As I work with clients, sometimes themes emerge at different times. Since I have been working my Mental Freedom™ process with clients, themes of regret, guilt and forgiveness have been …
As I work with clients, sometimes themes emerge at different times. Since I have been working my Mental Freedom™ process with clients, themes of regret, guilt and forgiveness have been surfacing.
The problem with regretting the past, and holding onto guilt because of it, is that you are judging your former self by the information you have today. The second lesson of Mental Freedom is the Unconditional Trust Challenge. You are challenged to trust everyone—people you know and those you don’t—to do one thing consistently: Everybody makes the best decision they can at the time to get what they want.
It sounds simple, but if you genuinely believe this, there will be things you need to release because they aren’t compatible with that belief.
If everyone is doing their best to get what they want, then why be mad or hold it against them?
Once you’ve seen who a person is, believe them. Stop trying to turn them into the person you want them to be. Accept them exactly as they are and then decide how, or if, you want to be in any kind of relationship with them.
If people are doing their best to get what they want, then why take it personally? People aren’t doing what they do to hurt, annoy or inconvenience you. They likely weren’t even thinking about you. They are focused on getting what they want. It may still bother you, but at least you no longer have to take it personally. It wasn’t about you; it was for them.
As it relates to yourself, the same is true. If you did the best you could to get what you wanted in any given situation, why regret it? You did the absolute best you could at that time with the information available to you.
As time passes, you learn, grow and mature. In doing so, you might be tempted to look back and judge yourself based on the person you are today, but that isn’t fair. You didn’t know then what you know now. If you had, you would have done something different.
Feeling guilty about doing your best makes no sense to me. Sure, you might do something different today if the situation presented itself, but feeling guilty about what you did in the past serves no one. If you want to want to make up for something you did in the past, do something better today. It’s the only way. There is nothing you can do about the past. It’s over, written in the history books. You don’t have editing power. It truly is what it is. The only thing you have power and control over is how you write your story today and in the future. If you know better now, do better.
There are generally two reasons a person feels guilty. One is to show others just how bad they feel about what they’ve done. When you guilt yourself properly, others tend to not judge you as harshly. The other reason is to punish yourself. Guilt feels horrible; it is painful. When you judge yourself as having done a terrible thing, you may believe you need to be punished, and guilt is always right there to be your companion during the process.
Research shows that punishment doesn’t really help people do better. If it did, our prison system would have low recidivism rates, and we all know how that’s working out. Punishment is inflicting pain on someone in an effort to teach them something. Unfortunately, we know from cellular biologist Bruce Lipton that cells are only ever in one of two positions—they’re either open for growth or closed for protection. If they are closed for protection, they cannot grow and learn. It’s impossible. When you heap guilt upon yourself, or anyone else for that matter, you or them are not learning what you want to teach.
The best way to help someone do better next time is to provide them with information that might help them choose differently. All you can do is provide the information; the other person has to hear it, make a decision about how they value it and then decide whether or not to act on it. You don’t get any say over that internal process.
So, if you are feeling regret, focus your attention on today and your future. Recognize whatever happened wasn’t your proudest moment, but know, without a shadow of a doubt, what you did in that situation—as in any situation—was the best you knew to do to get what you wanted at that moment. Stop fighting it. You can’t change it, so accept it as part of your past and turn it from a tragedy into a learning situation. You can even apply the GLOW, as I’ve written about before. Ask yourself what are the gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom that grew from that moment of regret. If you can’t think of any, then make it your mission to uncover it—because it’s there.
Do something constructive with the situation instead of wallowing in guilt and regret. What can you learn from the situation to do better in the future?
Finally, forgiveness is the path from your mental prison to Mental Freedom. You may need to forgive others, but in the process, be sure to forgive yourself. It’s important to learn something so the incident wasn’t wasted, but then, forgive yourself, knowing you did the best you could in that situation to get what you wanted.
If you’ve thought of a better way to do it in the future, great. If you decided what you wanted was foolish, then find healthier, more responsible things to focus on. That is growth; that is learning. It will ensure that, in the future, you will make better choices rather than repeating the ones you regret.
Forgive yourself for what you did. If there are others you also need to forgive, it may help you to remember that they, too, were doing their best to get what they wanted. Let go of any resentments you are harboring; they are poisoning you. This quote is unattributed: “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” You are only hurting yourself. Forgiveness of self and others will set you free from your mental prison, if you are in one.
What and who do you need to forgive?