Week Six / Day Three – I should have done things differently


Click here for the audio version of the lesson

How many times have you looked back at your life and wished you’d made a different decision.  How many of these times do you still hold onto wishing that you could turn back time and change things so that life could be different now?

Holding onto the past and wishing things were different is a common cause of stress or depression because you are in conflict with the reality of what is.

The next few days is all about FORGIVENESS.  Hanging onto the past is toxic to leading a happy life and gaining an understanding of the situation will release you from pain and help you to move on from the situation.

We will begin in today’s lesson with forgiveness of yourself.

An unplanned labour

I begin here because this was my experience that led me towards my depression because I didn’t come to terms with how my labour went.  I also hear story after story of where a mum’s stress began because of how a labour unfolded and how she has been unable to get past this.

I had a very quick labour where my second son was born in 2 ½ hours.  Why was this so bad?  I believed  (at the time) it was because of my reaction to the fast labour.  You see my first son was born after I’d had an epidural so his labour was very calm, relaxed and measured as I went from intense pain to casually looking at how big each contraction was on the monitor without feeling any pain, to the midwife advising me that I could push whenever I wanted and having my son born without hardly feeling a thing.  It was very easy despite the 16 hour labour.  However this meant that I didn’t ever feel what bearing down pains were so did not recognise them when I was in labour with my second son.

With my second son my doctor had just done an examination and told me that I was only 4 ½ centimetres dilated so I asked him for an epidural because it was so easy last time.  He no sooner got to the door and I could feel the urge to push.   I thought something was wrong, so I tried to stop pushing (of course to no avail).  In hindsight the bearing down pains were not even as painful as contractions, however because I thought there was something wrong, I was screaming as I pushed, worried that I was doing something wrong. When I say screaming, I’m talking Hollywood movie style screaming where my husband felt like he was going to be sick from worry because he couldn’t help me.  My son was born very soon after and the hospital (not expecting me to deliver so quickly) was so busy that they plonked him in my arms, did their quick ten point check of him, asked me if I’d breastfed my first and knew what I was doing and then left us by ourselves.  We were in shock. 

It was only 2 ½ hours ago we were sitting down at our house watching an episode of Big Brother, and now just a short time later we were holding our newborn son.  Upon reflection I became very disappointed with how I had behaved during the labour and was full of shoulds/coulds.

“I should have been calm.  I shouldn’t have behaved like that.  I could have just asked the nurse what was going on.  I shouldn’t have been so weak.  I looked like an idiot. I shouldn’t have been so weak because it wasn’t even hurting me that much’.

All these conversations were going on in my mind and that was the beginning of my mental spiral that led to my depression.

What I didn’t know at the time was how to understand my behaviour and see the self-worth aspect to it.  IN THAT MOMENT I believed that something was wrong and that there was a problem that could very well affect my baby’s life.  I observed everything that was going on around me, the confused and slightly concerned look on the doctor’s face, the lack of response from the nurse and the worry on my husband’s face and determined that I shouldn’t be pushing.  My body of course had to push because there was nothing wrong and this was the natural part of the labour, however my mind had determined the appropriate response in that moment was to scream and yell (panic), so that others could become aware that there may be a problem and correct the situation.  From my perceptions AT THAT TIME there was something wrong (worth-less – it potentially decreased the value of my son’s and my life) and in order to correct that and increase that value again, my automated response was to react the way that I did.

INTHAT MOMENT that was the appropriate response due to how I perceived the situation and it could not have happened any other way.

What we need to understand is that we only know what we know at ANY GIVEN MOMENT and the decisions we make and the actions we take are all because of what we believe in that moment and dictate what our response will be.  Everything that happens is a result of everything that happened leading up to that event and how you have perceived that situation with the information you held in your brain in that moment in time.

Whatever your labour was, you were doing the best you could with the information you had, and you cannot change that.  Everyone around you was doing the best they could with the knowledge they had too.  It is now in the past and you are now experiencing the results of how the past has unfolded.  You must let go of the past by understanding that you (or they) couldn’t have done it any different because these were the beliefs that were accessed in your brain AT THAT MOMENT.

Sure you may believe that if you had a time capsule you would do it all again differently, but that’s only because you now have new information as time continued.  Back then you didn’t have that information. You only had the information you had right there and then to draw from and make your decision and determine your response.  It couldn’t have happened any other way.

I now know that nothing was wrong and what was happening was that I dilated very quickly and my son decided to come into the world very quickly after that examination and he is now a healthy boy.  I didn’t know this back then, so I could only determine what was going on and how to respond to that with the information I did know at the time.  It’s easy to look back and say, ‘well I should have…..’  but back then, I didn’t know that all was fine and it was all natural.

You can use this example in anything that you are holding onto from your past that you are blaming, criticising, resenting or hating yourself for.  Let’s look at some more scenarios;

Feeling resentful over having children

When you look back at the time when you decided to have children, whether it was because your partner really wanted them, or you thought it was what you ‘should’ do in your life, or because you actually wanted children but didn’t realise what it would be like, there was a priority belief that governed your decision back then to have children.  You looked at all of the information, compared it with all the beliefs you already had and decided that this was the best decision to make AT THAT TIME and was the best one for your life.

If you made this decision because your partner wanted children, it may have been because you didn’t want him to leave you, or didn’t want him to miss out on the experience of being a dad.  This ultimately came down to your self-worth beliefs as a partner  – I want to be supportive, generous, kind, give him what he wants so he’ll stay, or self-less for him to have that experience.  At the bottom of it would have been a decision made because it was a priority for you to be the kind of partner that he would want.  This priority belief outweighed your desire not to have children AT THAT TIME.

If you made the decision to have children because it was what you believed you ‘should’ do in your life, then you made it because you wanted to live up to the expectations that you believed were important to being a successful person, or a ‘proper’ woman (worthy).  Whatever you believed about why you ‘should’ have children in life in order to be worthy, outweighed your decision to not have children, so AT THAT TIME that was the decision you made which governed the action you took to have children.

If you had children because you thought it would be joyous, easy and fun, then you made that decision based on the beliefs you had about what being a parent was going to be like.  You couldn’t have known any different because that was the information you had in your head AT THE TIME of making this decision to have children.  Believing that children would add value to your life (making it worthy) was what governed your decision to have them.

Understanding that your beliefs AT THAT TIME were what governed the decision to have children helps you to accept that this decision could not have been any different.  The reality is that you are now experiencing being a parent of a child and this has come from that decision.  You can remain stuck on the fact that you should have decided differently, but the reality is that you didn’t.  All you can do now is change how you now view being a parent and use the reality thinking model to expand your mind on the value of having children and being a parent.

Yelling at your children:

You yelled at your children IN THAT MOMENT because you observed the situation, analysed the information that was accessed in your brain and then came to the conclusion that it should’ve been different to how it was.    The conversation in your mind continued down that path of being in conflict with reality until you were desperately trying to find a way to stop this situation that was causing your life grief (causing it to be worth-less).  IN THAT MOMENT, your response was to yell, all with the agenda to stop the grief and make everything better (worth-more).  The reason for the yelling was because of how you had perceived the situation to begin with.  Without the running commentary that was in conflict with reality, you would not have been feeling like this situation was detrimental or causing you grief and therefore would not have needed to defend your worth by yelling. 

You can’t change that now, but you can learn from it.  When you continue to apply the reality thinking model to how you view the situations of your life, then you will stop seeing these events as bad to begin with, hence reducing the reaction to yell.

A relationship breakdown that you feel you are responsible for:

Relationships are a tricky one to tackle because there are so many factors that explains why one person is doing what they are doing and why each person is treating each other this way. There are many dynamics that are set up between a couple and these will have beliefs from each couple about how to have a successful relationship, what is needed from the other person, what the expectations are and what the deal breakers are for the relationship.  There are a lot of different issues that need to be addressed when looking at the reasons for a relationship breakdown.

However at the end of the day the break up will come down to one thing.  The person who has left no longer believes that what is happening in the relationship is making their lives worthy.  It is no longer working to bring value to their life.  The breakup is not about you.  It’s all about them.  Through your lens of life, you perceive life one way and your partner perceives it another.  If your view of what makes a relationship work matches then you will have a happy relationship.  You will treat each other the way you would like to be treated and hence want to stay with them.  If your view of a relationship differs, this is where conflict can occur if negotiations cannot be made.

It is not your fault that the relationship split up.  It is because both of you were operating with your best interests in mind based on your beliefs. 

If you are talking about a break up because of an affair, than the reason that the affair even became an event in itself was due to self-worth issues.  In order to feel worthy and loved the way that you/he wanted to, the affair occurred because IN THAT MOMENT, that is what you/he had determined you need and that overrode any logic or morals that you held IN THAT MOMENT.

Now understanding this does not condone it.  There are many times when we do something and then after the affect, we regret it because we realise or experience the consequences of our decisions.  This is why it is important to understand and accept that at the root of all behaviour, there is the self-worth aspect.  This is what drove your decision to act in the first place. 

Being able to understand and accept the choices you made in the past is what forgiveness is all about.  You will do this with an understanding of what beliefs were driving that choice AT THE TIME and upgrading those beliefs with your new understanding of the reality model.  By upgrading those beliefs that you had from that time of your life, you can teach yourself how you would handle that situation differently in the future.  You can use these lessons to be more conscious of decisions next time you make a big decision or feel yourself having a major reaction to something.

You can’t change the past now.  You can only learn from it.  The past doesn’t even exist unless you bring it back to the present in your mind.  The only value that the past has in the present is if you are learning from it. Today is a new day.  Every moment is a new moment to start over. Your present day is the first day of the rest of your life. 

You don’t even know that the past has been good or bad, because you don’t yet know where it has consequently sent you on your life’s path.  Any event could lead to something enjoyable or something not so enjoyable.  There will always be a bit of both as a result from any situation whether it be today, tomorrow or ten years down the track.  You will always be able to say ‘Because x happened in my life I am now grateful for y; or because x happened in my life I am now not enjoying the y.  It is the polar of opposites, where there is good there is always bad.  If you are only looking for the bad in your life, you will not be looking for the good.  Accept the present is what it is because of how everything has unfolded leading up to now and that regardless of what has happened in the past, it will lead you to both good times and bad.  It all depends on how you look at it.

You can only ever work with the information you have stored in your brain at ANY GIVEN MOMENT and you cannot know more than you do.  Let go of the decisions you made in the past and accept the results of what happened in your past knowing that they couldn’t have happened any other way.  The proof for that is that it didn’t happen any other way.  It happened the way that it happened.

Accept the reality of the now with this understanding and remember that this is how we learn.  How do we know what to do unless we have determined what not to do?  We learn from our mistakes and our adversities and the only way that we can do that is to look at our current realities and say, “I am here because of how life has unfolded up to now and I cannot change the past.  I have always done the best that I could do with the knowledge that I had at the time and I cannot undo what is done.  All I can do is accept that it is done, learn from it and change what I do in the future now that I have this new information.”

Only then can you look at what you want and set new goals (step three – aim) to move life in a direction that is going to be more enjoyable for you, with a healthy mindset and a forgiveness of yourself and past events.