What doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger. Would that it were. We’d formally like to request an amendment: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger only if you find a way to learn from it and don’t become a total neurotic replaying the event over and over. Hm, doesn’t have quite the same ring.
We all have those things: those events in our lives, that we can’t help going over and over again in our minds. Usually they are those events that caused grief or regret. We relive, we replay, we repeat the chain of actions and words over and over, as though we could figure out where we could have done better, where we went wrong. As though we could somehow change the way things turned out, or take back something we said, in a futile attempt to make it all better. The problem is that when we relive, replay, repeat, these events end up bringing up all the same emotions they did the first time around.
That is, unless we learn to think of them differently.
Think realistically: Odds are, the regrets we continue to hold onto probably aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. They are a big deal to us, because we’ve given them that real estate in our brains. But they likely weren’t life or death and more often then not, the other people involved aren’t considering our actions over and over again like we are. Can you take a step back? Can you recognize when you hop on that shame carousel, before you get all caught up in those regretful thoughts? Is it possible to even laugh at how silly you were, how naïve, how you put your foot in your mouth? Can you be that sort of person who can take yourself less seriously?
Ask questions: What about that event makes you so uncomfortable to this day? Was it something you said, a reaction you had, and action you took? Get to the bottom of what about that event makes it skip through your mind like a scratched record. And as hard as it might be, without blaming or beating yourself up, consider alternatives to how you will respond next time.
Drop it: Imagine your thoughts as clouds that drift across your consciousness. It’s important to feel the emotions these thoughts bring up. But you don’t have to live in them. They are just passing through. Using the past as a tool to inform our present actions, creates our future. And it’s totally within our control – how we want to feel, how we act, and the kind of life we live.