Dealing with the energy of our regrets is similar to trying to swim through a riptide. Approached head on they can exhaust us, however if we move ourselves parallel to them and then swim alongside them, their energy dissipates over time allowing us to continue on with our journey.
Like most Highly Sensitive people I’m known to be a good listener. As a result, many friends and even random strangers have often shared their life experiences with me.
It’s symbolic of the energetic gift we Highly Sensitive folk bring to the world; people around us seek refuge in the safe harbor of our energy if only for the time it takes to have a conversation.
As Highly Sensitive people our interactions with others are often coupled with a strong sense of responsibility. Nurturing by nature, the last thing we want to do is upset someone with an inappropriate response.
But speaking from experience, I can tell you that it happens; regardless of the countless number of conversations I’ve had over the past thirty years, I’ll be the first to admit every so often I completely screw a conversation up.
I will misjudge the current energy of the person I’m speaking with or miss the meaning behind the conversation causing me to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, at which point the conversation comes to an awkward end as the other person shuts down on me.
Filled with regret afterwards, I find myself awake at 2 am asking myself just what the hell I was thinking.
The glare of lightning –
and through the darkness echoes the night Heron’s cry
~ Basho (1644-1694)
So, how should we handle the energy of our regrets when they occur? For me it begins with the basics; which means I have to acknowledge that as part of being human, I absolutely will make mistakes. It’s the reason erasers are put on pencils. My perfectionism notwithstanding, I’ve spent more time using erasers than I care to admit.
A key factor in dealing with the energy of our regrets is to recognize the current difference in time. Time creates awareness through experience. It’s important to remember we are no longer the same person that we were when the regret occurred.
Experiencing regret creates an emotional awareness which leaves us a bit wiser as a result of having the experience although it may not feel that way afterwards. In dealing with our regrets the key is to understanding the role regrets play in our lives; their role isn’t as much about our labeling ourselves as being good or bad as it is about increasing awareness.
Often at the end of a conversations with someone, I will point out how we both are no longer the same people that we were when the conversation began because of the increased awareness the conversation has brought both of us. Our regrets do that exact same thing; they leave us slightly more knowledgeable about our lives as a result of having them.
It helps to recognize that regrets teach us some of life’s most powerful lessons. Through their intensity, regrets create an environment of contemplation as we look back on the experience. It is during contemplation that the lessons of life show themselves to us.
We are not the same person after having a regretful experience because we now have the pain and wisdom of the experience to guide us from that point on. Contemplation allows us to swim parallel to our regrets so that over time, our increased awareness of the situation allows us to focus on not repeating the mistake rather than just focusing on the mistake itself.
While awareness allows us to see the bigger picture, we also have to take in to account our intentions when the regret occurred.
Once, while sharing regret with a Highly Sensitive friend about an awkward conversation I had with a mutual acquaintance, she caught my attention when she pointed out that although I regretted the awkward conversation, perhaps that there was more to the story.
She reminded me of how often I mentioned to her that a core intention in my life was to help people through the gift of my sensitivity.
“Perhaps through your intention to help people, in the greater scheme of things your awkward conversation has done just that,” she said; “But because you like everything wrapped up so neat and tidy, you can’t see the beauty of the forest through the trees”.
She was right. Sometimes after throwing an intention out to the world, we need to have faith that the process is indeed working as planned regardless of how circumstances appear to be in our minds.
Some years ago, I read a quote by a woman from of the Dagara Tribe in South Africa stating that gray hair was looked upon as a badge of wisdom in her society because it was earned through the lessons which life presented.
Our regrets are just like that gray hair, we may not appreciate their appearance in our lives but they are indicative of the lessons learned during our journey.
From the wisdom of my own my regrets, I can definitely say that enlightenment is a bit of a paradoxical journey; we all seek a path to it, not realizing that it is right there in front of us.
Life, being that most consummate of teachers, bestows enlightenment on us through the wisdom of our experience. Although painful, regrets are a part of that enlightenment; leaving us with the knowledge that as Highly Sensitive people, our task in this life is not one of perfection but simply one of of awareness.
In your own journey, what are some of the life lessons your regrets have taught you?
Photo Courtesy of Marcia Morrissey Smith. Used with permission.