You’ve seen the bumper sticker, “stuff happens”, have you not? If not the bumper sticker you are still very aware that undesirable things happen to you in the course of life’s travels. People do hurtful things to people, even people they love. People, therefore, have resentments and regrets. These two Rs are heavy baggage. They keep people locked up in a negative way. These people get some perverse pleasure in holding on to the two Rs.
It is important to get freed up from resentments and regrets. The first step is to admit that they exist. What hurts or anger are you holding on to? What have various people done to hurt you or make you mad? What have you done to hurt or anger another?
One of the greatest challenges I experience in therapy with people is to help them let go of various resentment and regrets that they have accumulated over time. I try to get them to tear off that “rear view mirror”. (Jo Dee Messina speaks of the “rear view mirror torn off” in the song “Bye, Bye”. She describes a woman moving forward from a man who was hurtful). One cannot see the road ahead while steadily staring into the “rear view mirror” of his/her life. These people usually crash in some form or fashion because they cannot get on with their life. As long as they can blame, be bitter, wallow, feel guilty, be a victim, be pissed off, they can rationalize their lack of progress in living life more fully and positively.
If you are resentful, deal with it by discussing it with the person(s) that hurt you – or just plain let it go. Forgive them. You may need to put up a boundary, however, to protect yourself from future thoughtless, selfish, punishing acts from persons that have had open access to your life. To keep absorbing hurts from people is unhealthy. You may need some assistance in determining a course of protective action.
If you are regretful, apologize to those you’ve hurt and/or just forgive yourself and move on with a commitment to try and be a better person. It may be that these people are not good for you; they bring out your worst side. Avoid people that are “vexations to the spirit” as Desiderata proclaims. Be around people that bring out the best in you and stay away from those who bring out a side of you that leads to regrets.
In no way is it easy to let go of resentment and regrets. I ask people to write down every one that they can possibly remember. Then I invite them to communicate them to the appropriate people, if they should choose. Then it is time to burn that paper and let go of them as they turn into smoke and vanish. It can be a wonderful freeing experience. Adios and bye bye to yesterday’s trash as viewed through the memory bank of your “rear view mirror”.
Just know that while staring into the “rear view mirror” of your life, you are being blinded to the wonderful opportunities waiting to be embraced that are in front of you. As you move forward, keep your bright lights on!