You are where you are now because of your past. The opportunities you had, the choices you made and all past decision have led you to this very moment. Hopefully, you are living in the now without misgivings.
However, when individuals are not happy with their present, reflecting on should’ve, would’ve, could’ve moments is common. That reflection can be accompanied by regret and misery and can contribute to a never-ending cycle of self-inflicted torment. That is because, when disappointment strikes, it triggers a sense of loss. Those “only if” moments can be debilitating, and is as authentic as enduring any trauma.
Paying mental penance for decisions of yesteryear is one way the human mind tries copes with the discomfort of regret. Fantasizing about different decision and the possible outcomes is part of the bargaining process, a stage in the Kübler-Ross model. Passing that stage will help you accept loss, including missed opportunities.
While it may be mentally soothing, some thoughts may weigh heavier than others. Finding ways to get over those past regrets is essential. Your personality is linked to your past, and acknowledging poor judgment can be the impetus to move forward.
Next time your inner voice steers you wrong, you can work on changing your inner dialogue in order to get back on track. Attempting to be in the moment is arduous, but it is grounding and can help.
Getting wrapped up in yesterday is oppressive. First, try to recognize the main cause for your sorrow. Do you regret saying no to that job? Miffed that you married wife #2? Are you in denial about saying that thing to your coworker? By pinpointing the exact cause of your sadness, you will be able to free your mind of other negative chatter and focus on the core issue.
If there is anything you can do to make amends, try. Seek out forgiveness from yourself and others. Take steps to prevent the same mistakes from happening by improving your actions, being honest, and repairing damage done. The technique is cathartic.
Try changing your inner dialogue from one of insults to one of compassion and kindness. Don’t blaspheme yourself. Back then, there were reasons for your choices, and you are much smarter now so let it drop.
Everything in life is a learning opportunity. Instead of harping on the regret, acknowledge what you have learned from the experience. That unique wisdom is what enriches your life, capabilities and well being.
Even with the effort, there may be times when those negative thoughts reappear. Take a moment to acknowledging that was then, but this is now. By embracing your history, you will have the ability to welcome your current circumstances.