Download (direct link):
In many regrets, our responsibility is not nearly so obvious or complete. We did play a part in their creation that we need to recognize and for which we need to accept responsibility, but we were not the only cause of the regret. When our role was largely reactive or less significant than other parties’, our task may be more difficult. Cindy stayed with her abusive husband because she had no other means of support and was afraid to leave for fear of what he would do to her and their children. When she did leave, she had terrible regrets over not having left sooner, and she blamed herself for all the pain he had caused their family. Cindy could have rationalized her part in the regret and denied any responsibility, but she chose the opposite tack and took on all of it. The truth lay somewhere in between. Cindy’s task in this step was to own up to her real responsibility in the regret but not take on any that didn’t properly belong to her.
In the case of some regrets, you may have played no role at all. For example, if you were hit by a drunk driver who swerved suddenly into your lane, you had no role in the regret the accident created. It is not reasonable to say that you could have avoided the accident “if only” you had stayed longer at your last appointment, done the dishes after all, or hung up a minute earlier from a telephone conversation you were having before you got into the car. You were driving safely and could not have known what was coming. You played no role in the regret.
Generally, however, we do have a role in creating or at least maintaining
STEP TWO: EXAMINING REGRETS
our regrets. Even in those cases where the other parties’ roles were much greater than ours, we need to own up to whatever we have done that helped create the regret or that worsened it. When we believe that it is what others have done to us that created our regret and we have played little or no role, we need to examine the regret carefully. It is natural to blame others rather than ourselves. This effort to recognize our part in our regrets is not a search for more self-blame for the sake of blame. It is a quest for the truth and, so, for freedom. Whatever we have done, we can let it go but only if we admit it first.
Be thorough and complete in this analysis, using whatever spiritual and psychological tools you need to finish the task. Detailed accounts are painful, but they are healing for the same reason.
2. Those You Hurt in the Regret
List the major parties to each regret whom you hurt in some way. The people involved may have been totally innocent, such as children in a divorce. They may have been people whom you deliberately hurt in retaliation for their actions against you or people you hurt indirectly or accidentally as the regret unfolded. Ask yourself how you made the situation worse, failed to make it better, or otherwise behaved in ways that hurt the other party. Ignore what that person did to you.
Perhaps, in fact, you’ve hurt no one with your regret. Perhaps that regret arose from events or circumstances beyond your control: an abusive parent, the financial condition of your family, or a physical handicap with which you were born. In these cases, there are no mistakes to admit, no blame to confess, no responsibility to accept in creating the regret. Your regret rose entirely from something over which you had no control.
3. Those You Blame for the Regret
This exercise is designed to identify the people, events, or circumstances that you still blame in some way for your regrets. Developing this list is
important because letting go of your regrets will entail coming to terms with these people, events, and circumstances. Not every party involved in a regret will be someone you still blame—or ever blamed. Children, for example, are parties to the regret of their parents’ divorce, but they probably played no role in causing it. The divorce was their parents’ decision, who bear full responsibility for it.
Some parties to your regret may have played a role in creating it but have long since been forgiven. They need not concern you here.
Some of the people you blame for your regrets may, in fact, be scapegoats with no real responsibility. If it feels like they bear some responsibility for what happened, however, include their names anyway. You will examine their roles later.
In addition to people, the list of those you blame may include chance, fate, bad luck, or God. Whomever or whatever you blame for any part in your regret should be listed in this Action List item, including yourself, if it applies.
The people on this list are the ones toward whom you hold a resentment. A resentment is a persistent feeling of anger, ill will, dislike, or hatred toward someone or something you blame for hurting you as the result of a real or imagined offense. Gail regretted the affair that led to the breakup of her marriage, a bitter divorce, and a much reduced lifestyle. Her resentments included her husband, who didn’t give her a second chance; the man with whom she had the affair, who seduced her and then left her for another woman; her in-laws, who refused to speak to her after the adultery; her parents, who failed to support her by saying that what her husband wanted to do was up to him; fate, for having led her to the seducer; and an old friend, who she said betrayed her in an hour of need. She also listed the opposing attorney, whom she considered incredibly vicious; the judge, who didn’t provide enough alimony; and her ex-husband’s new wife, who had nothing to do with the breakup but whom she hated anyway.