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Ep #273: The Regret Trap: Why You Dwell on the Past and How to Stop

Feminist Wellness with Victoria Albina | The Regret Trap: Why You Dwell on the Past and How to Stop

How often do you find yourself mired in stories filled with past regrets? You know, those thoughts that start with, “If I just hadn’t done...”? Thoughts like these cause your brain to run wild with negativity bias and paint a picture of a would-be rosy life that’s just within reach. These thought patterns may feel constructive, but they don't serve you the way you think they do.

I can hear you saying, “But if I don’t regret, how will I learn? Won’t I stay stagnant? How will I grow, hold myself accountable, or take personal responsibility?” Regret may masquerade as some moral imperative, but the truth is it’s only keeping you stuck in emotional outsourcing ways of being, and I’m showing you how to set yourself free from it today.

Tune in this week to learn why regret doesn’t change a darn thing, and how living in regret is a form of self-abandonment. You’ll hear how staying stuck in regret doesn’t save you from old patterns, what becomes possible when you ditch regret for good, and most importantly, my four-step remedy for beginning to heal regret. 


 

If you missed out on the latest cohort of Anchored, you can still work with me in The Somatic Studio, a live somatics and nervous-system-focused program! Click here for all the details!

 

What You’ll Learn:

Why you regret, and why it doesn’t serve you the way you think it does.

How living in regret is equivalent to self-abandonment.

What happens when you’re focused on beating up your past self.

Why taking personal responsibility and accountability is challenging when you’re living in regret.

What becomes possible when you drop regret for good.

4 steps to healing regret.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Ep #18: Negative Self-Talk

Ep #134: Catastrophizing and Reparenting

Ep #164: Healing the Self-Abandonment Cycle

Ep #167: Emotionally Immature Parents

Ep #168: Regret is Self-Abandonment

Ep #244: Polyvagal Theory: The Secret to Understanding Yourself

Full Episode Transcript:

This is Feminist Wellness, and I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Functional Medicine expert, and life coach, Victoria Albina. I’ll show you how to get unstuck, drop the anxiety, perfectionism, and codependency so you can live from your beautiful heart. Welcome, my love, let’s get started.

Hello, hello, my love. I hope this finds you doing so well. I came here today to talk about curiosity because I've been thinking a lot about presumptions, projection, curiosity. I had some things I was excited to talk about when my third friend this week called to talk to me about regret. It kind of got my attention.

I'll say, it's not a topic that comes up a lot, but for three people in a week to be like, “I just keep replaying in my mind, if I hadn't dated that guy. …if I hadn't broken up with her. …if I hadn't gone there with them. … if I hadn't done…” and letting our brains, and their wild negativity bias, paint some otherwise rosy picture of life based on conjecture. So, I guess it actually is kind of talking about the presumptions and projections, but in a different lens. Look at that, it all works out.

So, I wanted to talk about regret. And of course, it's me, so why we do it. Why our brain goes to there, how I like to think about it, and of course, because it wouldn't be Feminist Wellness without remedies, what we can do to start shifting our brain towards a gentler, kinder way of looking at the past. So we can live in true presence now, and can create the future we want, without telling these regret stories about the past that just keep us mired in yesterday's ‘meh’.

I'm really excited to share this with you. I will, of course return with more musings about curiosity, compassion, presumptions and projections. It's been a thing that's been really up in my life; people asking closed ended questions. Sort of really projecting a lot on to me in their questions, instead of actually being curious. And so, it’s something I've been musing on a lot, and that's forthcoming.

I just adore you, and I'm glad you're here. Oh, you know what I'd appreciate? If you could head on over to, particularly Apple podcast, but wherever you get your shows, follow or subscribe and rate and review the show. The review can be just a few words. It is good show, but a five-star rating and review helps pump the show up in the ratings, which means it gets offered up more in search, it gets indexed more.

What it means is that this is a free resource. I put a ton of time, energy, and so much money and hours and hours of time into it, as an active service for the world, and I want it in so many ears. So, please help me in that mission, won’t ya? I’d be so grateful.

And if you are not getting my newsletters, I would love to share it with you. Head on over to the top of my webpage, VictoriaAlbina.com. there's a bar where you can get my free meditations and get yourself on my mailing list. I will be launching the Somatic Studio, my 12-week somatic education movement embodiment practice program, so soon. I don't offer it very often and I would love to share it with you.

So, so much to do. Thank you for tuning in. I adore you, and I'm sending the part of you that carries regret and believes that that is a useful thing to do, I'm sending that part so much love and care. I have it too, I am also a human it turns out, so I see you. I love you. You're doing a great job.

Hello, hello my love. I hope this finds you doing so well. I was on a call today with a woman who had applied to my Anchored program, my six‑month program for overcoming codependency, perfectionism, and people‑pleasing. It's really a program about finding your self‑worth and self‑love. Woah, it's powerful.

So, I was on the phone with this woman, or on Zoom, and she was talking about how much she regrets not applying to and joining Anchored two years ago, and how all these things have happened in her life. She married her thenboyfriend and has now divorced him, and all these things have happened.

She was telling this story, "If I had just joined Anchored then, I wouldn't be regretting the last two years." Oof, my goodness, that felt so heavy. She was telling this story about how her life has been regrettable.

I have a lot of thoughts about this. But first, let's start with a definition, because my nerds love a definition. The dictionary tells me: Regret is to feel sorry, disappointed, distressed or remorseful about the past. To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow. To mourn. Well jeez, that's dire. Regret is some heavy business. It's all Shakespearian in its very definition; to remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow. To mourn.

I want to talk about regret today because of this conversation, and because I hear my clients talk about their past and their choices with so much of this heaviness. So much regret, so much blame, shame, and guilt towards themselves and others.

What I want to say from jump is this, when we are living in regret we are abandoning ourselves. We are abandoning and exiling the version of us that made those decisions. I'm going to pause to let that land. Because that too, is some heaviness and I stand by it.

Because when we play the old "could’ve, should’ve, would’ve" with our past choices, we are leaving that version of us, that inner you… whether it was 20 years ago, two years ago, or last week, like an inner child but sometimes a more recent you… we are leaving that part of our Self out to dry.

We are disavowing them, saying, "They made a terrible decision," and that they, thus you, should feel really bad about yourself. Baby, baby, baby, that doesn't serve you. It never has and it never will. So, why would you choose that? Yet, we do it over and over and over again.

So, let's answer this question: Why do we regret? The answer, my nerds, is evolutionary: Because we think it will protect us. We think it will keep us safe. Because we think regret will keep us from doing that same thing we judged ourselves for again.

But rolling around in regret about it is not going to do what you subconsciously think it's going to. It's not going to save you from repeating your old patterns. It's just reenacting the old pattern of beating yourself up, under the guise of thinking you're going to create change this time if you're just cruel enough to “you” now.

My sweet kitten-mittens, if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: You can't heal hurt with more hurt. That's just not how it works; because science. Because while you're sitting around filled up with regret, you're slamming your foot on the gas of your nervous system.

Spinning and ruminating and filling your perfect bloodstream with those sympathetic fightorflight chemicals: Adrenaline, cortisol. You're creating stress in your body hormonally, chemically, about something you cannot change.

Berating yourself about how dumb and terrible you are, and likely telling everyone who will listen all about how much you suck because you dated a jerk again, or you fell off whatever wagon you put yourself on, or you made a work or a business decision that didn't work out exactly how you dreamt it would.

Once you've spun and spun and spun on it in your own mind, in your own world, all full up with stress and chemicals, you collapse into dorsal, into freeze. Into that checkedout, footoffthegas, isolating, selfflagellating place where you say, "This will never change. I'm the worst. I make terrible decisions. I can't trust myself."

That's the rub with regret; you strengthen the neural groove in your mind that says, "I cannot be trusted." From there, what do you think is going to happen the next time you try to make a decision or change your life? You're not going to trust yourself, your intuition, or your discernment.

You're going to look outside of yourself for someone else to make your life happen, to decide for you, to tell you what to do and how to do it. All the while, strengthening that ‘I'm not to be trusted’ story more, and the codependent story that says that someone else, everyone else, knows better for you and your life than you.

Which of course, is a huge hit on your self-concept, on your sense of self, and your authenticity. Right? Because authentic, real you, well, that person messed up real bad. Which leads you to want to peopleplease those people who know better about your life even more.

Which strengthens your perfectionist story even more, and makes you want to shapeshift and chameleon to keep them happy, because after all, they know best about your life.

What a quagmire. What a hot friggin' mess, my darling squash blossom. And it all starts with believing that there is a “right and wrong” way to do things, to live, to be. Believing, again from our codependent conditioning, that you don't know the best way for you to be because you're inherently unworthy.

My tender, little cupcake, oh, how painful. How painful that you've been living this way. Of course, I get it. I used to roll around in regret, too. Until it hit me one day that I was rejecting the parts of me that made those decisions.

We'll come back to that in just a moment, but first, to be clear, I'm not telling you not to have your feelings. Always and forever, the opposite. I encourage you to safely feel it all, without judgment or criticism, so you can process your feelings somatically, meaning through your body.

I'm never telling you not to grieve or be angry the patriarchy told you to trust a man's opinion more than your own. I'm never telling you not to be pissed off, sad, or disappointed that you spent years wrapped up in diet culture. Or that you grew up in the family conditions that you did. Or that you learned to take others’ opinions and advice instead of following your own.

Have all the feels about it, but just don't get mired in regret again. Because it doesn't change a darn thing except your story about who you are, how trustworthy you are, and what you are capable of now. In this new and precious moment, now.

I can hear your brain saying, "But wait, if I don't regret, how will I learn? How will I change? How will I grow? How will I hold myself accountable and take personal responsibility? Won't I just be a jerk forever if I stop regretting?”

This is vital, my love: It is only when we drop the regret that we can truly bring in personal responsibility and accountability. Because your vision is clouded when you're in regret. You can't see the ways you can make change now, and for the future, when you're focused on beating your past self up.

Living in regret is, in fact, a selfcentered, shortsighted state of being. We think if we beat ourselves up now, then we're not being selfish and selfabsorbed. But the truth is, you are. Because all you can think about when you're regretting, is how terrible you are. So, how, exactly, are you to take accountability and responsibility when you're focused on you and beating you up?

Furthermore, when you are rolling around in all that regret, you can't see much beyond blaming you. You can't see all of your conditioning, socialization, and family teaching, that led you to make the choices you made.

You can't see the systems at play, like the patriarchy and white settler colonialism. You can't see interpersonal systems like codependent family blueprints that taught you to be exactly who and how you are, and led you to make the choices you did because of outside pressure, influence, or from the lessons you carry in your body as your childhood survival skills.

And if harm was done to you from regret, you often dismiss it and take all the blame, shame, and guilt onto your own little shoulders. Which is something we chronically do from our codependent thinking that says, "I'm inherently unworthy."

I know I, myself, did this for quite a while about being in an emotionally abusive relationship for years. My brain went to stories like, “I regret being with that person. I regret staying once they started screaming at me, gaslighting me, belittling me, and constantly disregarding my boundary.”

All that thinking did was strengthen the neural groove in my mind that said, "You are responsible for other people and their choices. You are wholly to blame for staying." Instead of what I now know to be true, I am not responsible for their unacceptable behavior. I can and do take responsibility for staying, and what happened is not my fault.

But I couldn't see that truth while I was in regret. I sure can now, from a place of selfcompassion and selflove. My ex's choices were not my responsibility. Getting myself out, was. I did that for myself, and I'm so darn proud of me.

I recognize that the me that stayed did so because she didn't yet know how to get out. Because she kept believing and wishing and hoping things would change. And because she was being gaslit, manipulated, and lied to.

That's all superduper real. Regretting her choices, after seeing, pulling back, and really zooming out and seeing the full picture, the whole context, regretting her choices would only be abandoning her once again. Babies, I'm not here for that.

It's important that we recognize that, inherent in these stories, the "I should've known better" stories, is you rejecting the you that could not possibly have known anything different. Frankly, selfrejection, staying mired there instead of taking responsibility and owning your part, is buffering.

Buffering is anything we do to detach from our feelings, to push our feelings aside. I think we can use the selfblame of regret, the beating ourselves up, to buffer or distract ourselves from the deeper feelings.

For example, the disappointment of being raised in the homes we were raised in. Being raised with emotionally immature parents, like we talked about last week. Being raised to believe other people's voices matter more than ours. Being raised in the patriarchy, and having learned that one should defer to men, to whitebodied people, to thin people. And that there's something wrong with you if you are not all of those kinds of person.

Of course, you want to buffer and push your feelings away if you do not know how to do thought work and somatics, if you don't know how to manage your mind and be in real and deep conversation with your body and your nervous system, your inner children.

Because systems, from family systems to larger systems of oppression, taught us to buffer so that we don't have to feel those feelings. Remember, those systems, both codependent family systems and the larger systems of power and inequity, oppressive systems, taught us not to feel our feelings, taught us to buffer.

In so doing, it keeps us from questioning systems that keep us locked in those boxes, prevent us from speaking truth to power, and keep us from changing our lives.

Once you can recognize that your personal choices are both your personal responsibility, and are shaped deeply by the systems you grew up in, that taught you who and how to be, then you can tap into and can recognize that you do in fact have significant power in your own life, in your own mind, in your own body.

Which, admittedly, can feel scary when you've never tapped into or felt your own power. So, it's no wonder we buffer against all of those feelings, and we go instead to regret and selfblame. Of course, you did, baby, of course you did.

Furthermore, we beat ourselves up instead of realizing when we've been operating from our childhood survival skills. And codependent, perfectionist, and peoplepleasing thoughts and habits are 100%, once brilliant, childhood survival skills. Of course, they are.

So, if you made a decision and you did a thing you maybe didn't want to do, but you did it to keep someone else happy, perhaps you were doing that because you realized in childhood that peoplepleasing was a brilliant way to feel safe, loved, worthy, cared about.

Frankly, the fact that child you realized that and came up with this brilliant strategy, that is something to be celebrated, because it got you through. It's not something to beat yourself up about.

Now, I'm not saying to keep making your decisions from that place. I'm not saying it serves adult you now to act from those childhood scripts. You get to grow and change. It's what we talk about every week here on Feminist Wellness. It's what we do in Anchored each and every day. You get to learn who you want and need to be for you now, so you can do it differently now.

But you didn't know how to do that then, did you? Did you even realize you were operating from survival skills? I sure didn't, until I did. Listen, come on, of course I beat myself up for being a human with amazing survival skills.

Before I learned about somatics, and how to be in touch with my inner children and the exiled parts of me… Before I learned how to regulate my nervous system and repair it myself, I would get mad at myself for being anxious or worried.

I would get mad at myself for having a nervous system response, because I didn't know I was having a nervous system response. I would get mad at myself if I snapped at someone. I would get mad at myself, and I would regret doing it, because I didn't know to give myself the context I have now.

For example, if my nervous system just got activated, perhaps even triggered, I'm responding from that bodily, somatic energy of sympathetic activation. I'm responding from fight or flight. I'm not a bad person who does regrettable things, I'm a human mammal filled up with cortisol.

I get to both give myself the grace, and I get to take responsibility for, when I act outside of my integrity. I get to apologize, and to do so earnestly, which isn't possible when I'm filled up with regret because all I'm thinking about is how terrible I am.

And likely, you are too. When you get mad at yourself, judge yourself, are mean to yourself, and stay in that energy, you take away your own ability to get curious. To ask questions that help you to move your life forward. To behave differently next time.

Like, "Why did my body create that response? Why is my mind telling that story? What story is my mind even telling? What selflove or selfcare do I need right now? Have I been selfabandoning again? Am I trapped in a selfabandonment cycle?” Like we talked about a few weeks ago. “How can I show myself kindness and care right now? Am I hungry or thirsty? Do I need to pee or take a nap? Do I need to come correct a situation and apologize?"

Listen, you know I love a good metáfora, my sweetcakes. Regretting your choices now is like being mad at the sweater you wore as a newborn because it doesn't fit you now. It's being like, "You dumb sweater, how dare you not fit me?" But it's not a bad sweater or the wrong sweater. There's nothing at all wrong with that sweater, it just doesn't fit your adult body now.

But that's what we do, right? When we spin around in regret, it's like being mad at the sweater for being babysized while you grew and changed and got longer arms. That's not loving. It fit the “you” you were then, like all your choices fit the “you” you were when you made them.

You see what I'm saying? Don't be mean to a sweater, my love. That's not kind. Don't be mean to past you either, because we choose kindness around here, right? Regretting your choices is only possible when you know what the future will bring, and you don't. I don't.

Regretting what you currently see as the outcome of your choices now, is frankly like playing goddess. It's saying you know what is right and best and good, and that this outcome isn't that. When you actually don't know the eventual outcome of your decision down the road.

By staying in that regret cycle, you're cutting yourself off from seeing the possible good that may come from whatever decision you've made in the past, which you can't possibly know now because it's not the future. You have no clue what the universe, or whatever you believe in, has in store for you based on the decision you made when you were wearing the sweater you were wearing when you made it. Way to mix your metaphors, Vic.

Finally, before we move on to remedies, and yes, remedies are coming, you know they always are, let me answer the question I know you've been asking: How will I iterate if I don't regret? Won't I stay stagnant? How will I grow?

To that I say, when our focus is on what we regret, we are focused on the Self that made those decisions. "She should have known better. She should have been a better person. She should have known things she couldn't have known when she couldn't have known them."

Inherent in the story of regret is the idea that there is something wrong with you, and that's the part I take the most umbrage with. Because, my beauty, you are perfect and amazing and worthy of love and good things right now, as you are. You were then too, when you made the decision that you now don't love.

It's only by accepting and honoring past you that you can build the selftrust that will guide you to make the most aligned nextrightchoice in the future. So, yeah, review your choices. Contemplate them. Take responsibility for what's yours and nothing more, and make a plan using thought work to slow your roll when you make the next decision.

Make a plan, using somatics, to get more embodied and present in yourself and with your intuition and discernment so you can make different decisions in the future. Not better decisions, oh, no, no, just different.

Okay. Now let's talk remedies. When you find yourself flipping to regret, and your foot is squarely on that gas pedal shunting you right up into fight or flight, the invitation is to move to compassion and curiosity.

Step 1: Return to your body. Whenever you're spinning in your brain, return to your body, to your breath, to your feet on the floor. Clasp your hands together tight. Get present, and whatever you find there in your body, even if you just feel numb, promise yourself you will meet you with the three C’s: Compassion, Curiosity, and Care.

Ask your body, curiously, what it wants and needs from you in this moment. A slow breath, hand on your heart or your belly, a walk in nature, a nap, a cup of tea, a hug to coregulate with a human, a plant, with Mother Nature herself, with a pet?

Pause. Check in. Get present with your body when your brain is spinning out, and make sure you've taken care of your mammalian self. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, feeling isolated, all of these things keeping the spinning thought spinning, so run a mammal check and give your body what it needs.

Step 2: Check yourself for catastrophizing. We make things bigger problems than they actually are from our fears that we’re actually insignificant. So, ask yourself, "Am I making this bigger than I need to?" Remember, Episode 134 is all about catastrophizing, if you need a refresher on that theme.

Step 3: One of the first things that thoughtwork teaches us in an empowering way is to ask yourself: "Do I believe my thoughts?" This question… I love this question because it reminds us that so many of our thoughts are not ours in origin. We are often monkeyseeing and monkeydoing what we saw our parents, caregivers, community members doing.

From there, ask yourself, "Do I believe my own thought that this choice was regrettable? Am I regretting this because I regret it, or because I was taught it was a regrettable choice?" Remember, we only have shame about something when we are taught that what we are doing is shameful.

So, you can ask yourself, “Is this even my own story of regret?” You may ask yourself, "Whose story of regret or shame is this?" Be thoughtful not to get mired in that, because that's a rabbit hole we can slide right on down and get lost in. We don't want to make this work about someone else.

We can simply name it, "This is not my thinking. This is my dad's regret," or, "My religion taught me to regret this. Society taught me to regret this." Remember that there is something so moralistic about regret, so we have to take a step back and to look at the system without moralism, and instead with some distance and some objectivity.

Once you've gotten some clarity on that, you can remind yourself that regret is a feeling caused by the thought, "This is a regrettable choice," and you can remind yourself that that's not a choice you have to continue to make.

Step 4: Knowing the root of regret is the story, "I should have done this better or differently." Get real with it. If you actually think you should have done something different, what's that something different? I really want you to answer the question. Put pen to paper about it because maybe there's an answer there.

Or maybe your brain is just telling you, you should have done something different because you don't like the outcome, when your decision was the best one you could have made in that past moment and with the skills you had then.

Which brings us to this question: Did I actually have the capacity to have done it differently? We ask that not with the energy of selfjudgment, but truly with one of selflove and selfreflection. Do you currently, or did you then, have the nervous system regulation to have responded to that coworker differently or to a sibling differently, to your partner differently? To have made a different choice in that moment?

Did you have the somatic skills to have remained embodied, to stay present in your body in that moment of stress? Is it realistic that you could have done it differently in that moment? Or is it just some perfectionist fantasy that says, "I should have done it differently?"

That takes us way on back to Episode 18, about negative selftalk. We tell stories about ourselves that we have some kind of fixed identity. But you're human, you can only do what you can do with the skills you have. “Mistakes" just point out places for more growth.

So, you get to ask yourself, "When I put the regret aside, what can I learn from this? How can I grow from this while being compassionate, curious, caring?"

When that old regret monster pops up its head to blame, shame, and guilt you, remind it that it's not welcome here. That you're choosing now, in this moment, to not listen to those old selfflagellating thoughts anymore because you know a kinder, more loving way now.

A way that centers the truth of who you were then; honors it, respects it, praises it even. Honors the “you” you are now, and the future self that you're growing into being, each and every beautiful day when you choose to be kind with yourself instead of choosing the buffer and selfabandonment that is regret.

Thanks for listening, my love. I hope this show has been helpful for you. If you enjoyed it, I want to invite you to head on over to Apple Podcast or Spotify, wherever you get your shows, rate and review the show there. It really helps get this free resource into more ears, to help more people step out of regret and into more selflove.

Thank you again for listening, and for loving yourself up.

Let’s do what we do. Put a gentle hand on your heart, if you feel so moved. Remember, you are safe, you are held, and you are loved. And, when one of us heals, we help heal the world. Be well, my beauty. I’ll talk to you soon.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Feminist Wellness. If you want to learn more all about somatics, what the heck that word means, and why it matters for your life, head on over to VictoriaAlbina.com/somaticswebinar for a free webinar all about it. Have a beautiful day my darling and I'll see you next week. Ciao.

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