The Alchemy of Regret

I’ve made mistakes.

Some of them grievous, some of the small.

All of them have weighed heavy on my heart.

When I feel regret, it burns like a fire inside. Like there’s an animal that rushes to be tear through the peace of the kingdom. Like a spark upon dry brush that seeks to cause more chaos than the action itself.

I can feel my inner child raging. Angry, indignant, hurt, and scared to be abandoned by others.

“I didn’t do anything wrong!” he screams as he stamps his foot.

***

What do we do with regret?

Even after we say we’re sorry, there often still seems to be dissonance and unresolvedness that leaves us feeling like we’re not good enough or less than. That we somehow failed, let someone down, that we’ve ruined something, and that its all our fault.

The hardest part of regret is how it creates isolation and distance from others. Even though it always takes two to tango and there is usually fault of some sort on all sides, we can be left with the feeling that there is no one else besides ourselves to blame for something not being right in the world, that we’ve ruined something, that its all our fault.

This misalignment, this dissonance, creates the fear of being cast out, of not being good enough, and we are often left with shame, guilt, and the self-judgment of feeling like something we’ve done is out of alignment to our inner view of ourselves.

I believe this to be one of the greatest tricks of our ego.

In the face of adversity and confrontation, our ego desperately wants to hold onto a perspective that allows it to be on the moral right of things. And when actions or situations imply otherwise our ego’s find all kinds of ways to resist and scratch.

Our modern culture has created numerous ways that all seem to encourage our avoidance of uncomfortable emotions and sensations. Whether its substance abuse, aggression, unhealthy sexual appetites, or binge-watching the latest season, it seems many of us will do anything to take us out of our inner experience and avoid the emotions of our inner world.

This is often referred to as spinning out or acting out. There seems to be a desire to get the uncomfortable experience out of our systems. To be free.

But what if freedom is really about going in instead of out?

***

In my life, I’ve faced the beast of regret many times, and each encounter has been a tricky one. Just when I think I’ve rebuilt the castle and the villagers are at peace, it comes again like dragon demanding its due.

I’ve realized over the years of not listening and watching it crash through my inner kingdom, that the dragon isn’t going away. But then again, neither am I.

So armed with a courageous heart, awareness, and healthy portions of self-love, humility, and forgiveness, I decided to sit with my regret, and listen.

Within the rage and the storm of my ego’s discontent, I heard something, a still, soft voice.

As I listen closer I found myself in the eye of the storm, face to face with an aspect of my ego I wasn’t expecting. This wasn’t the loud, demanding voice that screamed all around me that demanded action and release.

Instead what I heard was a vast and immense helplessness. The stark truth that sometimes there’s nothing I can do to make things better, that it’s out of my hands, that the milk has been spilled and even though the mess has been cleaned up, sometimes crying about it really is, all there is left to do.

And at that moment, all becomes still, and peaceful.

***

I return as often as I can to this feeling of helplessness.

It’s not always pleasant, but becoming familiar with this still point that lays within all of us is vital and essential work if we are to find peace with others. It is only from a place of inner stillness and humility that we are able to find wholeness and integration through the inevitable follies of being human.

In a world that teaches and thrives on detachment, let us be bold and brave in our willingness to evolve. To say we are ready to do the work, that we will no longer accept an old narrative that seems to encourage not only our separation from situations and the people involved but on a deeper level, also asks us to participate in the deepest cut, the detachment from ourselves.

We can’t always make it right with others. There may still be grudges held and hurt feelings. What’s important for our own lives is that we find meaningful ways to process these situations and the emotions they bring up for us.

To say we’re sorry, to learn the lessons, and with grace and elegance, forgive ourselves, and each other, for being imperfectly human.

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