Suffering is caused by thinking; a kind of thinking we call misunderstanding. We have regrets – which is self-blame – when we have wrong ideas about how life and human beings function.
Today, let’s look at regrets, a form of suffering we all practice. Later on we will also examine blaming of others, anxiety/worry, and expectation.
It is very important that I clarify that with ‘suffering’, I don’t mean ‘pain’. Pain is a part of life, and it hits us now and again: a loved on dies, the body hurts, we get sick, we lose a job we loved, etc. Pain can also be very intense, but there is no mental chatter about it. We are discussing here the mental chatter about pain, which i call suffering.
For today’s blog, let’s use as example the thought: “I should have finished my degree back then.” This belief then opens the door to lots of unwarranted thinking, like: ‘If I had finished my degree, I would be better paid now. How stupid I was to just let it go…I should have listened to….’ Bla bla bla… And then the mind thinks about this unfortunate stupid mistake for a long long time. Familiar? I bet you are….Other regrets I hear in my practice are: I should have dated more when I was younger, so then now I would have a wife. Or: I should have traveled more, because now I can’t, I have a child. Or: I should have had a child then, so then I could travel now….Or: I should have stayed on that diet/done more exercise ‘back then’, so I would be healthier/fitter now…take a moment to see if you’re holding regrets, and if so, write them all down, one by one, and go through each one, one at a time, doing with what I am going to describe below.
The mind finds easily things in our life story that seem to need correction. Isn’t that funny, when you really look at it? I mean, who do you/we think we are, knowing, ‘for sure’, how our life should have been and should be now? When we don’t even know what our next thought is going to be; when we can’t stop thinking even when we try hard; when we visualize all we can to get that nice big house, and then we don’t get it. Can you see it? In addiction recovery work we tell clients that they don’t know what’s good for them; they need to trust and surrender to a Higher Power. What about us? Addicted to thinking we know it all; addicted to thinking at large? Would it also be helpful for all of us, to trust, if we can, and relax a bit more? The world, life, is running without our efforts. If you’re not sure about that, just stay a day at home and do nothing; you’ll see.
Now let’s come back to the regret:
My question to you is: Do you remember, ‘back then’, what your reasoning was for not finishing the degree? Your beliefs and values ‘back then’ were exactly in a way so that you HAD to not go through with your diploma to the end. Then, it was the best solution for you. Remember what you got out of it? Maybe more time, more social life, more traveling, more exploring of something that interested you more than studying? Can you remember, honestly? It takes honesty with this process. Really put yourself back in the shoes you were then. If you do, you will inevitably see that you did the best you could ‘then’, and that ‘then’, this was your best option.
At the present moment you may have different values, different thoughts and beliefs, or at least some different ones, and it’s easy to beat yourself up with something that was impossible to do for who you were, ‘back then’. Seen? Good. No forgiveness needed, just the understanding that you/we always do the best we can at each moment, EACH moment, whether you/we like it or not, whether you judge it as good or not, you/we still could not possibly act differently in that moment than how we do; including right now.