Friday, 21 December 2018 08:00

Regret and Shame and the Power of Understanding

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You know those moments when regret sneaks up on you? Something that happened long ago and you would rather not remember it. Inflated with time and reeking of shame it circles you for a while. You think you’re on your guard but suddenly you’re on the floor. Got you again.

Now there’s a lungful of anxiety. You try not to breathe deeply. Just little shallow ones. You stay very still. No moving. Stay in the shadows. Out of the way. You know it will get you again. Usually in the dark. It’s not a clean fight like Sumo, where there are rules. This thing is a stalker.

What to do? This is not something that you want to follow you all your life.

So how about you treat it like a lucid dream? During a lucid dream people know they are dreaming. The dreamer is not at the mercy of the dream sequence but can gain some control over the dream characters & the action.

The reason I suggest this rather radical approach, is because the kind of shame- based regret I describe is a thought. You can choose what you think. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of practice, admittedly. But it’s your thought and you don’t have to be afraid of it. So stand up and face the thing. Have a chat with it.

The other important aspect of this is that we are talking about something that happened in the past. You might be living with the consequences of that action or lack of action or something you said, but you sure can’t change what happened. Because it already happened. Game over.

But you can now confront it – use it as a point of enquiry. What can I learn from this? What did I carry forward – can I change that? Is there some recompense I can make to others who were affected or could I send an apology. Would that be appropriate or would it do more harm?

And can you forgive yourself? The fact that you carry this shame suggests that you feel you were in the wrong. Maybe you were and it’s time to let it go. Maybe you weren’t and thinking it through from the perspective you have gained with time, may change everything.

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