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Ditch the regrets and think about positive benefits

By Joseph Pond

I worked once with a lovely person who really wanted to change the world. Unfortunately, her good heart was exploited when she was still young by a fringe religious group that she considers today to be a cult.

Although she was out of the cult by the time she came to see me, it became obvious that part of her presenting problem was the inordinate levels of regret that she felt about the 20 years of "wasted time" she had spent inside the group.

Of course the past is over and can't be changed, but many people who have very bad regrets spend too much energy wishing that some past event hadn't happened.

If this sounds familiar to you, try doing the following thought experiment.

First, remember what did happen. See the memory in front of you as though it's a smallish photograph. If it helps, draw a circle of a piece of paper inside on which you write down a few words about what happened. Now, think of the positive lesson that you learned as a result of what happened.

This can be tricky. An adult survivor of child abuse once initially said that nothing positive came from it, then, after a pause, surprised herself by saying, "I learned to protect, honour and respect other children."

Now, consider what negative consequence would have theoretically occurred if the past had been different. In the case of my client who joined the cult, she supposed that had she gone down the normal route in life she probably would have ended up stuck in some boring office job like her friends are doing, instead of being forced at 40 years old to suddenly come up with creative and stimulating ways to make a living. Add this new hypothetical to the paper in another circle.

Finally, you can consider what good would have come from the past being different.

Now, after doing all this, you can close your eyes and think about all of these possibilities and components.

Since most of us have past traumas to some degree, this exercise simply helps to put it in perspective.

Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at josephpond@yahoo.com or at https://www.facebook.com/Belfast Hypnosis/ ?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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