How To Deal With Regret - Fridays with Ferne: Episode #43

Today’s episode of Fridays with Ferne is a little bit different than usual. Instead of bringing a case to the table, Ferne opens the floor to the topic of regret. What do you do when you have a huge regret? How do you deal with that all-consuming feeling?

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Kim Ades: Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I'm the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back. Today is Fridays with Ferne and you have just joined us for The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast and my daughter's here! And I'm always excited when she's here. Ferne, welcome.

[00:00:23] Ferne Kotlyar: Hey, thank you so much for having me. How are you today?

[00:00:26] Kim Ades: I'm great, I'm super excited. It's fun to see you in that environment in Montreal. I was just there yesterday, so I know exactly where you're sitting. That's cool. What do you have for me today?

[00:00:38] Ferne Kotlyar: Okay. So today we have something a little bit different. Instead of giving you a case study, I wanted to open the floor so we can have a bit more of a discussion. So, today's topic, I wanted to put it out there, is regret. What do you do when you have a huge regret? When you regret something that you did or something that you didn't do, how do you deal with that feeling?

[00:01:06] Kim Ades: So, regret is an interesting thing, because regret is a bit of a trick for people. It messes people up because regret makes people think that things should have gone a different way.

[00:01:21] Ferne Kotlyar: And is that a bad way of thinking?

[00:01:24] Kim Ades: Well, it's not a good or a bad way of thinking, but is it a useful way of thinking? Is it helpful? Does it give you value? Does it give you a good feeling? Does it move you along? Does it bring you to a better place? And the answer is always, no, it doesn't.

[00:01:45] Ferne Kotlyar: So how do you get rid of it?

[00:01:46] Kim Ades: Well, the way that we need to reframe regret or an event that took place is, number one, is we have to ask ourselves, what do we believe to be true. Usually when we have a regret, our belief is things should have gone differently. There should have been a different outcome. "I should have handled it differently. I should have been there. I should have known. I should have trusted my instincts. I should have whatever", all the "shoulds".

Or "I shouldn't have eaten that cake. I shouldn't have gone out with him. I shouldn't have taken that job". Or "I shouldn't have raised my voice or lost my temper". Whatever it is, right? So it's looking back on something-- regret is looking back on something and deciding that whatever that something is should have gone differently.

[00:02:49] Ferne Kotlyar: Right.

[00:02:49] Kim Ades: So the most powerful way of dealing with regret is understanding that things go exactly as they need to go.

[00:03:01] Ferne Kotlyar: Always?

[00:03:02] Kim Ades: Always.

[00:03:04] Ferne Kotlyar: Is that a belief?

[00:03:07] Kim Ades: It's not a belief. It's a view, it's a perspective, it's an angle, you could say. When we are okay with the way things go or have gone, we're more able to look at this moment and say, "what do I want to do from here? How do I want to handle it? How do I want to look at things? How do I want to deal with things? What changes do I want to make? What new decisions do I want to make? What's here for me now?"

When we look back on a decision we made and believe that it was the wrong decision or the wrong outcome or whatever it is, it's not a great use of time, right? Because our biggest regret is we didn't handle that moment well. But when we have regret, we're not handling this moment well either.

[00:04:00] Ferne Kotlyar: But do you think that sometimes you can't always choose what you think? Or is it always something you have control over?

[00:04:09] Kim Ades: You can always choose what you think, you can choose what you think.

[00:04:13] Ferne Kotlyar: So when you have that nagging thought at the back of your head, that's really always there always bothering you, how do you get rid of it? Like, you know that you shouldn't be thinking about it. You know that there's nothing-- you can't go back in time, you can't change it now. So how do you move forward from that knowledge, even though it's constantly at the back of your head?

[00:04:32] Kim Ades: So it's an awareness piece, right? So when you have something that's nagging at you at the back of your brain, you want to bring it to the front of your brain and say, "what is it that's nagging me? What are the beliefs that I have about this particular event, situation, person, encounter that is causing me to feel regret? What beliefs do I have?"

And then what you want to do is look at those beliefs and say, "yeah, but what if I don't know what's ahead? What if actually this is perfectly designed for me? What if this is the most perfect thing? Even though right now in this moment it doesn't feel perfect. Even though right now it feels like that was a disaster or it was a tragedy. What if it was the most perfect thing?"

[00:05:21] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah, but what if it wasn't?

[00:05:24] Kim Ades: Well, if it wasn't then what happens is we lose this moment, and the next one and the next one and the next one and the next one. And instead of just that moment being less than perfect, we create a lifetime of less than perfect. We create a lifetime of tragedy, a lifetime of regret, a lifetime of moments that could have been different.

And we have a choice now, so we may not have had a choice then, but we have a choice now. And when we choose regret, we're choosing to relive the past and we're choosing to make our current moments sad, our current moments spent in the past, instead of in the present and looking ahead.

So, regret isn't a wise use of time because there is nothing we can do about the past. It's gone. The question is, what do we do now? What do we do moving ahead? And so when someone experiences regret, and they are ruminating in their minds and they think things should have gone differently, "we should have spoken up. We should have addressed this"... All the "should have's"...

We say, okay, well that didn't happen. We are here now. And let's take on the perspective that things unfolded as they should have. The question is, where are we now, and what are we going to do moving forward, moving ahead?

[00:07:00] Ferne Kotlyar: So if one of your clients has a strong regret, what's kind of the first step into moving forward?

[00:07:08] Kim Ades: The first step to moving forward is to look at the beliefs they have about the event and the beliefs they have about themselves, and what that event means about them, about what they did or what they didn't do.

And we need to address that, 'cause a lot of times when we look at something that happened in the past and we look at the actions we've taken or the actions we failed to take, we use that as a way to define ourselves and label ourselves. And a lot of times those labels are harmful.

And so what we want to do is we want to revisit those events briefly and extract the beliefs that a person has about themselves and their capacity and their thinking and their value in the world. We want to kind of correct a lot of the beliefs that cause them pain.

[00:08:12] Ferne Kotlyar: Can you give me an example of a belief that might cause somebody pain?

[00:08:16] Kim Ades: I'll give you an example for myself. Okay? So I'll use me. So when my mother passed away, she was very sick, she had Alzheimer's... But when my mother passed away, I was with her every single day. Five days, she was in her room, basically in her bed, sleeping. Five days, not eating, not drinking, not anything.

And we were waiting. We knew she was dying. We knew that the moment was coming. We didn't know exactly which moment, but I was there, sitting by her side as long as I could. And on the last day I was sitting with her all day and I didn't want to leave the room, I didn't want to leave her side. And my siblings came in and saw that I probably needed a break and they encouraged me to leave and I didn't want to leave. I was fighting with myself.

They said, "you need to go grab a bite to eat. Just go for a walk for a bit. Just go". And I fought with myself, and in my mind I said, "okay, there's a place very, very close by. We're just going to go grab a bite to eat and come back". Like, not to eat, just go grab the food and come back. And so we left and five minutes later, we got a call that she passed away.

[00:09:28] Ferne Kotlyar: Oh.

[00:09:28] Kim Ades: And so I wanted to be there. Like, everything... I just so badly wanted to be there in her final moment, in her final breath, I wanted to be there. And so for me, it was a huge, huge source of pain.

[00:09:42] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:09:43] Kim Ades: It shattered me when I got the call that said she passed away, and that was the moment I chose to leave. And so, immediately what happened for me is "I shouldn't have listened. It was their fault". Right? "They shouldn't have told me to leave. They shouldn't have pressured me and I should've just followed my instincts. I should've stayed. Why did I leave?" Right. So all the "should have's" come up.

[00:10:10] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:10:11] Kim Ades: "They're so pushy". All of that chatter that goes on in your brain. And already, you know, it's a pretty emotional experience when someone as close to you as your mother passes away, but now you're layering it with a whole bunch more.

[00:10:29] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah.

[00:10:30] Kim Ades: And the truth is she died when she died. I left the room when I left the room. Maybe it was divine intervention. Maybe it was my mother thinking, "you know what? It's better for me to go when she's not here". Maybe it was not conscious. Maybe it was just happenstance. It doesn't really matter.

But the moment has gone, and when I go back and replay that in that way, it's not useful. It's not useful in remembering her. It's not useful in building a great relationship with my siblings. It's not useful in feeling good about myself. It's just not useful at all.

[00:11:11] Ferne Kotlyar: But how do you get rid of it?

[00:11:12] Kim Ades: It keeps me in the past. So I have to ask myself, what are my beliefs?

[00:11:17] Ferne Kotlyar: And what are they?

[00:11:18] Kim Ades: In the moment, my belief was my siblings were pushy. But the truth is they were caring for me, they were worried that I was there for too long and they thought that I should take a break. Those are two very, very different beliefs. Knowing that they were just being caring about me is a very, very different experience if I'm replaying that moment.

[00:11:42] Ferne Kotlyar: But could they not be both?

[00:11:45] Kim Ades: Can they not be pushy and caring?

[00:11:47] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah.

[00:11:47] Kim Ades: They can be. But I can accept that they're pushy without having to resist that they're pushy. Right? So when I resist it, then I think things should be different. But when I say, "yeah, they're a little pushy and they care about me", there's no resistance. And so I don't have to fight that moment so badly, I don't have to feel the pain that I felt in that moment over and over and over and over and over again.

[00:12:20] Ferne Kotlyar: But does it just happen, like, at the snap of your fingers, you change your attitude about it?

[00:12:26] Kim Ades: No.

[00:12:26] Ferne Kotlyar: Or does it take like time and kind of repetitive action to process these thoughts and reprocess them and keep processing them until it gets to a better place?

[00:12:40] Kim Ades: For some people it takes years and years and years and years and years. For me, I don't want to spend years and years and years in a bad emotional place. I want to move through it faster because my deeper desire is to take myself to a better feeling, to have a good feeling about my siblings, to have a good feeling about my mother, to have a good feeling about how much I was beside her in those moments. Right?

So, my conscious self... And I've made this decision over years and years and years, is to take full responsibility for the way I feel. And when I feel anger, regret, sadness... This constant feeling of beating myself up because I wasn't there in that moment, that's not me taking care of my own emotional state. And so I choose that.

And so in this moment I choose that over regret. So I think choosing regret over and over again is a very, very poor use of time. It's a poor use of the present. That moment was bad, so I'm now making it bad over and over and over and over again. Why would I do that?

[00:13:59] Ferne Kotlyar: Do you think that it's a repetitive choice? Like, you make that choice over and over and over again? Or do you think it's like kind of a one thing, one time decision and then it persists?

[00:14:11] Kim Ades: I think at first it's a decision you make over and over again until it sticks, but I think a lot of people don't make the decision. And so I think it's okay to make the decision over and over again.

It's kind of like, you know, if you're trying to lose weight and you have to make the decision consciously not to eat chips every night, you have to make the decision over and over again until you get used to the decision, and you just say, "I don't eat chips at night". Right? In the beginning, it requires a little muscle, it requires effort, and that's okay. But over time it doesn't require so much effort.

The big issue is, and I think this is very important, is a lot of people don't make the effort. They live in a state of regret and that state of regret erodes their life. So when you live in a state of regret, it slowly chips away at you and rather than growth, rather than life, rather than an evolution, it's like a slow shrinkage of your life and your spirit. So regret is really actually quite harmful.

[00:15:27] Ferne Kotlyar: Yeah. So if there was somebody out there who had a lot of regret and was living in one of those states, what would be kind of the first thing you'd tell them to do? What's the first step into changing their thoughts, and thinking about kind of their own thought process and reassessing that making a better choice?

[00:15:51] Kim Ades: I would ask them a very tough question, one that they would probably fight me on [chuckles] but I would say, how was this event, this situation, this circumstance right for you? How was it the right thing? How was it good? How was it perfect? In the way that it was.

[00:16:10] Ferne Kotlyar: And if they say it wasn't?

[00:16:12] Kim Ades: Find something.

[00:16:18] Ferne Kotlyar: Okay. Well, you heard it here first. [Chuckles]

[00:16:23] Kim Ades: Yeah.

[00:16:24] Ferne Kotlyar: So thank you so much. Very interesting topic.

[00:16:28] Kim Ades: I think so. I think it is a very interesting topic because I think a lot of people live with deep regret and they hold onto it for years and years and years. And I think it's one of the saddest, hardest things to see, when people live with years and years of regret.

And so for anyone who's listening, for those of you who are out there, if there's something that you regret, if there's something that's causing you deep pain, ask yourselves one question: how was that situation, that event, actually useful for me? How was it perfect? How has it brought me to this moment? How was it uniquely designed for me? How does it work for me? Just start thinking about that.

I would love to hear from you actually, if you're thinking about it and you want to share your experiences, please send me an email, I want to hear from you. My email address is Ferne, how do people reach you?

[00:17:25] Ferne Kotlyar: Please email me! So my email is

[00:17:35] Kim Ades: Thank you guys for tuning in. Please like, please share, please comment, please send us some feedback. We'd love to hear from you! And we will see you next time on The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast. Have a great week, everyone!

[00:17:52] Ferne Kotlyar: Bye!

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