with regrets means being willing to express your feelings, not stifle them.
Use creative visualization to move through the step and facilitate your progress. Breathe deeply. Imagine yourself sitting in front ofyour journal, remembering the past, but protected from fear and harm. See yourselfrecalling your regrets, describing their causes and consequences, knowing that it is safe for you to do so. Imagine yourself writing with confidence, completing the step, feeling good about it, and then moving on to the next step.
3. Category of the Regret
Categorize each regret according to the categories described in chapter 1 and below. The purpose of this exercise is to increase your understanding of the regret by labeling it. The seven categories are:
1. Acts you committed (but wish you hadnít)
2. Acts you didnít commit (but wish you had)
3. Acts others committed (that you wish they hadnít)
4. Acts others didnít commit (that you wish they had)
5. Acts of fate or circumstances
6. Inevitable losses (that you regret)
7. Comparisons (that lead you to regret)
In some cases, a regret may fall into more than one category. When it does, list each category that applies.
4. Feelings about the Regret
Emotions power our lives and make them meaningful. Without emotions, we would be incapable of intimacy and, surprisingly, even of reasoning.
STEP ONE: LISTING REGRETS
We could conceptualize options but not choose among them. We could recount the events of our lives but not the feelings that accompanied them. We would be incapable of maintaining relationships, motivating ourselves, or planning our future. We would be less than human. Emotion creates hope and expectation, produces understanding and purpose, and generates empathy and wisdom. It is emotion that speaks to our souls when we confront eternity, that thrills us in the act of loving, and that leads us to transcendent experiences. It is emotion that complements rational thought to provide the totality of the human experience, that gives the truest expression to what it means to be alive.
But while our emotions enrich our lives, they also complicate them. They lead us into bad decisions, seduce us into states of unhappiness or despair, and render the past a thing of the present. Tyrannical and unforgiving, like cruel wardens or harsh taskmasters, emotions can coerce or cripple us, depriving us of the things we long for most. While some of us have learned to manage our emotions well, others are managed by their emotions, victims rather than beneficiaries.
Emotions play a big role in harboring regrets and in letting them go. To release the regrets that imprison us, we must come to terms with them intellectually, but we must also come to terms with them emotionally. We cannot just think our regrets away. We also have to feel them away, allowing the emotions that surround them to touch us but not to disable us. If our emotions are to serve us rather than dominate us, we must develop some understanding of how to manage them effectively.
Part of working the Ten Steps, therefore, entails learning to be aware of your emotions and to marshal them in the service of letting go of your regrets. It is unfelt emotions, not felt emotions, that you cannot change and, therefore, that exercise a hidden power over you. When you recognize an emotion, you can connect it to the thought or event that created it. Once you connect the emotion to its source, you can use your thinking mind to limit it, increase it, or change it. This is thought analysis. For example, if you feel fear at the thought of journaling about your regrets, you can use your rational mind to limit the fear by reassuring yourself. You can tell yourself that journaling is the right action to take, that it will turn out well, and that you have the strength and courage to overcome the fear
you feel. You can remind yourself that the journaling activities in each step are essential to working the step and to letting go of your regrets. You can remind yourself of the future benefits that you will receive from journaling and completing the stepsóthereby increasing your motivationó and comfort yourself in your fear, thereby making it more manageable. Whenever you identify an emotion that might impede your progress, counteract it through rational thought, using the tool of thought analysis.