‘I should have …’
‘I should never have …’
‘I really wish I had done …’
‘I wish I hadn’t …’
We can get so lost in trying to change the past. We know of course that we can’t yet regret hooks us in and causes us no end of pain. I speak from bitter experience – for years, my first thought in the morning was ‘if only..’
So what are these thoughts that churn in our minds, taking us back into the past and telling us how we should have been so much better/smarter/nicer than we were? They certainly appear to be facts: it seems that you absolutely should have or should not have done whatever it was to have a functional and abundant life now and in the future.
But if we take a closer look we realise that they are feelings or emotions.
Why does this matter? Because feelings can be released – and that means that you can free yourself of the bind of the past.
Let’s dissect ‘I should have’ (aka FOMO)
- You see a trigger, the thing you would have got if you had done the thing you are now regretting not doing. In my case, I saw that the Japanese stck market was at a 29 year high and I used to have an investment in it but I sold it.
It could be any bad financial decision, seeing someone with a job that you should have got, or even missing out on great party.
- Body-mind creates various pictures and sensations.
This might include mental pictures of the people who do have the thing enjoying it while you miss out – so you suffer the pain of lack.
It might be a memory of the moment when you made the wrong decision, with pictures and thoughts of ‘I was so stupid – how could I not have known better? Then you suffer the pain of self-betrayal and self-denigration.
You might even get into some denial with thoughts like ‘maybe it’s not really that good’ or ‘maybe not doing it makes me superior” and with these strategies you will suffer the pain of separation and repression.
- And then there may be a ‘demand for future change’. You will tell yourself that you must do better next time so that this pain can be avoided.
When I saw that headline, I felt sick, my stomach tightened, my heart sank and I felt stupid and inadequate.
Whichever strategy or combination you mind comes up with, it will now have a firm grasp and you’ll be baffled why this feels so stuck when all you want to get rid of the feelings and get over it.
All of the responses described above make the pain worse. So why can’t we just stop thinking those thoughts?
Because you mind is in control and that means it will do what it does best.
And that is:
- To believe in the personal ‘I’
- To keep you physically alive
- To maintain the status quo.
- Take new, unknown courses of action (yes, I know it likes to play with ideas and dream about doing these things — actually doing them is another matter).
- Creativity and independent thought (see above – the same applies)
- Accept that the present is all there is and the past is it’s own creation.
- Questioning the sense of a separate self.
But pain can only be released now. If you have a toothache, you probably will say to yourself that you promise to look after your teeth better in future. But that won’t relieve the pain you feel now.
So let’s go back to Japanese stock market and those shares I should have held on to. Or to that party you missed or a job you didn’t get.
Is it a fact that ‘you should have..’?
That statement is pulling the wool over your eyes. Mental pictures, sensations and sounds are all that is here, now. There is no past, there are only feelings about the past masquerading as facts. That is it. We live in an eternal present and the past and the future are created only in the mind.
I challenge you to find anything of ‘I should have’ that exists anywhere but in mind-body’.
‘I should have … ‘ can torture us, it can steal our present and in one case I heard of, it was fatal. I heard a story of a woman whose belief ‘I should have’ became so disturbing an unliveable that she ended her own life. She has my deepest sympathise as I tortured myself with the same thought – so strong that it became my whole identity – I imagined my friends thinking ‘oh there goes Sally, who should never have …’
‘I should have … ‘ is a feeling, not a fact. And that means it can be released.