…And now that you’re reading this, you’ll never have to!
Regrets can a be healthy expression! Yes, you heard me! How else could you feel as powerfully motivated to learn something meaningful from your mistakes? Then, once you learn whatever you need to learn from regret, it’s okay to let go and stop ruminating. The milk has been spilled already, now it’s time to start cleaning.
Allow me to explain this further by asking you to consider these core concepts:
All of your memories and emotions belong to the realm of the unconscious mind. Most of us haven’t learned how to go through the day consciously choosing how to feel. It’s the other than conscious mental processes that are involved in producing your feelings. You learned to do this long ago and became adept at it without being consciously aware of it. Generating emotional feelings has become as automatic as breathing or walking by now. Your emotions (in this case your negative emotions) act through your amygdala and hippocampus in the brain to produce all the qualities you’ve learned to identify.
Once you’ve recognized the feeling enough to label it, you’ve already noticed a familiar pattern or combination of imagery, self-talk and/or kinesthetic feelings associated with the uncomfortable memory of it. Inner emotional language has a specific syntax of sensory-oriented communications that work like a strategy to achieve the result of a specific feeling, such as regret. If any of the steps along the way are altered or taken out, a different result would manifest inside. Interestingly, we use the same basic strategy each time we feel that specific type of emotion. We use a different inner strategy to invoke other feelings. The more you experience it, the more detailed and vivid it becomes as it gets reinforced over time.
Like the abstract processes of the dreaming mind, negative emotions are primal reactions in the nervous system to anything you experience. Sensations are the root of those primal reactions and they fall into two distinct categories: “Cravings” and “Aversions”. Cravings and Aversions can also be called “Pleasure” and “Pain”, “Attraction” and “Repulsion”, etc.
We either move toward or away from things. The strongest innate tendency is to move toward what feels good and to move away from what doesn’t. If you look deeply enough and scrutinize every decision, you’ll find that there isn’t much room for neutrality. At some level, we humans are driven to satisfy this basic condition of duality in our perceptions. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Emotions are your body’s reaction to your thoughts.”
Your emotions and your thoughts are intertwined. Emotions don’t just happen to you, you participate in their creation by the thoughts you think. Your conscious mind analyzes those primal feelings and associates various meanings with them. It notices distinctions and develops it’s own definitions and conclusions about them.
When we form strong emotional reactions the higher cortical functions are bypassed in favor of the lizard brain. The more we feel it, the more it loops back to the past experience that formed it. Something like a trance comes over us and we delete certain aspects of the experience and distort or generalize the other parts: our perceptions about the event are not necessarily accurate. As long as that happens, you are incapable of changing it. You can, however, recover the lost information that was deleted. That’s what this article is about. It’s important to know that emotions can be the source of the thoughts we think, but it’s also that the thoughts we think can direct the feelings we feel. We project so much of ourselves into what we perceive and believe and that is why we often say that perception is also projection.
Guilt (or regret) may just be a message coming from your unconscious mind that you haven’t been living up to your own values. Are you getting the message? How will your emotional state change when you use the negative feeling as fuel driving you towards self-inquiry instead of wallowing in negative rumination? Don’t be afraid to investigate! What you discover can potentially change your future by altering your present.
Once you discover the details of the internal conflict, you can do one of two things: Change your standards if they are no longer relevant to you, or re-commit yourself to living in accordance with your values from that moment on. Once you’ve accomplished either one, what need have you anymore for regret?
Now that the message from your unconscious has been delivered and understood, you can let go of the negative feelings, can’t you?
What’s the best mistake you ever made? How have the unenlightened decisions you’ve made in your past brought you unexpectedly positive results? Do tell! Share in the comments below, if you care and dare to!