This week let’s continue to explore how to eradicate regret. Regrets are known shadow issues you haven’t had the courage to resolve. They’ve been identified but you have neither objectified nor resolved them. You’re still merged with the negative energy from the situation. Anything you ponder from the past with a “woulda coulda shoulda” dialogue attached is a regret that’s holding you back from mastery of self, or it’s an unresolved issue that will lead to more regret in the future. What you focus on grows, so if you ruminate about a regret it becomes a bigger regret. Screwups, setbacks, or challenges that you didn’t handle well—these happen to everybody! —this is what I’m talking about. Regrets kill your motivation moving forward and rattle your peace of mind. None of us live life without it getting a little messy. This is part of the human experience and allows contrast for us to live in alignment with our purpose, principles, and passions.
Drinking to excess was a common pattern in my family, and it was common practice in the Navy. I was neither exempt from this habit nor had I thought to examine the emotional BOO behind my binging. I was an officer and a gentleman, but one with disaster on my horizon. I had to set a higher standard. This, I should have recognized. But binging was a way of denying my feelings. And though I was hardly aware of it, this was how I coped. Sure enough, one night I got toasted with my small team after an op, and my commanding officer was not impressed. He ran me up the flagpole, relieving me of my leadership position for a couple of months.
For a long time, I held regret about this incident. I went from the top ranked lieutenant at SEAL Team 3 to being fired from my platoon. The language of that regret was: “Boy, did I screw up. I should have been more disciplined. I could have controlled myself better” …and blah, blah, blah. That was the fear wolf story looping in my head (and it didn’t help, in case you were wondering). Back then, I identified it as a single poor choice. I couldn’t see that it was a pattern arising from a shadow issue trying to smack me down again and again. When I finally found the courage to recapitulate this, I saw other alcohol-related incidents starting in my late teens. The recapitulation allowed me to see it for what it was. I identified the incident that caused the regret. I visualized the source by digging into how my shadow BOO was involved. I objectified the incident, turning “I am” into “It was.” Then, I examined it objectively (like that shell on the beach). Once I understood it, I was able to eradicate it, and let it go. I reframed my story. I learned a big lesson from it, after all. Then, I forgave myself, forgave others that were involved or apologized to victims of this event, and I became free to move on. I’m going to take a minute of your time to put this practice in “list” form, because it’s going to be your next exercise. This is how I released myself from the regret of getting fired at Team 3:
- I admit to being saddened by the behavior that led to the firing.
- I acknowledge binge drinking led to this unfortunate incident.
- I saw that I had had a habit of binging on beer since my teens as a way of not facing feelings of inadequacy.
- My parents fought a lot, and my father was angry and physically abusive. I’ve been angry about this and have felt helpless for as long as I can remember, since I was three. By my late teens, I discovered alcohol and used it to cope.
- Getting fired from my leadership position was just one of several events that happened with alcohol involved. I tell myself: That happened because I used beer to fill a gap in my life. It wasn’t my fault. I was surviving the only way I knew how. But now, I don’t need it anymore.
- I see the incident with unbiased eyes: This incident was valuable because it allowed me to learn about myself and become stronger. This is the courage wolf story.
- Finally, I forgive myself for coping with my issues in an ineffective way. I forgive myself for the negative self-image that led to using beer to manage my emotions. And I forgive my parents for not knowing a better way to manage their BOO. They are not evil people, and they did the best they could with the skills they had available.
We must objectify the BOO to end the pattern. I saw how I used the alcohol to substitute for my lack of emotional awareness, and to mask pain. There are healthier approaches to addressing emotional issues, which I discovered, and which I am passing on to you. This was not a one-and-done exercise by the way. Some issues you have to stay on like white on rice until they dissolve into the clear light of acceptance. To free yourself, identify the memories, and then consider the root emotional trauma they point to. Then, define the trauma as an object that is not you, but outside of you.
Tell this object: You are not me, and you don’t mess with my life anymore. The energy associated with the trauma will begin to dissipate, along with regret. And the patterns that typically arise because of the suppressed energy, such as negative self-talk and bad behavior, will vanish, too. Soon enough, those habits will be eating your dust as you trek forward on the path to your UNCOMMON LIFE.
The How To Guide on Ending Regret:
(Eliminating regrets of the past will allow you to accelerate into the future. Eliminating regret will increase awareness of the present moment and decrease worry about the future.)
What regrets are holding you back? Let’s commit to ending them now. We will start with a small one to build the skill set. Sit comfortably with your journal. Take ten or more minutes to box breathe. Now, follow this process to end regret in detail:
- Identify an incident that you are holding onto in the form of regret.
- Journal the words or actions that caused the regret.
- Visualizing their source.
- Recapitulate by writing down how your shadow BOO (origin stories) was involved.
- Define and visualize the incident and its emotional energy (and the BOO) as an object outside of your “I am” identity. It was not you. It was an event, a thing that happened.
- Examine the object (of regret), denounce it, and reject it. Commit to eradicating it from your life and end the regret. Write down how you’ve grown because of this event.
- Forgive yourself and any person(s) who you think harmed you. If you’ve harmed someone, an apology is appropriate. It’s best to apologize in person, but that’s neither possible nor reasonable in many situations. In some cases, years have passed. Often, it will just stir up more bad energy. You can apologize by writing a letter and then burning it, or by just voicing the apology internally, too.
Bottom line: You and I don’t need to be victims to our BOO or each other’s BOO, whether in the form of weak stories or stored emotional energy leading to reactionary behavior. Anything we think, feel, and do is our sole responsibility. Choose to let go of that regret to change the feelings, thoughts, and behavior associated with it. That’s the uncommon mindset you need to develop to reach your full potential.
Take responsibility: Feel the pain. Then forgive and get over it. And I encourage you to acknowledge the flaws and failures of your parents, just as you acknowledge your own flaws and failures. Your family has boo coo BOO because all humans are imperfect. If we were all perfect, the world would be boring and there would be no growth. Learn to forgive your family…be thankful for the positive things they did bring you to this point in your life.
Eliminating regrets of the past will allow you to accelerate into the future. Eliminating regret will increase awareness of the present moment and decrease worry about the future. Hooyah!