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Embracing Regret and Guilt: Turning Pain into Growth

Regret and guilt are two emotions that often weigh heavily on our hearts. These emotions, while painful and uncomfortable, are also profound teachers on our journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Have you ever wondered about how to stop feeling bad about something you did? Have you failed to deal with regret and guilt? Both regret and guilt can be overwhelming, suffocating even, if left unaddressed. However, consider that they are not simply negative emotions to be avoided, but rather opportunities for profound reflection and transformation. This article explores the intricacies of these two emotions and how to deal with them. 

What is regret? 

Regret, that lingering feeling of wishing we could turn back time and make different choices. As per Bronnie Ware, an Australian author and songwriter, the top five regrets of the dying are: regret of not having lived a life authentic to one’s own desires; regret of working too hard; regret of not expressing one’s feelings; regret of not staying in touch with friends; and regret of not allowing oneself more happiness. Regrets can range from minor regrets in everyday life to more serious life decisions, leading to a feeling of sadness and disappointment. 

We’ve all experienced moments where we wish we could rewrite our history, make different decisions, or take back hurtful words. Yet, dwelling in regret traps us in a cycle of longing for a past that no longer exists. Instead, let us shift our perspective. Regret can serve as a powerful catalyst for change. It illuminates the areas of our lives where we desire growth and prompts us to take meaningful action. By acknowledging our regrets and learning from them, we pave the way for a future filled with willingness and wisdom.

What is guilt

Guilt, the burden we carry when we believe we’ve caused harm or fallen short of our own standards. It is a feeling you get when you think you did something wrong. It’s like a little voice inside you that criticises you for what you did or didn’t do. It can happen when you break a rule, hurt someone’s feelings, or do something against your own values. Guilt can make you feel sorry and want to make things right again. It’s a normal emotion, but too much guilt can be tough to handle.

Guilt is often accompanied by self-condemnation and shame, leaving us feeling unworthy of forgiveness or redemption. However, guilt can also be a sign of our conscience at work, guiding us towards accountability and reconciliation. It is a reminder of our capacity for empathy and compassion, both towards others and ourselves. By embracing our guilt and taking responsibility for our actions, we open the door to healing and reconciliation. We learn to make amends, to seek forgiveness, and to grow into more compassionate beings.

Why do I feel regret and guilt? 

The foundational belief underpinning the experience of both regret and guilt is the internalized notion of one’s inherent wrongness. This belief system often takes root in early childhood, germinating from diverse experiences over time. Consider a scenario where a 5-year-old child finds himself wronged by his parents for a persistent need for attention. Instead of understanding the motivations of such behaviour, the parents decide to punish the child for not being independent enough. Consequently, the child feels guilty every time they seek attention or the company of others, believing that ‘I am not worthy of other people’s time’. Whenever they behave in a way that shows dependency on others, they feel filled with regret and sometimes shame. Growing up with this belief, that asking for attention is wrong, the child continues to attract situations and people in their life who reinforce this belief. As an adult, they continue creating situations that make them feel regretful and guilty. Many such small occurrences can lead to a feeling of perpetual guilt and regret, manifesting in everyday decision making or events. 

According to Dr Dain Heer and Gary Douglas, co-founders of Access Consciousness, regret and guilt are ‘distractor implants’. These are energetic implants on our body that keeps us from being empowered and aware. In a sense, people project regret and guilt to control and manipulate others; or use it themselves to cut off their awareness about the situation or person. A mother not giving attention to her child, as she is expected by others, is made to feel guilty. Whereas, the truth could be that both the mother and the child have enough care, attention and support towards each other. In another case, a mother can use guilt and regret to manipulate her spouse or children into doing things that she desires. In all, people use distractor implants on themselves or others to stop themselves from being true to themselves or living in the present. 

How do we deal with regret and guilt? 

Firstly, we must practise self-compassion. Recognize that we are all capable of both greatness and mistakes. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend in need. One of the most powerful approaches for practising forgiveness and self-compassion is doing inner child work with an expert therapist. Connecting with your inner child who was made to feel guilt or regret the first time ever and healing that experience has a profound effect on eliminating situations and people in your life who make you feel bad for things you do. 

Secondly, we must cultivate an inclusive mindset. View every setback, every mistake, as an opportunity for learning about yourself and others. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, focus on what you were aware of in that moment, what were you trying to prove or defend? Moment you get an awareness of these questions, the feelings of guilt and regret will start to dissipate. For instance, what were you aware of about the person you spoke badly to? Was that person willing to hear what you had to say? Could that person hear what you had to say? Was that person asking to be shaken and shouted at? An awareness always makes you feel lighter. You will be surprised by how much of your behaviour was out of an awareness of the other person. 

Thirdly, we must practise forgiveness and gratitude. This includes forgiving others for their transgressions and forgiving ourselves for our own. Holding onto grudges and resentments only perpetuates our pain and prevents us from moving forward. By letting go of the past and embracing forgiveness, we free ourselves from the shackles of regret and guilt. Gratitude is an energy of expansion and lightness. Everyday, practise gratitude towards yourself, your life, living and reality. Regret and guilt limits you, and gratitude creates a life of ease and joy. 

In conclusion, regret and guilt are natural and inevitable aspects of the human experience. However, they need not define us. Instead, let us embrace them as catalysts for growth, opportunities for reflection, and reminders of our humanity. By facing our regrets and guilt with courage and compassion, we can transform pain into wisdom, and darkness into light.

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