Marjorie JamesI saw a commercial the other day for Prego spaghetti sauce. A lady is offered two samples of sauce in a blind test. When they reveal that she has chosen Prego, she is surprised because she has always purchased the other brand. Then she thinks, “I wonder what else I have done wrong?” Her mind goes to a younger her, dancing “disco style” in a rather hideous outfit. We all probably have something similar in our past that we hope our children never see in a picture!

Last week, I spoke about regret, what I call “If Only’s.” Not all regrets are as innocuous as how we dressed or danced in our youth or what spaghetti sauce we use. Many are much more serious; they can be dangerous, damaging our healing. This is true whether we are involved in separation, divorce or just life in general.

I referred to regrets as “speed bumps” in a long, dark tunnel. These can slow us down or block the road so we cannot continue on our life journey. Dark tunnels are mystifying; we really do not know how far we have gone or how far we need to go to get out. Until we find a way through our Tunnel of Regret in a healthy manner, we will not be able to “move on” with our lives. How we deal with our regrets will determine our future.

There are two very distinct responses to the “If Only’s” in our lives. We can continue to dwell on them, rehearsing over and over in our minds what we did wrong or when we did not do what we should have done. If we keep massaging what we see as our past failures, we become paralyzed. We just cannot seem to get beyond our past regrets, and this keeps us from moving on in the present to grasp our best future. Forgiving ourselves is essential; seeking wise counsel or finding a basis for forgiveness, like that found in many faith-based organizations, must be done for complete healing.

The other response is a polar opposite, but also effective. It is difficult, if not impossible, to totally forget what we see as our “big failures.” However, if we choose to learn from those failures and determine how to make sure these do not become a part of our lives going forward, we can learn valuable lessons. Our regrets can be springboards to excellence in the future and will, many times, be used to help others avoid the same actions.

Alcoholics Anonymous, and other such groups, base their programs on a sponsor format, where a former addict acts as a mentor to help a person who is building his or her “regret road” come clean. The sponsors have learned how to use their “If Only’s” to keep others from going down the Tunnel of Regret.

Collaborative professionals are there to help people get on with their lives in a positive, productive way. No one going through a divorce will escape the “If Only’s”, but the right team can help make the future “tunnel free.”

Copyright 2013. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.