Picture this: Two friends get together, and in response to Judith’s excited announcement of enrolling in full-time study, Aliana says: “Oh I would have loved to have studied when I was younger. But I couldn’t. Not with all the responsibilities I had and with so very little support. You’re so lucky. You can do whatever you want, even at your age. Good for you.”
Aliana’s response smacks of regret and it’s shitty sidekick, resentment. Did you hear any genuine “Congratulations”? No. Did you hear any inquiry as to what type of study? or When do you start? No. Not even a “What interests you about studying?”. When you pull apart Aliana’s responses, they are all about her own regrets of what she didn’t do. And the sad thing is that life doesn’t have to be like that for her – or for any of us.
Regret is an arse – good for letting go of shit!
But we don’t know what we don’t know right? How many of us are walking around consciously thinking about our regret, resentment and fear? Probably not many. How many of us are walking around pissed off, shitty and frustrated? Probably too many. That shit can trip us up can’t it? I think a lot of us mask our darker side of regret, resentment, and fear with social niceties which in the short term protect us from exploring our feelings and options. But I don’t believe that helps us in the long run. Do you? I know so many people who seem to be stuck in their regrets resentment and fear and don’t even realise it.
What about you? Have you ever been in a situation like ‘Aliana’ when someone responded to your good news with their own sad story? I have, and it’s pretty awful. Without even realising it, they’ve just killed a moment of celebration. Or maybe you are responding to people in your life like ‘Aliana’? Either way, I’m curious to know what have been your responses? Do you just walk away and avoid that person in future? Because whether you’re responding from regret, resentment and fear or reacting to it, no one walks away feeling good, especially if it’s not called out.
How to decline the invitation to join anyone else’s shit show
I’ve certainly walked away from situations where someone wanted to give me their regrets,resentments and fears, wishing I hadn’t said a damn thing. Those kinds of conversations can leave us feeling triggered by the other person’s reaction and sometimes even feeling guilty about our own new choices right? I get it. Like I said, I’ve been there too – before I learned about how to manage own my feelings, thoughts and behaviours. And to decline the invitation to join anyone else’s in their emotional pus party. Sound harsh?
Well, here’s the thing, no one else can actually make us feel anything, unless we let them.
And the sooner we anchor into that universal truth, the sooner we are going to start living lives liberated from regret and fear (they’re close cousins in my books).
So if you’re reading this thinking yeah, but how?
It is as easy and as challenging,
as giving ourselves permission,
to make different choices,
and to act from there.
Imagine for a minute what life would be like if you started doing exactly that. No matter whether your stuck in your own regret, resentment or fear, or tired of someone else’s. Think about it. Could you give yourself permission to make different choices and act from there? What would be different for you if you did? Imagine for a minute what life would be like if you came from the context of love, not fear. What would be different then?
I’m telling you, if you’re up for it, your whole fricking world would change if you did this with heart and soul. Sure, it’s not for the faint hearted, but if you really want to knock back the invite to someone else’s shit show, that’s a sure fire way of doing it.
I’m a solution focused thinker and doer, so nowadays, if someone had the kind of response like ‘Aliana’, to something I announced, I’d like to think I would respond along the lines of: “Hey it sounds like studying might be something you’re still interested in. Have you researched what’s out there and accessible to you? You might be surprised to find that there is a whole world of study options available now. If you like, I could help you work out some starting options?”
Here’s the trick though, if they then came up with a whole host of reasons why they couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do anything different, my response would then be something like: “Oh ok. Feel free to let me know if you change your mind.” End of conversation. Decline the invitation to pick up what they just put down.
Either way, informed responses allow us to walk away not carrying any guilt or feeling triggered by anyone else’s regrets. And best of all? We keep feeling empowered about our choices.`