Have you ever made a mistake that you keep reliving? A mistake that causes you to think about why it happened and what you did wrong? Are you living with the echoes of that mistake and can’t escape it?
I remember the time I was talking about the death of my dog and mentioned that it was like losing a family member. I looked up to see someone staring at me as if I were the worst person on earth.
They had recently lost a daughter in tragic circumstances and here was I comparing the loss of a dog to a daughter. I didn’t know the person very well, but I did know what had happened and had spoken without thinking. Obviously.
Do you know how many times I’ve relived that? This was probably twelve years ago and I still get a physical response whenever I think about it. I cringe. My heart beats faster. My body twists with the agony of regret.
Some people shake things off like Taylor Swift, and live the mantra, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. People like me relive moments like the movie Groundhog Day where we think how we would handle things, if we could only live them over.
But, we can’t so we just keep reliving it, chewing it over, beating ourselves up—repetitively focusing on past failures.
Does time heal all? Or do we keep adding situation after situation until anxiety steals our peace, and our breath, in the middle of the night?
How do we find a way to deal with these obsessions rather than reliving the past in a revolving door of what ifs?
Rumination is the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions. (Wikipedia)
When I’m overwhelmed with work, setting deadlines and making a plan to get things done relieves stress even before I’ve done any work.
If I apply a framework to situations that haunt my sleep-deprived hours and look for some solutions I can work towards, will they be as consuming?
Failure can become nourishment if we are willing to get curious, show up vulnerable and human, and put rising strong into practise. Brené Brown.
Asking myself why I relive these moments and what I can do to resolve them in a curious way, rather than blaming and shaming myself or ignoring my feelings may just help me to stop the obsessions. If I frame my worries as opportunities to follow my curiosity in the daylight hours, perhaps I may not have to obsess in dark night of the soul nights.
We do that by numbing the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief. We can take the edge off emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet. And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known. Brené Brown
Acknowledging the story of my past, including all the embarrassing bloopers and failures and regrets and turning past mistakes into compost for growth, could be what I need to do in order to make peace with past failures. Instead of reliving them I may be able to reframe, close the revolving door of what ifs, and perhaps learn to shake it off and sing Don’t Worry, Be Happy with the best of them.
I’m a “Groundhog Day” person too – really useful advice in this post Elaine, thank you xx