Whew! I no longer have to live in the terrorizing shadow of Regret and Indecision.
Getting OFF that Horrible Hamster Wheel
In my former job, I would leave almost every meeting having this “kicked in the stomach’ feeling as I meticulously thought back with a fine-toothed comb over the things I “should have” and “shouldn’t have” said.
At that moment, it didn’t matter that I was a well-known contributor in my field and always earned distinguished ratings at that job. All I could see–in vivid detail–was what my mind was telling me “would have been better.” I would re-play it over and over—each time plunging myself back into what I now call ‘REGRET HELL.’
Then I would agonize over whether to engage in damage-control, hoping to make up for the imagined problem I had created for someone (which–bottom line—was a survival-level fear that I had just created a problem for MYSELF or my ability to realize my most cherished goals).
I could stay stuck for a REALLY LONG TIME in the replay loop, beating myself up mercilessly each time I compared the ‘what really happened’ scene with what my mind told me ‘would have been the perfect thing instead.’
REGRET HELL is one of the most devastating kinds of pain humans put themselves through.
We mercilessly blame and beat up the smallest, most innocent part of ourselves that is ALWAYS doing the best it can, with the story “if only you had done it this way” (or at least NOT have done it the way you did!) everything would be fine.
NOW, the relative absence of REGRET HELL from my days and nights represents the place where the level of peace, happiness, and a sense of security may have changed the most as a result of knowing what to DO with it.
With Only Ourselves to Blame
Not only did I do this around meetings at work; this painful state could strike me in ANY area of my life, important or trivial. I was an expert at it.
I lived with keen awareness of the potential for REGRET to pop back into my consciousness at any time. The ‘should have’ story really WAS a kind of internal hell for me, and I could skillfully apply it to almost anything:
- Ordering in restaurants (“I should have gotten THAT instead!”),
- Deciding how long to stay on a vacation (“Why didn’t I lock in that airline ticket for one more—or less—day!”),
- Speaking up in courses or conventions or conversations (I should—or should not—have asked that question!)
- Whatever I was working on (I should have spent my time doing THAT instead of THAT!)
Most of all, I lived in fear that I would inadvertently do or say something that—heaven forbid!–would hurt someone or make them mad at me or cause a relationship to end. I had plenty of evidence that if that happened, I would have only myself to blame–and be stuck forever in my hamster-wheel of REGRET!
Once I learned what to DO when that dreaded state took over my mind and heart, everything started to change.
My health, ability to sleep and concentrate, my relationships, work life, and the many moments of each day that carry the potential to go back there have been so positively affected by the revolutionary paradigm shift I have experienced around that painful “SHOULD HAVE” way of life.
The symmetry held within that dreaded state now leads me STRAIGHT to self- and other-forgiveness, freedom, and a relaxed and playful sense of choice.
How REGRET HELL Breeds Indecision
I have noticed that my clients who have trouble with decision-making—as I did—are actually just afraid of going into the special kind of fear that hits them when they drop into REGRET HELL. (i.e., “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”) They tell themselves there is ONE right solution (that will stave off REGRET HELL) and they need to land on it or they will spend what feels like eternity beating themselves up.
I came to realize by watching myself that it truly was not the actual outcome of the decision I feared, but the outcome of being stuck in REGRET HELL that made me over-deliberate in search of the illusive ‘right’ answer.
Moreover, it wasn’t even the REGRET itself I feared, but the idea that the horrible feelings that accompanied it would just go on and on and on (and they often did!). Even years later, I could trigger REGRET HELL just by thinking of a situation where I had “DONE IT WRONG.” My decision-making paralysis was just the scary past, which I had projected onto a now-scary future–serving to perpetuate the cycle.
Now that I know what to do with those feelings–how to question the mind-made illusions that create the entire cycle, I just don’t go to REGRET HELL much. Now, my mind feels right-sized (i.e., I know I don’t know what outcomes are best). I notice I make hundreds of decisions a day and my stomach only gets a flutter now and then with the story that they could be ‘wrong.’. I am mostly just a curious observer of what is unfolding—which even includes whatever I see myself doing or saying!
This has resulted in an amazing level of trust in the actions and outcomes that show up (a real-time kind of faith). It’s there to catch me even if the outcomes and actions are not what I had in mind, and even when they feel like LOSS (I have come to trust that the losses I react to most bring the biggest leaps in my evolution!). I have come to see that what I have is what I need—it is all happening FOR me, not to me–by questioning the thoughts that would tell me otherwise.
It is truly a new world and I feel so blessed now that I am rarely stuck in REGRET HELL anymore—nor its ‘evil twin,’ indecision–around how I spend my time or my money or my words or my love or my life.
Except in one place: GROWING A BUSINESS! (Well, parenting can sometimes still do it, too– but even far less than when I wrote this!)
So last night [I wrote this in Spring of 2014 but wanted to share it again as my Radical Relationship Releif Group is working on the Module about REGRET and INDECISION] I plunged back into my old familiar SMALL-BUSINESS-REGRET HELL HOLE, believing that having just hit “SEND” on one more promotion for my colleague would make lots of people unsubscribe and they would never get to hear what I really have to share! (I have actually come to love when people unsubscribe–which many DID last night–but that’s a topic for another time).
The REGRET pulled me back down into its lair with SURPRISING STRENGTH (and may again after I send this out)! But I didn’t stay in that hole for long; as per the poem I shared last summer; I got out quickly and walked down another street (the poem was in the Valentine/Ground Hog’s Day article; CLICK HERE if you wanted to read it or the poem)..
Getting out of that truly painful place was very quick and very sweet and very forgiving and very cool–using something I call the SPARK OF LOVE.
It works for me every time. I was so happy to have been graced with the presence and the new-found skills that allowed me to rescue myself from my old familiar hell last night.–even when I felt unusually sucked back into the old pattern. So I sat down and wrote this in gratitude–and because I really wanted to tell you about it–in case you don’t have a good way to get yourself out of REGRET HELL when you are “in it.”
Only one problem: I have committed to SHORTER POSTS and the ‘Spark of Love’ part comes next. So I’ll send the second part that tells my little story in a day or two. Watch for it. It’s called
“Spark of Love [PART II]: The Short and VERY Sweet Way Out of REGRET HELL”
PS: If you want to learn more about USING your pain to find your way out of it, I would love to explore with you how I can support your own happy paradigm shift around the painful situations in your life. And if you’d like to consider giving yourself the amazing gift of coming to one of my beautiful waterfront retreats (less than a month away–this fall), just click LOVELY WATERFRONT RETREAT INFO to go to the home page of this site. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the info and a beautiful video of last falls’ retreat. Feel free to call me if you want to discuss it at 1-301-785-0545 (really!) or just grab a FREE appointment at shawnmahshie.youcanbook.me.