My mother died this last year and her death has brought up many issues in my life. For example, I feel that I have wasted time in my life and I regret previous actions that I now find embarrassing. After a loss like I have suffered do many people look back at their lives and feel shame for their past? What is this about and how do I move past this awful self-hatred? Thank you, Turmoil Within
I believe your question is pertinent to many people, whether in the midst of healing from loss or not. Shame and guilt can confine and define you, keeping you imprisoned in an internal jail for actions from the past that you do not feel have served you well or have produced guilt. This “psychic” jail can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of not being deserving enough to enjoy life and reach your potential. However, honoring your mistakes as well as your experiences can allow you to glean the wisdom from the experience and let the story itself be just another episode in your history rather than a trigger that controls many of your decisions and actions in your present life.
I like to think of shame as an acronym of “Should Have Already Mastered Everything”. Although on some level we realize that this is not true and we are learning and growing daily, our stubborn psyches can often get in the way of rational thought. We need to give ourselves a break for NOT being a “master of all.” When you stop and think about it, your experiences of the past are what give you wisdom. With this type of thinking, you can realize that all of those experiences and “loss of time” actually act as teachers to help you know who you are! It is as if a large percentage of your choices early in life actually teach you who you are NOT and allow you to become the person you are today.
As you age you might spend half of the time learning who you are and who you’re not. As time goes on the hope is that you develop your true identity with integrity and fewer regrets. Allow yourself empathy and gratitude for your past decisions that did not serve you; instead, heal the historical triggers, let go of self-loathing and begin to give yourself compassion the same way you might for a friend. Honoring your wisdom due to your past can open up the potential for self-love and forgiveness that then radiates out to others. Until next time, take care
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat and Clinical Supervisor for TeamBuilders Counseling at (575) 776-2024 or GWR@newmex.com.