“Regrets are a waste of time. They’re the past crippling you in the present.” (Federico Fellini (1920 – 1993)). It’s a great thought that regrets could be dismissed so easily. The technical definition I understand of regret is that it is the feeling of sadness or disappointed that something happened or that some opportunity was missed. Another definition that I think many more of us can identify with is; CRAP! I screwed up, I made a bad choice, this was NOT how my life was suppose to be, this was NOT suppose to happen. These feelings can manifest from many different circumstances in our lives, from such events as a negative business or financial decisions, quitting a job or from such events as divorce, infidelity, multiple marriages, having children out of wedlock. Which brings me to my belief that along side feelings of regret are feelings of shame and humiliation.
Shame, that painful deep seated feeling of foolishness and self blame which occurs along side the aching knowledge that if anyone found out the truth, they would think one to be as stupid as one feels. Unfortunately, counter-intuitively, many then move forward in life pretending as if the regret is not there. Thereby, accumulating more regret, while then proceeding to inadvertently build up a wall of deflection. In fact, many have learned to strategically avoid regrets all together in thought, word, or deed. However, the most alarming part, is that if many of us take a closer look, we can recognize that we have not avoided the regret at all. In fact, the truth is, the regret has become a shadow that has been following us through life and effecting our processes in building relationships, having conversations, and putting ourselves out into the world to be the best that we can be.
Gratefully, there is help available to alleviate shadows of regret. Regrets, can be elusive. Therefore, if the shadow is not immediately recognizable, yet you suspect that there is a possibility, you can begin on your own to try to uncover the regrets by thinking about events or circumstances that you have been avoiding that bring up feelings of anxiety, anger, and or shame. Then, ask yourself if you can see patterns of avoidance that have occurred since these events or circumstances have taken place. Most importantly, I suggest seeking out a counselor in your area that can help you with this process. At minimum, compile a few names of counselors that you can call if or when you discover how extremely controlling the shadow of regret has been in your life.
Kristy Palacios, LPCC