Regret can be painful and feel poisonous in the body. Furthermore, the process of ruminating on regrets can occupy hours and days and months and years. When we lovingly address our regrets, we can learn from them and learn to see them as data about how we want to show up moving forward.
Assess, don’t ruminate
Much can be learned from regret. Rumination on regret is largely unhelpful and can take up your beautiful brain space with untold stories and unspoken conversations. Thus, we must find a balance when it comes to regret. A loving assessment of why you regret something can provide important information on what does and does not serve you. Within each instance of regret is important feedback. Take that feedback, learn from it, and then move forward. Find kind, effective ways to interrupt your patterns of rumination. One man I heard on a podcast gave his mind a name, and when his mind was running off into unhelpful places, he would address his mind by that name to interrupt the thoughts. Not everything you think is true. So, learn from your regrets, but don’t stay stuck in them to your own detriment.
Extreme cases aside, the action you regret wasn’t good or bad. It just is what you did given the circumstances you were in at the time. So, avoid using labels to define your actions. Avoid assigning value to them unnecessarily. See them as neutral facts about behavior, learn from them, and then allow yourself to move forward given what you have learned. Don’t label yourself, either. Regretting shrinking to fit somewhere doesn’t make you small or weak. Regretting a strong reaction doesn’t make you dramatic or needy. You are not the moments you regret.
Say it out loud
I was having a conversation with my roommate earlier this week about some regret that I am feeling, and saying it out loud helped me to add perspective to it. Once you can get your regret out of your head, it loses some of its power. To speak about it is to own up to your action and to also place it in a co-created context that is hopefully more forgiving than your own regret-filled mind. I urge you to speak your regrets out loud to a receptive audience. Often, the things we find hard to reckon with seem much smaller to a conversation partner. Their feedback can help you to rightsize your response to your regret.
Return to yourself
I find that the things I regret most are often the instances when I acted from a pattern that I thought I had healed from. The thing to remember here is that we don’t tend to rely on our past responses and coping mechanisms unless we are under some sort of duress. Whatever version of you is present is present as a response to circumstances. For example, if you hear “no” over and over when you assert your needs, you are likely to start to reject yourself rather than be rejected from an outside force or person. That doesn’t mean that you have backtracked and that your progress in healing or changing your patterns is all for nought. It means that you were likely in a position where your healed self wasn’t welcome. Once you realize this, you can find ways to return to yourself. Return to what you know is good for you. Create spaces in your life where the best version of you is welcome. Sometimes we are under constraints and we can’t fully reclaim this space, but find as many ways as you can. Be kind and lovingly remind yourself that your actions and reactions are often a product of the environment you are in. You must find ways to reclaim yourself and feel in your worth.
Remember, it never could have been different
It happened as it happened, thus it never could have been different. Sure, with hindsight, you may wish you had acted or chosen differently. Alas, you don’t know what the outcomes of the changed action would have been. The thing to remember is that it never could have happened differently because it didn’t happen differently.