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Our emotions define our experience as human beings and, within a broad range, are controllable by us. They are partners with our rational mind in determining how we experience life and how well we handle our regrets. Every feeling, at one time or another, is a legitimate response to life, but only those emotions that are felt can be managed by our thinking mind and resolved. If we deny or suppress our feelings without experiencing them or if we allow them to overwhelm us, we will be their victims rather than their beneficiaries.
In this Action List item, acknowledge the feelings you have about your regret: the fear, pain, anger, sorrow, guilt, and shame you associate with it. Be thorough and honest. By capturing these emotions in writing, you are reducing their power to hurt you, taming them so that you can learn from them and let them go. If the journaling process becomes too painful, use
STEP ONE: LISTING REGRETS
visualization, prayer, thought analysis, affirmations, and the love of others to support you in continuing.
5. “If Onlys”
This journal entry is not the history of a regret but the fantasy of it. Instead of a description of your regret, it is a description of its opposite: of what might have been, of what “should” have been or “could” have been, “if only. . .” “If onlys” describe what you wish had happened rather than what did happen with your regret. These are the fantasies you have when you indulge thoughts that begin, “If only I had” or “If only I hadn’t,” “If only they had” or “If only they hadn’t.”
When her fianc? broke off their engagement, Isabel regretted the collapse of their relationship, the embarrassment, and the time she had invested in loving him. Later, however, she regretted the things that might have been: the children, the home, and the joys they could have shared. Isabel’s fantasized outcomes were predictions about how good things would be today ifonly they had been different then. She blamed this regret for her present unhappiness and for the big things she had been denied in life but would have had “if only ...”
Describe the fantasy outcomes that you hold for your regrets. What are your “if onlys”? What do you believe would have been different if the regret that now burdens you had never occurred?
With the completion of Step One, you now possess a comprehensive description of all your burdensome regrets. As bad as they may seem, what you see before you summarizes all there is with which you have to deal. This is the complete picture of your regrets. And it is manageable.
Step Two continues the analytical process with a more detailed examination of each regret so that you can begin to let it go. But first, take a break and do something fun. You deserve it.
Step Two: Examining Regrets
“The life that is unexamined,” Plato wrote, “is not worth living.” And a regret that is unexamined is not worth keeping. One of the reasons that people hold onto their regrets is that they have not examined them closely. Until they look at their regrets with a logical eye, they are powerless over them. Once they have identified and examined them, however, they are in a position to understand them better, and they can use that understanding to let them go. Therefore, Step Two is about analyzing each of your regrets, your role in creating it, and the circumstances that surrounded its creation. In this step you will also identify a trustworthy person (your confidant) with whom to share your journey of letting go.
Preparation for the Step
The process of letting go of your regrets is more likely to be effective when it is undertaken in the company of others. The more people you trust to help you, the more support you will find for the tasks you will undertake. Whether you involve one person or a small group in your journey, the emotional sustenance and the psychological insights they provide will motivate and reassure you. Human beings are meant to live in community. This experience of sympathetic support will strengthen your resolve, sup-
STEP TWO: EXAMINING REGRETS
port your effort to change, and give you the love you need to keep moving forward.
If you have little experience in sharing your life with others, you will need courage to reach out. But you can pray for that courage, visualize it, affirm it, and journal about it. When you apply the spiritual and psychological tools, amazing things will happen to give you the opportunities you need and the courage you seek. You will find yourself doing things you didn’t think you could do—and not quite knowing how you could do them. Spiritual forces will rally to help you, and people will appear to assist you. Encouragement, support, and insights will come from unexpected places—an old friend, a new acquaintance, an article in a magazine you chanced to read. You are never alone when you are trying to grow spiritu-ally—never alone because powerful forces ally to help you. That does not mean that your journey will be fearless, painless, or easy. It does mean that you will be given all the courage you need to overcome your fear and all the strength you need to overcome the pain and difficulties you encounter on the journey.