I was the queen of regret, and as such, a lot of pain in my life was created by me going back into any situation and wishing I had done it differently. I terrorized myself listening to those stories in my head about how it could have been or should have been, kicking myself in the stomach with those “should have” stories.
A Radical Underpinning
Some of you have been following this enough to know that there’s one main concept behind a lot of the undoing of regret, which is that we don’t create our own thinking! After going through a horrible divorce, chronic illness, and losing my career because of that illness, I have become an expert of sorts when it comes to clearing up the ways we beat ourselves up.
There are earlier videos and lots of things that I’ve written about that concept, so we won’t go deeply into it here. For now, just notice that
YOU DON’T CREATE OR PLAN OR ORCHESTRATE YOUR THOUGHTS.
They just come into your head, and yet from that place you can’t help but act out of what you’re believing in the moment. It may be a fear thought, or a thought that causes you to feel threatened, or any troubling thought resulting from your worldview for that moment.
Think of a time when you’ve already done whatever you felt was the right thing to do–based on the way you were feeling and believing in that moment—but then later your mind comes back in and plunges your into regret or guilt or self-criticism or self-doubt. It says,
”Wait! You shouldn’t have done it that way! You’re going to drive them away! Everyone will be mad!”
Then you get the exact opposite of the thing you were wanting and you kind of go into what I call regret hell.
The Wheel of Self-Love
In this video I want to briefly touch on the three steps of the Wheel of Self-Love. There’s a lot more where that came from, but I just wanted to emphasize one principal:
Based on this idea of NOT creating your own thinking, you get to find your innocence. You get to see that you were doing the very best you could, given what you were believing, and yet you didn’t consciously create the belief!
The Wheel of Self-Love (WOSL) gives you a way to find that innocence is to ask yourself three simple questions.
WOSL STEP ONE:
- “What was I thinking then?” I don’t mean a self-defeating, ”OMG, what was I thinking” where you beat yourself up. I mean real curiosity! Go back and be with the you that you were in that moment whether it was two minutes ago, two decades ago, or during childhood. Imagine yourself there with who you were, what you were dealing with, what you were struggling with, what you were believing in that moment, how you were reacting, how other people were reacting to you, and what they were telling you. Given all of that, there’s that firing of neurons that creates a thought.
You didn’t cause the thought, but in that moment, you were believing it and that’s what caused you to act the way you did. You can go back and find that the thing you did that you’re now beating yourself up about using hindsight as a cruel weapon of torture. Instead find that, yeah, it makes sense what I did in that moment given what I was believing, given the level of whatever I was feeling, made complete sense. So you can forgive yourself, but then you may still fear what’s going to come of those actions, or you may have stories about what you’ve created, or who you hurt, and how badly things are going to go.
WOSL STEP TWO:
- Step Two of the Wheel of Self-Love is, “What am I thinking now?” What is that fear story or that “angry-at-myself” story that caused me to go into regret even though I did the best I could? The question to ask once you have found what you’re fearing is question two. From that you ask, “Well, can I absolutely know it’s true that that’s going to happen, that it’s going to go exactly the way my monkey mind tells me,
Just remember our brains are wired with a negative bias. It’s almost like they’re scanning the environment to figure out what’s going to go wrong and what we did to cause it. Our childhood survival scripts, especially if we had a parent who wasn’t safe to confront, believe that beating ourselves up is the way to improve. So they’re going to be looking for that thing, but we can’t absolutely know. Just start collecting all the ways that things don’t go the way your mind says it’s going to go. They often go much better, but you may still think worst case scenario. That became my freedom to know I could go all the way to worst case scenario because my mind is going to go there and really get to the bottom.
“What if this worst thing does happen? Can I absolutely know for sure that’s a bad thing?” You will find once you come into this ability to question that no you can know what’s a bad outcome or what’s a good outcome. Believing that the best or worst outcome can be known would be your egoic mind again trying to assert the illusion of control. We all know some of the very best things came out of something that we thought was horrible or was really bad.
WOSL STEP THREE:
- So the third part, Step Three, is “What do I think I need?” In other words, ask yourself, “What do I believe I need to see happening or get from others or from life so that I know I’m okay and that I’m forgivable?” You can move on and into action to clear up whatever has happened, but first forgive yourself and take care of the internal damage your regret-prone mind created by giving yourself whatever it is you feel you need from others or life. Make a list of what you find, and give it to yourself!
Maybe you want people to understand that you did the best you could, you want them to forgive you. Maybe you just want them to be OK and not have any bad consequences from your actions; or if they already have that this somehow leads them exactly where they needed to go. Or you want them to not be hurt or mad at you. You want to not gain that extra weight or want your bank account to have enough money…..
Make a list of your mind’s fondest wishes–all the things that littlest part of you who is getting beat up by you feels it would need for everything to be OK.AND THEN…. give all of that to yourself. Forgive yourself, trust yourself, love yourself just as you showed up. Let the amount of money in your bank account right now be enough; it’s the story that it’s not enough that’s scaring you. Let tomorrow morning’s weight be perfectly lovable; you coming home to yourself and loving yourself just as you are is the heart of the spiritual journey. It’s the validation and approval and acceptance and love you’ve been seeking in all the wrong places. Let your cravings for how you want life or others to receive your regretable actions or words be a perfect template for how you want to treat yourself.
Take Responsibility, NOT Blame and Shame
Once you have taken care of these needs so you don’t place them on others, you are positioned to discern whether to go back to the person you fear you have harmed and make amends (where it does not bring more harm). You can now do that without entangling them in exonnerating you, simply acknowledging where you fear you may have done harm, and asking if there is something you can do to make it right.
This is the beginning of what I call Self-Solidarity: Standing with by, and for yourself, no matter what.
There’s a lot more to come but I just wanted to give you those three questions:
1.) What was I thinking and believing back when I did the thing that I now regret;
2.) What am I fearing now that’s what plunged me into regret hell; and
3.) What is it I believe I need from others or life so that I know everything’s going to be okay. With these three questions, you can take out the middle-man and give that to yourself.