Guilt and Regret

img_6857Let’s imagine that there are invisible tracks streaming like ribbons in the ether of psyche. Some of these tracks resonate at a higher vibration and some move at a lower vibration. The tracks of higher vibration carry the feelings that emanate from the source of ourselves: sadness, joy, contentment, fear, uncertainty, disappointment, and, of course, love and gratitude. When the channels are clear, we can easily connect to these source feelings, which allows us to remain in the flow of the river of life without obstruction. The waters move easily and we don’t resist the feelings that come and go, rising and falling like a tide from the pull of the moon. We cry when we’re sad. We laugh when we’re happy. We smile when we’re content. We find grace through uncertainty.

The tracks that carry a lower vibration stem from the part ourselves that we name the ego. The ego is our small-minded self that sees the world in black-and-white terms and attempts to control outcomes by telling us stories designed to convince us to run from the risk of living life fully. Despite the fact that these stories are not rooted in truth, we fall pray to their allure and begin to believe that they’re true. When we don’t learn to question the veracity of ego-based stories, we climb up into the cob-webbed rafters of thought then tumble down the chute of anxiety.

We choose which tracks to tap into and follow. At first, when the mind is untrained, it doesn’t feel like a choice, for we’re wired to follow the path of least resistance, which is the path of the ego. But as we learn to call the ego’s ways onto the mat and bring this part of us into the light of day, we realize that we can, in fact, make a choice about which tracks to breathe into and strengthen. Every time we turn toward the higher tracks, we strengthen that muscle. Every time we follow the lower tracks, we bolster those patterns inside of us. Whatever we water will grow. Wherever we place our attention feeds that fire.

Two of the most powerful ego tracks I see are guilt and regret (and here I’m not talking about the healthy guilt that stems from having a conscience about a true wrongdoing but rather the guilt that stems from ego’s attempts to control). When guilt or regret make repeated appearances in thought processes I know we’re in the realm of ego working its misguided magic as it attempts to pull someone away from the raw feelings of life. Let’s see how this works by looking at a common exchange with many of my clients:

“I’m feeling guilty about that choice I made so many years ago [broke up with partner; left a job; cheated on partner]. If I hadn’t done that, maybe things would have turned out differently,” the client shares.

“Differently how? You’re okay now, you survived that painful period, what would have been different?”

“I don’t know. If I could go back and change that decision, maybe I wouldn’t be feeling this way right now. Maybe I wouldn’t have anxiety.”

Ahhh… the good-old escape hatch from life trick! Here the ego convinces the person that if they had chosen differently back then, they would be living the anxiety-free life right now. Just as ego likes to convince that the problem is one’s choice of partner as a way to abdicate responsibility for one’s wellness, so ego likes to sift through the past then land on one or two events and say, “If only…. then you would be happy now.” This small, scared part of us – the part that has been culturally entrained to believe that life should feel like Disneyland – has a hard time accepting that life is messy, awkward, painful, wild, and raw. In other words, the ego believes that if it could change the past, it can control the present and even the future. “If only I hadn’t…. I would live happily ever after, ” is the message contained inside regret.

It’s simply not true, and cannot be so. We cannot escape the messiness of life. There’s not a partner in the world or a decision you could have made that would land you at the end of a Hollywood movie or a fairy tale. A containing counter-thought to perseverations of regret is to realize that even if you had chosen differently around the decision that’s tormenting you, you would find something else to regret. For the clients who met young, they regret that they didn’t date more. For those who dated a lot, they regret that they didn’t settle down earlier. It’s the ego’s way to look for loophole. It’s also another manifestation of the grass is always greener syndrome.

Just as intrusive thoughts send you into the endless maze of thought-space, so regret and guilt trap and immobilize you in the stagnant space of the heart. Yes, you feel regret, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fruitful feeling or a source feeling. It’s a second-layer defense mechanism designed to protect you from feeling the raw and more vulnerable feelings that live underneath. In other words, if you’re caught in regret, you won’t have to feel the sadness, remorse, or powerlessness that are embedded inside.

The question to ask when regret or guilt take hold is, “What is this state protecting me from feeling?” And a soothing response to the preservation on regret is, “I did the best I could given who I was and the information I had at that time.” In this loving and compassionate response another element of regret is revealed: the ego’s harsh and unrealistic expectation that we’re supposed to be perfect humans beyond reproach or mistake. When we adopt a compassionate mindset and one that includes learning at is core, we step out of the perfectionist and into the humanist, and in that softer realm the vulnerable feelings can safely emerge. These softer feelings are our gateway to the present moment and to the truth and beauty that live at the core of who we are.

79 comments to Guilt and Regret

  • Northernlass

    Thank you for another beautiful post, Sheryl. They are often like drops of stillness in a sea of relentless noise.

    This post make me think about my trip to visit my family this weekend. I often find it difficult and painful to be around them for any length of time. Which makes me feel guilty, because I feel like I ‘should’ only feel happy and grateful to be spending time with them. Oh the never ending ‘shoulds’ that plague our lives! When I stay with them I often feel irritated and claustrophobic. I think this is due to the fact that my mum has always repressed her emotions and never let us express ours, I have been resentful about how she never learned to honour my sensitivity as a child, and she also brought us up in a religious cult. My sister suffers from extreme social anxiety. They live a very sheltered life and the repressed grief you feel in the home is overwhelming (we also lost my dad about ten years ago, when we were in our early teens).

    Today I found myself thinking, if only I hadn’t grown up this way, I wouldn’t have anxiety. If only my mum had given me what I needed. My mind also likes to condemn me with, ‘Maybe if you hadn’t left organised religion, you wouldn’t be anxious.’ And yes, the all-time-favourite, ‘Maybe if you had chosen a different partner, you wouldn’t be this anxious’ or ‘Maybe I should have chosen not to settle down at all and just date casually (for the rest of my life? Sounds horrible!), then I wouldn’t have anxiety.’

    Life does wound us, but we are blessed with the ability as HSP’s to recognise those wounds and do are own healing. I can begin to peel back the lies that stop me from believing I am capable of choosing a good life for myself, without the help of organised religion, the christian God’s ‘will’ or even, Mum. I’m learning that I can express my emotions in a healthy way (although learning to express them healthy is quite a challenge, when you had to stuff them down for so many years!).

    I am blessed to have a supportive partner who doesn’t leave my side. Who holds my hand and lets me cry, even if he does eventually have to go upstairs and play his computer game after my crying for 30 mins turns into mad ravings or negative statements about myself and everything! (As I said, this learning to regulate my emotional outbursts is hard work. Does anyone have any tips for this, by any chance?)

    Today I actually wrote in my journal, before reading this post, that while I was a teenager I only did what I thought was best at that time, and I did it with a good and pure heart. Even though I was living a brain-washed, religious life of hating most other groups of people, including other church denominations!, secluded and repressed!

    And just like I have only ever done my best, so has my mum. She brought us up doing what she believed was best for us. She probably didn’t know how to handle her own emotions, which is why she didn’t teach us how to handle ours.

    This has been quite a ramble. Basically I think it’s so easy to believe that our anxiety is caused by something, either from our past, or because of our choice of job, partner, country, or even because of our parents; rather than to deal with it where we are, here and now. Because dealing with it would mean accepting that anxiety is a normal part of life, and we really do want to believe that life should be like Disneyland!

    • Thank you for sharing this, Northernlass. Anxiety and its accompanying feelings often get kicked up when we visit family of origin, so it makes sense that your brain went into its “what if” and “if only” dances. To calm it back down you might ask, “If I wasn’t lost in my head-space, what would I feel about the weekend at home?” I imagine there’s a lot of grief, loneliness, and powerlessness that are asking for your attention. The guilt is the cover-up for the pain.

    • Britt

      Keep holding on, Northanlass.

    • alison

      Emotional regulation is tough for us HSPs. It’s so easy to let ourselves go into a tailspin that can be triggered by our own emotions or those we pick up that belong to other people (a blessing and a curse). Clearly it is healthier to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, but I think you do have to practice putting a cap on it. After you’ve had a good cry or allowed your anger to surface, it helps (in my experience) to literally walk away from it. Acknowledge it, but don’t attach to it. Step outside for some fresh air and take some deep breaths, go for a walk. I used to write down all of my negative feelings or just go lie down and continue to cry until I fell asleep, which only made me feel worse. Connecting with nature really grounds you (quite literally) in those moments. Hope this helps 🙂

  • Klewis23

    Hi Sheryl! Thank you for another wonderful post! I have seriously been thinking about taking the e-course. I felt like my relationship anxiety was on the mend but then we moved into together and my partner has been ring shopping and all of my worries have flooded back in.. but one question I had, I see that you go over red flag issues in the course, but do you ever plan to write a post on the topic? Or would it potentially be too much of a trigger for a lot of readers? I’ve commented multiple times about the fact that my partner and i have different religious beliefs which is something I am completely comfortable with until a bout of anxiety hits and then I start basing my entire view of our relationship on that issue – basically our “differences” become so illuminated and our common ground disappears. Thank you for your input.:)

    • Having different religious belief is in NO WAY a red flag as long as you’ve discussed how you’re going to raise any potential future children. There’s really nothing more I can say about that ;).

      • Klewis23

        Thank you Sheryl! No clue why my mind goes back to that. I think it has a lot to do with having a religious view that centered on guilt (much like your post) where I was always striving for perfection or at least the appearance of perfection…I still think it will do a lot of good for me to take the course though! I want to be as clear headed as possible in this next step of our relationship!

  • Bashley

    This helps. I always think “maybe if i was single and not trying to do this work and just free i wouldn’t be feeling so upset all the time” I struggled horribly this evening with this

    • And how would you respond to yourself using the guidance offered in this post?

      • Bashley

        First i would ask “what is all of this protecting me from? What is me WANTING to leave protecting me from?” And the answer is very clear, it’s protecting me from growing and changing. Even though I’m changing into a better version of myself, and a more knowledgable version of myself, change still hurts and is scary and requires a lot of letting go. I also know that I’m having to let go of the part of me that’s an adolescent and likes to go out and drink and party and date around, and that part of me was VERY short lived, so that part of me doesn’t find it fair that she didn’t have more time. But it’s for the best to let go of that part of me and step into real stable love and a realistic stable life, even though that part of me doesnt understand.

        I’ve been struggling horribly with “I don’t WANT this anymore” and have related to Spili80s post in the course SOOOOO much. I’m feeling and thinking all of those things she was

  • Amanda314

    Thank you for this great post! It was so helpful for me tonight as I end a weekend visit with my parents.

    Another thing I struggle with is guilt over my actions as they effect the planet (and animals and others). For example, when I drive my car or use some plastic. This has been a big challenge for me for years and I’m not really sure how to begin examining it. Do you have any ideas or tips?

    • I struggle with environmental-impact guilt as well, and I think there’s an aspect of this guilt that is stemming from a healthy conscience and inspires us to walk with a lighter footprint. However, when the guilt feels overwhelming, it’s probably doing more harm than good, as there’s only so much we, as individuals, can do to help save the planet. This book was very helpful to me, and just the title alone helps me weigh my decisions and keep the guilt in check:

      • Amanda314

        Thank you so much! What a relief to know I’m not alone – although I shouldn’t be surprised at this point. I will definitely check this book out.

        I will say that the title actually really triggers me because I’m always terrified that I’m not doing the “Least Harm”. Does this book handle veganism at all? My food choices basically torture me daily and I feel so much guilt for not being vegan or eating non-vegan items. Thanks so much for your help with something so specific!

        • I read it quite a while ago so I don’t recall if she talked specifically about being vegan, but please know that not all bodies and blood types are meant to eat a vegan diet. There’s so much guilt and righteousness thrown around the culture these days, and everyone professes to know which diet is best for all sorts of reasons. I encourage you to trust your body and trust your needs, and toss the guilt aside.

  • Sarah

    I can really relate to this. I sometimes think that I wouldn’t have these thoughts or anxiety if I was with my ex who was from the same country as me. Then again he left me twice and didn’t really love me and I had anxiety over whether he was honest with me.

    My partner and I are from different countries. He is such a loving and gentle person. He treats me with such respect and would do anything for me. I do sometimes miss the excitement of that “in love” feeling which I never really had or have for my current partner. I love him dearly but I struggle to get really excited about stuff. I am trying so hard to be present through your course, meditation and a therapist and I have got better. I still have very anxious dreams about whether I am making the right decision because I have cried and questioned so much over our 2 year relationship.

    Do you think our love will grow or I will always feel like something is missing?

    Thanks for all your blogs. I really don’t know where I would be without your wisdom.

    • Love grows as you grow as an individual and the two of you grow together by letting each other into deeper layers of your heart. It grows over time, with dedication, commitment, and a willingness to soften into vulnerability.

  • Sarah

    Thanks so much for your reply Sheryl. I really appreciate it. One last question – do my anxious dreams about committing to my partner mean that they true? That this isn’t right. I often have a knot in my stomach and not sure if that is fear or my gut instinct.

  • Savemysoul

    Thank you so much Sheryl for this today . I just got married in July and about 2 months before my wedding , I went to panic mode and my mind was occupied with intrusive thoughts even up to now but it’s not as intense . My anxiety is now around my sexuality and everything I joked about in the past is hunting me . I used to say if I was gay I could marry my best friend. Now my brain keeps going in circles with thoughts of my best friend. I even advice her on relationships , I want her to be happy with a guy that genuinely loves her just like I know my husband does . I have never seen any torture like this in my life . I love her as a friend and I honestly don’t want but my mind keeps playing tricks on me . I’ve had tons of female images pop in my head but hers seems like the toughest . This is real torture . What can I do when thoughts and images pop into my head. I don’t know whether cutting her off completely will solve my problem . We meditate and pray together every morning and I get scared that it’s making us too attached to each other . She’s a good and loyal friend , my husband is my male best friend, I share everything with this man , I love him and thinking about not being with him hurts my soul. We don’t fight and if we do , I always cause it , he loves me despite everything , I tell him about all this things . He says I’m not gay and that’s he’s not saying it cause he wants me to himself . He’s a good looking and great guy , this guy can have any beautiful woman on earth . Sometimes I wonder what he sees in me . I don’t know ! I really wish I could control my mind to stay still .

  • katers

    Sheryl, you have great timing seriously your posts are always exactly what I need! I’m learning this lesson on guilt/regret masking truth right now and you just beautifully wrote exactly my thoughts/feelings that I couldn’t express into words. I love this “I did the best I could given who I was and the information I had at that time.” and this concept only internalized for me within the past year. I was driving on the freeway and it randomly occurred to me that we are all trying our best and it’s meaningless to hold blame/guilt/shame towards ourselves or someone else. Yet it is crucial to allow ourselves to feel the sadness and anger when something in our life wasn’t the best or ideal situation. We cannot move forward if we bury our feelings. So when you talk about building your “well of self” and self-trust, I realized that it is only through trusting myself that I can be aware of my feelings and allow myself to feel my emotions. I took Trust Yourself a year ago too, it’s only starting to click now lol. Right now I’m feeling pretty down about something right now (the cold rain doesn’t help, lol) and now after reading your post I’ll let myself be sad and mopey. 🙂

    • It can take a while for this work to sink in, but it sounds like the pieces are starting to click into place. Good that you allowed yourself to feel sad, and maybe the rain even helped you slow down into that quiet place of pain.

  • Kim

    This is what I seriously needed to read right now. Guilt has paralysed me for the past couple of weeks to the brink of very dangerous feelings. I wasn’t upfront and played down a couple of things at the beginning of my relationship because I was afraid of losing my new partner who was perfect in my eyes (and the first man I connects with on the level we have for YEARS). These lies caught up with me, and as much as he forgave me (they weren’t that harmful, he just didn’t like that I lied), my anxiety kicked off afterwards to the extent that I had to compulsively admit to things that didn’t even matter and I got intrusive thoughts about things I needed to admit to when I was around him, and emotionally distanced myself from him. The relationship ended two weeks ago (neither of us wanted it to but he couldn’t see me suffer any more) and all I can think is ‘if I was open at the beginning, I’d still be happy, in love and in that amazing relationship’. The guilt that I’m feeling, or feelings that I don’t love him any more (when the pain in my body tells me I do) are masking being able to mourn for him properly to the event where I have all this trapped pain and energy. I understand the compassionate response, I just need to be able to internalise it as at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be penetrating the surface ☹️

    • Regret and guilt do a great job at preventing us from grieving and protecting us from our fundamental powerlessness over someone else’s choices. Yes, the grief needs release, and some faith that what happened is exactly what needed to happen in order to bring you to this place where life is inviting you to soften into your places of pain. Sending hugs. My Breakup course may also help penetrate the protective barriers:

    • Jessica

      Kim – I too have experienced the ‘confession OCD’ where you feel the need to tell someone (in my case my partner) every little lie, negative thought, all the little ‘dark’ things in you mind etc. I just want to say that in my humble opinion – you do the work that Sheryl is talking about, letting go of grief/regret/working through emotions, but you also treat the need to ‘confess’ or ‘admin’ as any other OCD & intrusive thought. Whatever works for you whether it’s labeling it as an OCD thought, breathing through it and letting it go, doing the emotional work behind it, etc. Once you work through all this, the need to ‘confess’ loses it’s strength and will only spike occasionally – just like any other OCD thing.

  • Savemysoul

    Another trigger I have is when I see my friends dating guys from other races , I go into panic mode wondering what it would feel like to have mixed race kids . I use to joke about all these things too . I mean I can’t be with all different people at the same time . I don’t even think I’m ready to get pregnant. I’ve always had anxiety growing up , took meds from 19 to 30. In only 9 months off meds and that was when all my anxiety sky rocketed to different areas .

  • Optimistic

    Thank you so much for this post Sheryl! It taps right into one of my biggest anxiety triggers; my guilt over cheating on my boyfriend years ago. If I’m having a good day, my mind automaticly brings it up, like it’s saying “no no, don’t feel to good, remember what you did”. And I sometimes feel like the things you write don’t apply to me, because I’m such a horrible person.. I was going through a deep depression at the time, and had major anxiety over my relationship. So your frase “I did the best I could given who I was and the information I had at the time” helps.. I am expecting a baby with my now fiance, so hopefully I’ll be able to work through this! You have given me so many helpfull tools, I guess I just have to deem myself worthy of spending the time and energy on getting better. Thank you!

  • CC

    Hi Sheryl, thanks so much for the post. It makes me think a lot. I guess feeling guilty is the easier way to deal with some of my emotions. There are feelings underneath that are so much harder and painful to deal with. Thanks again, can’t wait for your next post 🙂

  • Angela

    Great post Sheryl,
    I am feeling angry and dissapointed with my mum. I told her I am not happy with how she treats my hubby. She asks my brothers partner how she is? But she never asks how my hubby is.. her excuse was no offense but i feel more comfortable with Miriam because she is a woman and she also said my husband never calls her, but he always asks about her, its the same thing. I replied, your not the queen dont expect to be treated like royalty when you dont show any respect. Its been a month and i havent heard from my narcisstic mother. Its always me that has to call her. I feel so tired of her immaturity. She is so selfish and cruel. I dont want to spend christmas ?with them. Im dreading it.

    • Underneath the anger and disappointment is probably a lifetime of loneliness and heartbreak that this is who she is. If you soften into the more vulnerable feelings – which is not easy to do – you can make a decision about the holidays from a clear place inside of you instead of a reactive place. Mostly, please give yourself a big hug. There are few wounds more painful than being the daughter of a narcissistic mother.

  • Angela

    I dont want to argue its not my thing but i just dont know what to do.

  • Tee

    Hi Sheryl,

    Several years after walking away from someone I loved with all my heart, I now understand that it was partly down to relationship anxiety and being misinformed about what love really is. I go through cycles of believing this to be true and I can also know that I did my best with what I knew and who I was at that time but depending on how I feel with regards to my current relationship anxiety, I either acknowledge that and settle or I go deeper and beat myself up about my inability at that time. It’s hard on me! I have struggled with this for five years, on and off but mostly on. I took your Conscious Weddings course which helped in the run up to my wedding. I also went for counselling but it wasn’t a good match, personality-wise. Do you think there’s a certain ‘type’ of therapy or counselling that could be most helpful?

    Also, even where a person has RA, what would be signs of a good connection with a partner? Many thanks 🙂

    • Have you taken the Break Free course, Tee? It begins where the Conscious Weddings E-Course left off and addresses many of your deepest questions and concerns.

      Connection, in my definition, is a sense of home and safety. It’s the person you long to be with when the world feels like it’s crumbling. It’s your safe base and your safe haven, the person to whom you have healthfully and securely attached even when your ego wants to pull you away and tell you otherwise. You can see that having scintillating conversation has nothing to do with connection in my definition!

  • Angela

    I dont feel GUILTY AND REGRET, for expressing my feelings to her, its like talking to a brick wall, she makes me feel unworthy Of having my healthy needs met. I lack love from her i always have. Its all about her feelings and her sons feelings, what about me…

  • Just me

    Thank you again!! This was describing very well what I experienced. I was fully convinced that if I had chosen my ex instead of my husband, I would have jad that happy ending like in my dreams. That was just story, which I was telling myself at that time. When I realizad that I cannot expect anyone else to save me, those dreams have stopped. I am finally healing and growing to an adult, who is cabable to take responsibility of my pain and aliveness. That was just my ego, who send me those vivid dreams.

    • I’m not sure it was your ego sending you those dreams as much as your unconscious inviting you to grow into this more capable and responsible version of yourself. In any case, you’ve crossed over from victim to responsible adult and it’s so wonderful to see.

    • Britt

      I’m literally in love with reading your comments, just me. Its wonderful! It’s as though I have a front seat to your transition.
      Isn’t it amazing when, you’re finally able to lift your head from the fog.

    • Lili

      Hi just me, its great to hear your finally healing, i also followed some of your comments and i see how far you have comr. Can i ask how u managed to get the ex out of your head, i mean how dyou come to realize that ‘that was just a story you were telling yourself’ how did you manage to deal with the thought. There is always this image of a perfect person in my head which i think i should have waited for before commiting to my partner, which gives me this huge amount if regret, any ideas is highly appreciated .

      • Just me

        Thank you thank you Britt and Lili! Your comments made so happy! I love this blog and all you warm people hear!! Lili, It was a very long process and took me years to finally start to understand why I was carrying those intensive feelings and dreams for so long. We analysized in my therapy a lot why I was so attached to the idea of my ex. I was carrying a huge saviour fantasy about him and I was forgetting all those bad qualities he was carrying. He was not fully committed to me and because of my insecure attachment style, which I have learnt in my home, he somehow felt more familiar than my husband. He was also a little bit depressed person and we understood each others pain better than I do with my husband. I had to grieve that relationship and feel all those feelings about regret, sadness and longing, but finally when I allowed myself to feel completely all those feelings without judging and guilty, I started to heal. I started to understand that those feeling were not a sign that I was in the wrong relationship. There were just telling me that I had some unprocessed feelings still inside of me. Maybe journaling about that fantasy partner can help you Lili? Ask yourself, what it the metaphor of that person you are carrying in your head? Acceptance was the key for me. I was resisting those feelings earlier and it made my obsession much worse and scary. Many hugs!!

  • Sally

    What’s the difference between remorse and regret? You have remorse as a core feeling; regret as ego. Remodeling and regret feel about the same and mean the same to me. Beautiful post.

    • Remorse is to regret as healthy guilt is to head-space guilt. In other words, there are times when you cause pain to others and you will feel remorse, and you will then feel compelled to self-reflect and apologize. Remorse then moves through as opposed to regret which gets stuck and paralyzes.

  • Tee

    Ahh. When I’m not in the midst of anxiety, I describe my husband as feeling like home. That’s the exact word 🙂 It’s a safe, secure and warm feeling. It’s defo not scintillating conversation
    – we just don’t have that as much as I’d like but he is home. Thanks, Sheryl. Have a wonderful week 🙂

  • LovingKindness

    Hi Sheryl, thanks for the great (and timely!) post.

    I signed up for your Break Free course and I must say it’s been extremely helpful to quieting my anxiety. I am realizing the anxious thoughts stem from a lack of self care and a dry Well of Self, as well as unrealistic (and romanticized) expectations about love and who a partner should be/how he should make me feel.

    This post is quite relevant because part of my anxiety stems from this stuck feeling of regret. I am thankful to your replies to other commenters, as one person asked about the difference between regret and remorse. I am definitely stuck in regret.

    My SO and I work together, and we started dating at the beginning of 2016 after realizing we just clicked at a work function. The problem was he dated another woman at work that I had become good friends with in 2015. They dated for 3 months at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, before I met her, and their relationship dissolved because he was going through a tough loss in the family and they went separate ways. In his mind, the relationship wasn’t totally right for him and it was over, he was not interested anymore. But in her mind, I think she expected him to reach back out. She told me about them dating later last year and said she just had to get over him. Fast forward a few months and I realized that he and I liked each other, and I thought she would be okay with it. It was never my intention to like this guy, but I ended up realizing that he and I have a connection I haven’t felt with other guys I’ve dated. They dated for 3 months an entire year prior to me having feelings for him, surely she would understand that we just click and I mean no disrespect to her. She was so angry and upset with me when I told her that I liked him, and said that I did not have her best interest in mind and was flattered by his attention. And in my mind I was like what about my best interest or his best interest? We are not in high school where this seems appropriate over a 3 month relationship – my boyfriend and her are in their early 30s, and I am mid 20s! I had no intention of hurting her by liking him. He and I apologized, as we were remorseful that we hurt her feelings, and she and I made up as friends. She accepted my apology and said she was ready to be supportive of our relationship. However, the friendship became strained and deteriorated the closer he and I became. I felt so conflicted that my happiness was a product of hurting her feelings, and I retreated from the friendship. I tried to reconnect with her once I realized how I was acting, but it seems she had made up her mind that “I’m just not that into you as a friend”.

    I have been dealing with the regret from this event for a better part of this year, and it has been difficult. I just wanted to be happy with a guy that felt right for me – I never wanted to hurt someone else because of it. Would the “right” thing to do as a “good” friend be ignore my feelings and not pursue him?? What about her responsibility as a “good” friend to accept that I have these feelings? Even though she said she did accept them, the termination of the friendship makes me feel as though she really did not and thinks that I was a bad friend.

    All this came to a head when my boyfriend made me realize that my regret and feeling of wrongdoing was going to ruin our relationship – if I always feel dating him was “wrong” how can we ever be truly right for each other? And down the rabbit hole of anxiety I went. Anxiety over everything, especially whether the relationship is right for me. The Break Free course has been very helpful in dispelling my concerns about the relationship. I have personal work to do on my Well of Self, but I also have to address my regret vs remorse on dating him and losing a friendship.

    Long post, but I’m working through these feelings and am very grateful to have stumbled upon your site while I was in the midst of ego-fueled googling about what it feels like to be in love, fall out of love, what is normal, etc. If I had not found your Break Free ecourse, I am not sure that my boyfriend and I would still be together. I think I would have decided that I cannot feel like I do and have a relationship be “right” for me – and I would have run away and hoped the feelings went away. I would not be able to appreciate the wonderful, caring, supportive, funny, and loveable guy that I am so blessed to have in my life!

  • Newly Married

    Beautiful post, for me I regret I was not ready to be with my husband sooner and I was immature to not be able to handle a relationship back then, I regret it for the both of us because we both were immature, thank god now we are together, I know underneath my regret lives fear, the fear of loosing him in any way, the fear of growing old and the fear of death and loss. I dont want to loose him.
    This came up at the perfect time Sheryl, thank you so very much, I will read it to my husband. This is very helpful to practice daily.
    Blessings to you and yours

  • Eleonora

    Thank you for a well-needed post.

  • Lili

    Thank you for a great post. It resonated with my feelings of guilt and regret which I have been feeling recently. I wish I could stick your words in my head somehow 🙂 the problem is i tend to forget wat i read or sometimes i read a post i really connect to and the next time im anxious it doesnt help…i guess i need to go over the materials more often and let them sink in. This is the most difficult part for me right now… I know the truth is to stay and to be strong, dont let the negative thoughts weaken my trust in myself and decision but of course its not easy and as i said the most difficult thing is to remember the thongs you described in this post when im feeling down. Many thanks again.

  • Marlene

    I read a lot of people saying, “He/She was everything I ever wanted but I feel anxiety.” Well, what if he/she wasn’t what you really wanted and there was a lot of disappointment and shame at the beginning? Feelings of “settling?” I’ve lived with regret on and off for 10 years. But I’m a person who believes in living up to my promises. Is there hope? Did I really make a mistake?

    • It’s an overgeneralization to say that most people here report that their partner is “everything they’ve ever wanted.” In fact, most people on my site will say, “He/she is many things I’ve wanted, but doesn’t fit the picture I had in my mind.” There will always be disappointments, and the longer you’re with someone, the more disappointments there will be as it’s the nature of relationships and part of the imperfection of being human to be disappointed and to disappoint. I also don’t believe in “mistakes”. The work is to put on your headlight of learning and shine the light into your empty, scared, and painful places. The work is about growth.

  • Rose

    Thank you Sheryl. I think this hits at the core of my relationship anxiety. I took your Conscious Weddings ecourse two years ago before I got married, and five months ago I gave birth to an amazing little boy. It’s hard to know now what aspects of my anxiety are hormone related and what is just plain old relationship anxiety… but lately I’ve found it harder and harder to connect with my husband in the ways that I used to be able to, and I find that it’s leading me to feel regret in my decision to marry him. Which is even more disturbing now that I can hold my precious baby that I created together with him. But when I think about all of our differences and how they will affect my son, it makes me less willing to accept those differences. Before we got engaged we agreed that our relationship was stronger than our differences, and that we would tackle the challenges that they created by continued communication and our commitment to each other. However my higher levels of anxiety leading to my regret and fear of having made the wrong decision in marrying him now prevent me from seeing how we can make it work! I keep thinking that if I were with someone who shared more of my religious values (my husband’s and my main difference and source of many heated discussions) that I would be ultimately happier. How do I know what is just my ego brain talking and what, if anything, I should be listening to? I just want to go back to feeling the same love towards him that I felt while we were dating.

    • Just me

      I just want to encourage you that you are not alone with religious differences. I have suffered from same issue, but somehow I am now getting over that wish that we share those beliefs and thoughts. I have tried to concentrate on good things on our relationship, which is our similar sense of humour and other values. We are both quite sensitive persons. My relationship with God has become stronger and I am starting to see my husband through God’s lenses. This is a huge progress from me, who thought that our marriage was just a big mistake and I should have chosen a man with similar reliigious beliefs. Do not give up hope! Many hugs!

      • Rose

        Thank you for this. It helps to know that I’m not alone and that it can actually get better with time. I know that in certain respects, we’re both still trying to figure out how to remain individuals while sharing our lives together, and I think sometimes we each get carried away with using this particular difference that we have as a way to remain true to the way we each grew up. I want to believe that this marriage was not a big mistake- in fact, I want to believe that “mistake” is not even an option, especially now that we have a child. I know that my husband is a good person who wants to make me happy and that we still have a lot of work to do as a couple to figure out how to make this marriage work for both of us. Thankfully he has seen how upset I have been lately and he is willing to try out different ways to make small changes, which I’m hoping will have a big effect overall.

        • Just me

          I am sure that you will find a way how to live your lives happily together. It just need a lot of communicationn, patient and time. We also have a precious four year old son and it is beautiful purpose for our marriage. There are no mistakes. Just oppurtunities to personal growth and possibilities of learning what real love is all about. I send you virtal hug!!

  • Alicia

    I find that guilt and regret are my two ugliest feelings when in the depths of anxiety. For years now, most mornings as soon as I wake up, the first feeling that comes to me is one of unnamed guilt. It just hits me in the gut for seemingly no reason whatsoever which causes me to do a quick mental review of the previous day to make sure I didn’t do anything to hurt anyone or embarrass myself. For the longest time it would grip my heart and set such a bad tone to my day. After going through the relationship anxiety e-course I have learned to respond to that feeling lovingly though, which usually involves me reminding myself (or my inner child) that I am a good person and that I am loved and have no reason to feel so bad about things I’ve done in the past. As Sheryl mentions in the post, like many people, my main source of guilt comes from leaving my last relationship, after years of suffering through emotional pain, lies, cheating, etc. Although that decision resulted in a considerable amount of grief (which I’m still dealing with today, but every day gets better), it was not a decision made in haste, and it was also not met with much resistance from my ex (which I think also introduces some level of rejection pain as well). I think it’s so important to respect our past selves too, and believe that we did all we could at that time, and with good intent. I just find it so crazy that my inner critic is there waiting for the moment I open my eyes to start berating me. At least from now on my loving adult will be there to defend me.

    • That critic can be a real bully laying in wait from the minute you open your eyes, but it sounds like your loving adult is right there at the helm, ready to defend and protect. This is exactly how you begin to re-wire the old and painful pattern and lay the tracks for new neural pathways to take hold.

  • Joanna

    Hi Sheryl,
    My current therapist is concerned that if I don’t turn my thoughts around from focusing on the relationship that eventually it could lead to not loving the person anymore. It could also make my partner want to leave if they keep sensing the pullback and resistance from me. Have you ever had a situation where the a client has just done too many years of doubting and questioning that it truly ruins it? Have you ever had someone who has beat the dead horse too much?

    • You’ve been exposed to my work for a long time. What is preventing you from taking full responsibility for your wellness and instead continuing to blame your choice of partner for your unrest?

      • Joanna

        Hi Sheryl,
        I am not sure what’s holding me back. From what I have learned through you and my current therapist is a lack of wanting to grow up. I was very coddled growing up and now the real world seems scary and I feel vulnerable. My inner well of self was very depleted and I continue to want to go to family and friends for reassurance and advice and that inhibits me from growing my own sense of self. Issue is that the resistance and lack of feelings for my partner is always where my mind goes so I can’t see that it’s me and my own vulnerabilities.

    • Just me

      Joanna, I know that is so hard with doubts, ambivalence and resistance, but it is possible when you finally get to that point, when you realize that it is not your partner’s or relationship’s job to make you feel certain way (happy, joyful, alive etc.). I personally resisted for years (over 7 years) my personal responsibility of my own wellness. I was completely convinced that my husband was holding me back. I kept dreamind almost every night about divorcing and coming back to my ex, and I too my ambivalence and dreams as a sign that I was in wrong relationship. When I started to learn, not to take everything as a face value and started to turn inwards, instead of blaming our relationship about my depression and lack of aliveness, everything started to shift
      I still feel sometimes that I want to feel more passion and desire for my husband, but I am learning that loving actions help me to feel good about myself and about our relationship. Many many hugs!!

      • Joanna

        Just me: thank you for your comment. Gives me hope that I have not sabotaged anything. Would you ever be willing to talk via phone or email

        • Just me

          Joanna, I would like to share thoughts via email. Send me pm via forum. My nickname is marriedwoman. My english is not so good, that I would dare to speak on the phone or skype 😉 I looke forward to hearing from you.

  • Scared

    Hi Sheryl,
    I’ve been reading your blog posts for two years now and they help tremendously. You’re my only source of hope when I face my relationship anxiety. I go through periods of time when I’m content and happy and I don’t question my relationship but every now and then it pops up and it happens when everything is fine between us. He is perfect and loves me unconditionally (sometimes I can’t figure out why he loves me the way he does because I’m nothing special) and there is nothing we wouldn’t do for one another. I’m 20 and he’s 21 and we’ve been together since we were 18 so I get the culture acquainted idea stuck in my head that maybe we are too young and the statistics aren’t very high for couples like us (that have been together since we were young) to end up/stay together. When I start questioning things such as that or “what if we weren’t meant to be together” and the list of questions in my head go on as you can imagine and it causes me a great deal of anxiety. I don’t know what to do to get over this hump again. I don’t want to be with anyone but him. Why does this keep happening to me? Is it a sign? and I think thats what scares me the most that this could all be a sign and then Id have to leave him and I don’t want to do that. I’ve been stressed about a lot of other things in my life and Im wondering it maybe I just pin it on my relationship because its the only thing thats stable in my life and I don’t want to lose it. What is your take on this?

    • There’s no reason why you need to leave a loving, stable relationship. Yes, when we’re stressed about other things we tend to take it out on our relationship. It’s one aspect of a powerful psychological phenomena called projection, which is the tendency to project onto others what we don’t want to own within ourselves. The work, then, is to turn the microscope off your partner and place the mirror on yourself.

  • Leah77

    Hi Sheryl,
    I just wanted to thank you for this very reassuring post. For me, feeling beneath the story lines of regret is about touching in on the pain of having been so unloving and controlling towards myself for so many years. Not in a judgemental way, but in a deeply forgiving way. I could sometimes drown in those tears. When I arrive at this place, I often hear just 3 very simple words in my head which crack me open every time…”I am sorry”….because I am. I am so sorry for having not loved myself for so long. But it’s okay. I am learning new ways.
    Thank you so much for your guidance Sheryl. Lots of love, Zoe xxx

  • Fearful

    Hi Sheryl,

    The guilt I am experiencing is less to do about an action that I took and more about my thoughts. I am starting again to feel all the love in my heart for my partner. But a part of me doesn’t let me enjoy. It tells me I’m a bad person for thinking all those doubts previously and that I am not worthy of his love.

    Is there anyway I can let go of this kind of thinking?


    • I know you’re new to this work and I want to encourage you to have patience with it. Yes, you can let go of these thoughts, but it’s more about tending to your underlying feelings and addressing the root cause which is your lack of self-love. See Zoe’s comment for a window into what this looks like.

  • Peace

    Since the begining of my relationship I have been dealing with doubts. I had a very calm period where I didn’t payed attention to bad thougths (they were there but weren’t so important to me). However since a year ago this turned very hard to deal. I had so many things happening in my life, so many changes and so many stress I started questioning everything and anxiety begun.
    But I don’t know if it is just anxiety. Everytime a man is suportive and kind to me, I feel attracted to him and start thinking if he could be a possible partner, how cool he is and about the changes good/bad it would have in my life. Then I get obssessed thinking if I really love my partner if I should keep this relationship, because he obviously deserves someone who loves him like he loves me.
    I also see me like a sensitve person and I truly identify with your messages. I don’t know if the best option for me is one of your courses/programs if psicotherapy with a therapist alone once I can’t pay both. I’m tired, sad… I just want this to be over because I need peace in my heart.
    Thank you for reading

  • hayley

    Do you have any understanding of the fantasy bond?

    • Hayley

      to elaborate, I feel like I have too much, somewhat not really intimate sex? and not enough connecting. He is the most beautiful person I’ve met in my life and I would love to have him as a life partner. I really do want to connect with him but I cant seem to let myself. It’s very painful, I wish I could just let go and open my heart to him.

      • Just me

        Hayley, be patient with yourself. It takes time. Do loving actiond for yourself at first and for your loving partner. Everything is going to be just fine!

  • becominglove

    Dear Sheryl, thank you for sharing these words and truths. Two years ago I joined the Conscious Transitions community and used the ecourse to get through relationship anxiety and am now in a fully fledged beautiful, amazing, loving relationship. This post is timely because I am now feeling the grief and fear again as I will soon return to Australia to be with my partner, after being in the UK with my family for 6 months. Over these two years Conscious Transitions has become a staple of my personal philosophy and life skills. And yet nothing can shield me from the inevitable grief of this rite of passage of ‘leaving home’. What I love and appreciate about this post is that it reminds me to just flow with this grief, to allow it to draw my attention to little trinkets around the house that show me my family member’s souls, and to allow the incredible depth of my love for them to also express itself as this grief and sadness. There is doubt as well and thank goodness for the CT mantra ‘doubt does not mean don’t’. Because of your work Sheryl, I can and do ask myself, am I willing to walk away from my partner because of this grief, and find the answer is No. So I must continue with the ache. I send blessings of love, courage and strength to all beings everywhere because the human heart is so tender and that is why I have absolutely relied upon your work to get through this journey. Thank you xxxxxxx

    • It’s clear that you’ve embodied this work at the deepest levels, allowing you to move through this transition with grace, consciousness, and yes, a waterfall of grief. Indeed, we cannot escape the grief of being human, of moving and leaving, of changing and growing, of saying goodbye to people and places we love, but when we stop trying to escape everything changes, as you’re seeing. Sending love. xo

  • Zoe

    Hi Sheryl Could you please help! I am on your relationship anxiety course (haven’t been on it for well over a year) however i am really styruggling. This time it is that i have become infatuated with someone else at work. We have both admitted to having these feelings but haven’t acted upon them. He is married and has a wife

  • Zoe

    Sorry to continue. I just don’t feel like i can marry my partner i just feel a mass amount of guilt. He sees me as his only one and i know i could be with a variety of people. I don’t want to be like this but so many people have been saying you only live once you have to make the most of it. And i feel like i want more sexual experience. I am a mess at the moment. Please help

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