This column is part two in a series that examines the regrets people had at the end of their lives. The hope is that we can learn from their regrets and make the needed changes.
3) I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
Life is a balancing act. For example, we have to balance our time and energy between work and family. When our life is out of balance, something is going to suffer. The art of living is being able to know and choose what is the best use of our time at the right time.
4) I wish I'd had courage to express my feelings.
While it is true that many of us are not in touch with our feelings, it is also true that many of us do not share what we really feel or think because we are afraid of the consequences. Too often we stuff our feelings to keep the peace, but we know the result is not peace but distance and resentment.
This regret involves more than just expressing feelings. It seems to be more about expressing what we want or need. Some of us fail to let others know what we need.
What stops some of us from expressing our needs? Perhaps we do not want to be seen as needy. There is a big difference between being needy and having needs. Needy, for me, is someone who, no matter how much another person does for him or her, never has enough. It is like pouring water into a bucket with holes in the bottom. Another part is that some of us do not share our needs because we expect others to know what they are. Since people cannot read our mind, we need to express our needs.
5) I wish I'd let myself be happier.
This regret is a common one. Many do not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. Some of us worry too much about what people think so we don't let our playful side out. Where does that inhibition come from? I read that children receive 460 negative or critical comments and only receive 75 positive ones every day. Steve Kissell, a local comedian, shared a disturbing statistic: children laugh over 350 times a day while adults only laugh 15. Maybe the amount of critical remarks finally stifles us. We are afraid that if we have fun someone will criticize us by saying, "Act your age," or, "Can't you ever be serious?"
It is important for relationships and individuals to play and let the child out. If others criticize us, let it be just their "opinion" and not a judgment about us. Perhaps, it is more a judgment about them!
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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