Dealing with Anger, Hatred, Guilt, Regret, etc.
- Sent: Tuesday, March 01, 2005 10:17 AMSubject: Dealing with Anger, Hatred, Guilt, Regret, etc.
Dealing with Anger,
Hatred, Guilt, Regret, etc.
by Mark SchwartzIf you truly want to improve your life, you have to travel lightly. That is, you have to learn to let go of self-defeating emotions such as anger, hatred, guilt, regret, etc.
It's going to be very difficult, if not impossible, for you to feel good about yourself and to improve your life if you are filled with hostility or consumed by deep-rooted anger.
Let's face it, we all get angry from time to time. Anger is a common human emotion. Yet, eventually you have to let go of your anger and go on with your life. Don't dwell on the events or circumstances that invoked your anger. Instead try and learn from these experiences so that you may be able to avoid them or at least deal with them better in the future.
Sometimes things happen in our lives that we have no control over, things that make us bitterly angry. Such is the case for victims of debilitating illnesses and crime victims. This is especially true for victims of violent crimes. The anger in the victim is obviously warranted and in most cases almost expected. However, the victim's anger alone won't change anything. In fact the anger usually makes the victim's life worse, especially if they can't let go of it.
If you don't let go of the anger, it will continue to grow, to fester and to eat away at your life. Like all negative emotions, left unchecked, your anger will eventually become all consuming and could ultimately destroy your life.
If you're in this type of a situation, where something, some event or someone has made you bitterly angry, try to put things in perspective. Is your anger (or hatred) going to accomplish anything positive or in any way going to significantly improve your life or anybody else's? Is your anger going to change anything that has already happened? Realistically speaking, no.
Instead of focusing on what made you angry, try focusing on what you can do to make yourself feel better and to accept what has already happened. (While doing so, keep in mind that revenge is not an acceptable option.) We can't change the past, but we can change how we deal with it.
Is there anything that you can do to prevent this from happening to you, or someone else, again? Is there any possible good that can come out of what has already happened? Have you learned anything from this unfortunate experience that could help someone else in any way?
You can't change what has already happened. Still, you can hopefully learn from what has happened and take the necessary precautions to prevent it from happening again to you or someone else. Perhaps you can even find some way of easing the pain of someone else who has experienced a similar unfortunate situation. You'll find that doing so will help you accept and overcome your own misfortune.
Many victims' rights advocates have been the victims of violent crimes themselves. They have taken their anger and redirected it to help others. (Perhaps this is what gives victim's rights advocates the courage to fight for the rights of other victims, relentlessly, day in and day out.)
COPING WITH GUILT OR REGRET
Guilt and regret, like anger, is another common human emotion that we all experience at one time or another in our lives. Actually, it's normal for you to feel a certain amount of guilt or regret from time to time in your life. It shows that you have a conscience. Yet, it's not healthy, to be constantly dwelling on feelings of guilt or regrets
We've all done things in the past that we wish we hadn't done. We've also wished we had done certain things that we never did. Let's face it, we're human, we make mistakes. Sometimes these are little mistakes that we quickly forget. Other times these mistakes are not so little and we just can't seem to forgive ourselves for them. Unfortunately, regardless of how bad we feel about what we have done, or should have done in the past, there is no way to go back and change it. We can't change the past. We can't change what's already happened. The best we can do is to admit to our past mistakes, make amends and hopefully learn from them so that we are not destined to repeat them.
I would like to tell you that even though we can't change the past, we can change what we do tomorrow. But that would be a lie. The truth is, since we only live in the present, we can only change the present. We can only change what we are doing right here and now at this very moment in our life. Make no mistake, the things we do today in the present will undoubtedly affect our lives tomorrow. Consequently, our current actions and present way of life will definitely affect our life tomorrow. Since we can't change what we did yesterday, and we can't change what we do tomorrow, we better damn well do some good today!
• The best way to deal with regrets is to live your life in such a way that you don't have any regrets.
Think of your life as like an obscure revolving door. People will constantly be coming and going through it — usually with little or no notice at all. Unfortunately, we never really know when someone very close to us is going to go through that door and never return. If you have any guilt or regret regarding a loved one, or anyone for that matter, make amends today. Don't wait until tomorrow. Change what you can right here and now and make your peace today. Once that person passes away, it's much too late.
When you have lost a loved one, or someone very close to you, you don't have the luxury of saying, "I'm sorry". You no longer have the ability to tell that person how much they meant to you or how happy they made you when they were still alive. That's why it's so important to tell your friends and loved ones today how important they are to you.
When I was younger I remember my mother, and even my grandmother, always saying, "Flowers are for the living". It wasn't until years later, as I grew older, that I realized exactly what that meant. With each funeral that I went to, I would look at the flower arrangements. I would read some of the cards and gaze in astonishment at the size of some of the arrangements. It seemed that the biggest arrangements weren't necessarily from the closet living relative, but rather from someone who was typically, for one reason or another, emotionally distant from the deceased. It was as if the flowers were supposed to make up for something that the relative had done, or said, or should have done or said, to the deceased before they died.
I don't know when exactly it hit me, but I eventually realized that flowers really are for the living! Even the most precious roses, the brightest carnations and the most fragrant lilies, won't make one iota of difference to the deceased. If only a fraction of the thought and time that went into the selection of those flowers had been spent on the person while they were still alive. Then there would be no need to overcompensate with funeral flowers.
With each funeral, with each loss of a loved one or close friend, I became more convinced that flowers really are for the living.
This became painfully clear at my own mother's funeral. My mother had been in a nursing home for six years just prior to her death. During those six years, she was amazingly alert and always a pleasure to visit and converse with. However for some unknown reason a close relative of my mother, who lived fairly near the nursing home, never came to visit her. To the best of my knowledge, not once during those six years did he even make an attempt to visit her. Ironically though, he did come to the funeral home the night of her wake. I'm sure his heart was heavy with regret that night and probably still is. If only he had come to visit her a week or two before. If only he had even called her. We talked scarcely for a few minutes. Both he and I knew it was much, much, too late now for his visit to change anything.
Live your life today!
If you've done something or said something that you know you shouldn't have, make your amends today. If there is someone that you have been thinking a lot about, call that person. Don't wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow may be a lifetime too late.
You can't change tomorrow, but you can change what you do today, right here and now.
If you feel regret about your relationship with someone who has already left this world, you obviously can't make amends with that person. Unfortunately your guilt, or regret, however sincere or deserved it may be, cannot change what has already transpired. In fact, regret is wasted spirit. In other words, the time, thought and energy you spend on your regrets is not, will not, cannot change anything. Regret and guilt alone won't help you or anybody else. Regret and guilt will not improve your life or anybody else's. Nor will it change anything about that which you regret.
Regardless of how guilty you feel about something or how deeply you regret your actions (or lack thereof), you simply can't change what has already happened. Now, with all that said, all is still not lost.
If your regret is in regards to your relationship with one who is now deceased, you obviously can't go back in time and change that relationship. However you can and should make a conscious decision, or better yet a promise to yourself, to insure that some good will come from your regrets.
Obviously no good can come simply by regret alone. You have to take some positive action to achieve that goal. Ideally, the type and extent of your action would be in proportion to the reason for your guilt or regret.
For example, this book is a direct result of my own guilt and regret. You see, my own brother took his life at the age of 34. I deeply regret not having seen the signs of severe depression and desperation in the final days of his life. I truly regret not spending more time with him while he was still alive. Perhaps my deepest regret is that I did not do more to ease his burden in life. Unfortunately, it's much too late to help him in any way. I obviously can't go back in time and change anything.
In the days following my brother's funeral, I made a promise to myself that I would see to it that some good would come from his death. I didn't know what that good would be or how I would accomplish it, but I knew in my heart that I had to do something, anything. Since it was too late to help him, I knew that I would have to take some action to help others. In all honesty, it was the only way that I could accept his untimely death. I eventually decided to write this book in the hope of helping others get control of their lives and easing their burden. This clearly isn't helping my deceased brother in any way, but it has gone a long way in helping me deal with his loss and my own deep regrets.
If you have regrets regarding your relationship with an elderly person who is now deceased, it might help to ease those regrets if you visited a nearby nursing home — perhaps even on a regular basis. Many residents of nursing homes are lonely and long for visits and conversations with anyone even complete strangers. You might even consider volunteering at a local nursing home. My point is that instead of dwelling on your regret, you should turn your negative emotions into positive actions.
It may take some time for you to determine what exactly it is that you should do to make amends. However that's not important. What is important is that you make the decision (and follow through on it) to redirect your negative energy into something positive. Stop dwelling on what you should or shouldn't have done.
Instead focus on what it is, whatever that positive thing is, that you need to do today in the here and now to compensate for whatever it is that you feel the guilt or regret about. Then and only then will you be able to go forward in life and leave the guilt and regret behind. You may never truly let go of all your guilt and regret. However, if you take positive actions to compensate for that guilt and regret you will at least be able to live a happy and productive life finding comfort in knowing that you have taken the appropriate actions to make amends for those past mistakes and helped others in the process.