“If only I had/hadn´t ……” You can fill in the blanks with whatever you like: more travelling, focused more/less on my career, spent more time with friends/family/children…..The list of regrets is endless and it is very likely that you had similar thoughts now and then.
There is always something that we would like to undo, however the things we´ve said or done can´t be changed. Even worse, those worries are accompanied by anger, grief or wistfulness. Many people find it hard to let go of thoughts of regrets and resentments, the feeling that they missed out on something. This can lead to bitterness, which – if continuing and “untreated” can become a disorder.
Stages of bitterness
“Happy are those who can forget what can´t be changed”, as it is mentioned in the opera “Wiener Blut” (Viennese Blood). Being able to let go of regrets is an important step of stress relief, but according to studies up to 80% of adult population are carrying embitterment they can´t get rid of.
Psychologists divide three stages of “bitterness disorder”:
1. mild disorder – thinking of an event where things went wrong and which is longer ago than one year at least every second day on average.
2. medium – daily regrets or resentments
3. serious – almost hourly thoughts which trigger intense feelings, that interfere with your daily tasks and performance
Most people affected are part of group 1, the mild disorder, which is – although concerning – good news, because “treatment” doesn´t need to involve a professional therapist, but personal responsibility, commitment and the right strategy – in this case one that is called “re-patterning”.
Shift your perspective
Every so-called mistake contains a positive learning. Instead of only focusing on the negative, you can shift your attention to what was or could have been a positive aspect about the situation. For example: if you did not get the job you wanted, you were available for the one that is better suited for your needs or skills.
“If one door closes, another one will open.”
Re-evaluate the event
Bitterness is often the result of a one-eyed perspective. The dream partner you didn´t dare to approach is not at all perfect. Maybe it wasn´t a lack of courage that prevented you from asking him or her out, but your unconscious mind or a divine guide that held you back from connecting with someone who doesn´t have a place in your life plan, or who might have brought you suffering or grief.
In any case where there is guilt involved, it is usually related to at least one other person. However, if the event you worry, feel guilt or grief about concerns someone else, they also own part of those feelings. It is a two-way street. If there is reason for guilt at all, it is shared between the both of you. No one can make you feel guilty – or anything else for that matter – unless you let them. So ask yourself the question: Is this person worthy of the power to make me feel guilty? If no, why even bother? If yes, wouldn´t it be time to take steps to find a solution that works for both of you? But be mindful: In case your “partner in crime” is not willing to relent, it is an undoubtful sign that he or she likes to have control over your feelings, which is a No-No in any relationship. They need your guilt to feel good, so free yourself and give it all (back) to them.
Ask resourceful questions
When we experience rejection, we usually take it personally and think that this wouldn´t have happened to someone else. Why me?” – Sounds familiar? However, asked with the right intention, this is a very valid questions. You may want to modify a bit though. Try this: “Why is this happening to me? What have I not learned yet? What is the blessing here that I need to see?” Sometimes we need several opportunities before we can take away the learnings and usually the lessons are getting more painful if we ignore them and more challenging as we grow.
Swap failure for feedback
There is no failure – there is only feedback. Thomas Edison needed almost 10,000 attempts until he finally found the right way to build a light bulb. He kept on changing his strategy until he finally succeeded. He was just not willing to accept failure. Instead, he used his unsuccessful attempts as feedback what did not work and what he could change.
If you can accept that there is no failure, but everything is feedback, you will see the world with totally different eyes and you will soon realise, that there is neither room nor reason for guilt or resentment.
Focus on the things you want
Life gives and takes, but we can only receive if our hands are empty or are willing to let go of something. If you choose to hang on to guilt and resentment, there is no room for joy and happiness. We have to let go of the things we don´t want in order to receive what we truly desire.
Envision this: Every thought has a certain vibration. They are like magnets, attracting vibrations that are alike – similar to a radio that tunes into the frequency of a certain sender. We attract the things that are in sync with the frequency we´re transmitting. So be mindful what kind of frequency you´re sending, hence what you are attracting.
So next time you catch yourself feeling guilty, try at least one of those re-patterning strategies and observe what a difference letting go of guilt and resentment makes in terms of stress. You will feel lighter and more energetic. Isn´t that worth the effort?