It’s not uncommon to have thoughts like “if only” or ask yourself “why didn’t I” when a situation ends up a little more haphazardly then you would have liked.
You may find that this, daunting sense of regret, (seemingly caused by an unexpected outcome) sends you into a cycle of Rumination and Worry or Fretting and Frustration.
This can commonly happen in a work setting when we make a decision or have to deal with something a little outside of our comfort zone. And may also be a feature of negatively perceived outcomes in your personal life too. Faced with a different result to what you had hoped. One that you might even label “bad” “a mistake” or perhaps even a “terrible disaster”.
In truth, this process of playing-it-over and circling-the-scenario in our minds eye can be stressful, anger provoking and is likely to zap us of energy. The phrase “running through my mind” is a beautifully eloquent picture of the marathon our thoughts take us on, so it’s no surprise our analytic reflection is tiring.
Trapped between looping a story to try and narrate a better ending, re-writing into the abyss of unknown ends or finding that perfect solution, only to realise that you have no magic time machine to send you back and re-script the whole thing to a miraculous ending in which you might even walk out the hero/heroine… ( Minds are great authors aren’t they!)
What our brain is attempting to do is process ourselves through the feeling, we are now sitting within and out the other side to a seemingly more pleasant state. A whirling room of cogs and ideas to shift our emotional experience of the aftermath of the event. To simply rid us of the feeling that we now have and don’t want. That thing we regret.
We dislike feeling dislike; Be that anxiety, worry, anger, frustration, confusion.
In our attempt to figure it out, we might delve deep into the library or fountain of our mind to try to find answers, only to get stuck in the emotional state we are trying to shift.
Our mind considers familiar times that we felt “This Way”, or behaved “Like That”, it flicks through the images and memories, within a micro-mili-second. Perhaps every now and again pausing to take a good look at those other awkward experiences and compare That time to This. Like playing snap or looking for a long lost twin.
In truth the minds attempt to problem solve and erase the feeling or experience often ends up with an amplified version of it instead.
We are left in some sort of emotional crystal maze.
So how to get out? You can’t rewind, you don’t understand the rules of the game yet and appear absent of supportive teammates (or even worse consulted the “team” and their opinions made you even more perplexed!)
So first, take a deep breath… A busy mind usually means a shallow breath and little rational action came from a panicked mind & body. I recommend doing this for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
You might like to play a game of positive re-frame. What it the world greatest optimist evaluated your situation now? What learning have you gained. What really went well?
Next, is this feeling serving any purpose? What is its best intention? Are you ok now? What can you change?
What is happening now right now and what is out in there in the future?
Regret can be a heavy burden to carry. Be kind, put it down, let it go. And breathe.
Picture Source Trinty Treft #unsplash