As our illustrious late summer has finally but regrettably retreated and the available daylight has been shortened, we once again prepare for the end of another calendar year. The changing seasons that herald the cold weather and the usually majestic array of colours of the trees and shrubs, although missing this year, remind us of our own cycle of life and the seasons that we humans go through on own journey. Entering winter, we too begin to slow down and become more sedentary just as the natural environment around us does. It is in this phase we often take the time to be more reflective, looking back over the year that will soon expire.
In this reflective time, people tend to move beyond just the current year and broaden the time frame out over their lives to include a sweeping review of times gone by. Invariably I hear from many, of the regrets they carry of their dreams and visions for their life, whether real or imagined scenarios, that did not have stellar outcomes. Regrets occur from one of 2 ways, or both. One is the actions we may have taken in the past which caused a rift or a severing of a relationship, friendship or within our families. An example would be: An explosion of anger, things said in the heat of the moment, which should not have been said, a very personalized reaction to the event and the damage is done. We feel bad for our behaviour and we begin regretting our actions, however, we do not attempt to clear the air and now hurt and anger festering, time marches on, and it becomes very difficult to consider going back to seek some resolution.
The second way we see regrets originating is those things we always wanted to do but never had the nerve or courage to do them. Perhaps it was to travel to an extraordinary place that you always dreamed of but never quite got around to going there, or to connect with an estranged brother who somehow separated from you and your family, but you have never reconnected with. Climb Mount Everest, or jump from a plane to skydive or, ask that gorgeous person out on a date from your classes at College. There are many things we may have aspired to in our hearts, however there was always a good reason for not carrying through with the idea. Our rationale to avoid many things were iconic tales requiring the willing suspension of disbelief, on the part of friends and family, to agree with just why we couldn`t possibly have climbed the mountain this week.
Fear always plays a role in the creation of our regrets, the fear that stopped us, at least unconsciously, from carrying through to actualizing our dreams and visions for our life. It rarely allows us to say I was too scared of being rejected to ask that person out or I am terrified of pain and broken limbs to ever skydive from a plane, even with a parachute! Instead we will direct our anger at the people and situations who we hold responsible for our not meeting our own goals. Fear usually has us blaming others.
If grief is considered a complex set of thoughts and feelings then regret needs to be placed at the same level of complexity. Its complexity originates not in the loss of a loved one but of an event that never occurred, the regret of an imagined scenario that exists only in the person’s mind. Running the gamut from those things we wished we had done, to those things that we never bothered to push our self past our fear. Regret can have strong effects on our mental health with depression being the most notable. The feelings that exist in the presence of regret from anger to sadness, guilt and shame can play heavily on our self-confidence and self esteem pulling them both into impacting our sense of self.
“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” ~ Lucille Ball
The first step in helping our self to alleviate the effects from our resentments is to identify what source the resentments originate from. If it is something you did or said, then you are in the position to make amends, and perhaps, even a resolution can be reached. If you have regrets from something you wanted to do or imagined something that didn`t happen and regret that it didn`t happen then you must start with letting yourself know that all the energy you hold, supporting something that never happened, is a waste and a detriment to your wellbeing. The emphasis is that is Not Reality!
Allow yourself time to experience your many emotions as they surface and find the resentment you hold is for something that never happened, releasing any shame messages that pull you back into your resentment. Just as grief is a process, spread out over time and rotating through many emotions and thoughts, regret can be moved through, leaving memories and remembrances that are true and real. At the end of our lives, it those memories working for us, reminding us of our life, well-lived and not confused by our imaginings. It is our memories that give our life meaning and a sense of direction. They mark out our history, bringing us from where we have been and who we are to perhaps insights to where we may be going.
Our Memories this month turn us back remembering that, on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, we commemorate the ending of World War 1 and World War 11, with the loss of so many men and women who sacrificed their lives so that those of us here today could live in a free world. A world of compassion, peace, respect and dignity with the right of free association. While we are still working on this last part, may we continue to each draw upon our inner wisdom creating memories that support our deepest desires for a free and compassionate world without regrets.
I take this moment to acknowledge the men and women who selflessly gave their lives, including my grandfather, for all peoples, of all nations.
May the resentments you still hold on to today be given another chance at reality and may you remember the points of your life that said – Here you are – authentically you.
Be Well and Live Well
~ Gord Riddell