Image credit: John Hain

We all, at some point in our lives, end up doing things we regret.

Perhaps you were hurrying to get to work on time and ran over the cat. Or you lost your cool and spanked your kid. Or you made a stupid business decision which left you swimming in debt and unable to manifest your dreams. Or you came home drunk one too many times and now the love of your life has left you forever.

And so you’ve come to the wrenching realization that you f***ed up. Royally. And now you must face the painful consequences of your actions.

Will you Prolong the Tragedy…

Regret is a painful place to be. Not only do we feel dismay over whatever devastation we caused, but it usually brings up an entire legion of emotional specters: guilt, shame, self-doubt, worthlessness, fear. We can get mired in these emotions, sometimes for years—replaying the event over and over and mentally flogging ourselves for choices made or not made.

Perhaps the most insidious thing about regret is that it’s so easy to get sucked into the belief that by beating ourselves up we are somehow atoning for what we’ve done. That it’s somehow just and noble to suffer for our actions.

Well, it’s not.

The thoughts we dwell on affect our entire energy field. They affect our emotions, which directly affect our physical and mental health. And since other people pick up on what we’re feeling, they affect everyone around us, too.

Spending the rest of your life in regret and mourning may sound uber-romantic, but save it for your next pulp fiction novel. It’s not healthy for you or anyone you come into contact with. Essentially, it’s a refusal to let go of the tragedy—which means that when we get mired in regret, what we’re actually doing is amplifying and expanding the energy around the tragedy, which allows it to continue to cause even more suffering than it already has.

Will You Deny It…

At the other end of the spectrum is denial. At its most extreme, this shows up as a refusal to take responsibility for what happened. When we’re in denial, we play the blame game, pointing our fingers at other people, the weather, God, anywhere but ourselves.

Or, it can look like swallowing our feelings. While this can make us feel like we’re dealing with what happened, swallowing your emotions isn’t healthy either. It simply drives them deeper into your psyche, where they fester and can show up in surprising and unwelcome ways days, weeks, months, or years later in the form of emotional outbursts, depression, physical illness, etc. Again, not healthy for us or anyone else.

Or Will You Heal From It?

We can’t turn back the hands of time, as much as we might want to. We can’t undo damage that is done. But we can step forward and begin to heal from the experience. And to do that—as hard as it may be—we must forgive ourselves.

But how to forgive yourself?

I had to ask myself that the other day. Without going into details, I’d allowed myself to get caught up in a negative emotional trap and ended up lashing out in a quite hurtful way at someone I care about. While this person was generous and forgiving enough to talk it through and we are still on speaking terms, I may quite possibly have caused permanent damage to the relationship.

I knew I needed to forgive myself, but wasn’t even sure where to start. So I went within and asked my guidance. And I was given this process:

6 Steps to Self-Forgiveness: A Process for Healing From Royal F***ups

1. First, give yourself credit for owning your actions.

Taking responsibility for what happened is the first step to healing from the experience, both for you and others. There is a lesson in every negative experience. Holding ourselves accountable for our mistakes opens us up to receiving the lesson, learning it and moving on—whereas if we don’t, the lesson will keep coming up in new (and not so fun) ways until we are willing to face it and work through it.

2. Allow yourself to grieve.

Your actions resulted in loss. Grieving is necessary to process the experience, so that you and others can heal from it. (Even if there was loss of life involved, the individual who passed on will still be helped at the soul level.)

In healthy grieving, you let the emotions come up and pass through you. You don’t identify with them (wallowing), and you don’t repress them (swallowing.) Instead, you let them flow, and acknowledge and accept whatever you are feeling. As you do, instead of saying “I am sad,” or “I am angry,” tell yourself “I am feeling sad or mad.” That way, you set yourself up to control your emotions rather than the other way around.

It’s important to allow yourself time to grieve. It may take longer than you think, so be compassionate with yourself if feelings of grief are still coming up after you think you should be over it by now. Dedicating time to grieve your loss in a safe space will help you to process it more easily and more thoroughly.

Image credit: John Hain

3. Observe your emotions.

Don’t do this right away; let the feelings flow first. But once you’ve had some time to feel your emotions, start paying attention to exactly what these emotions are. You may be experiencing multiple emotions. Identify as many as you can.

As you do this, you may hear yourself speaking pretty harshly to yourself. Some of this negative self-talk might be related to the loss itself. (“I’m so stupid, how could I have done that?”) But you might also notice negative self-talk coming up around your own reactions to the loss.

For example, “OMG, my negligence caused my employee to break his leg and my big worry is not about his well being but that I’ll be stressed this week with him not there, what kind of a monster am I?” As you identify your emotions, be sure to also acknowledge the emotions behind this self-talk (such as feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness, or lack.)

4. Find the core wound(s) behind your emotions.

Staying in the observer role, the next step is to let your emotions speak. Ask them directly, one by one, why they feel the way they do. For example, ask your anger: “Why are you feeling angry?” You might get a response like, “Nobody hears me, nobody sees me, I’m being abandoned and ignored, I’m not being given the love or acknowledgement I need, and I’m pissed about it.”

Write down everything it says, and then ask it if that is all. It may have more to say. If not, then move on and repeat the process with all the emotions you observed in Step 3.

Based on what your emotions say, you should be able to identify the core wounds that caused them. For instance, with the anger example above, we are dealing with abandonment (“I’m being abandoned and ignored”) and lack (“I’m not getting what I need.”)

5. Work to heal your core wounds.

Awareness is the first step to healing. Once you’re aware of your core wounds, there are many ways to go about healing them. You may want to use multiple methods.

One very powerful healing method is to use positive affirmations. To continue the example above, we might create an affirmation like: “I am being showered with love, attention, gifts, and blessings. The needs of my heart, mind, body, and soul are filled to overflowing. I feel loved and fulfilled.”

(Tip: When healing emotional wounds, be sure to connect your affirmations with positive emotions to replace the negative ones you want to heal, and really allow yourself to feel the new, positive emotions as you say the affirmation to yourself.)

If you find that your wounds keep coming up despite affirmations or other methods, you might consider requesting a shamanic healing session to help clear out stubborn negative energy that might still be hanging on, and/or bring back parts of your soul that may have gotten lost due to traumatic experiences in this or other lifetimes.

6. Finally, find your lessons and give thanks for them.

However hard, there was a reason for this experience. There may actually be many multiple reasons, many of which will be unknowable.

But the reason YOU experienced it is to flush up misalignments in your psyche and bring them into your life in a tangible way so that you can become aware of them, work through them, and heal them. As you look back over the experience, see if you can identify the lesson behind it. And be sure to give thanks for the lesson learned.

healing buddha

Image credit: John Hain