Interviews with people on their deathbeds regarding regrets not surprisingly show that people wish they’d let themselves live as their full, true selves. They wish they’d been less what people expected of them and more who they really wanted to be. They wish they hadn’t worked so hard, expressed their feelings more, kept in touch with friends, and had let themselves be happier.
Presumably, this means that at the end of their lives they realized they had more choices than they thought they had. They realized they’d chosen to act the way they thought they were supposed to act, and regretted not being who they truly wanted to be.
We can use this as guidance and inspiration to live our lives with the maximum happiness we can achieve. Adding happiness doesn’t necessarily prevent or cure depression, but some depression is affected by how much happiness we create and allow in our lives.
Why wouldn’t people allow happiness into their lives, you wonder? It seems counterintuitive. If people can have happiness, why wouldn’t anyone embrace it? I can imagine people blocking opportunities to be happy for various reasons, such as:
- They don’t think they deserve it.
- No one in their family of origin was happy, so they don’t recognize it or feel comfortable with it—they may even be suspicious or afraid of it.
- They think being happy makes them a target for people who would envy them, so they don’t feel safe being happy.
- They are afraid that if they’re happy, it’ll be more shocking when something bad happens because they’ll have more to lose, so they protect themselves from a big fall by not feeling too good.
- They’ve always been unhappy and they wouldn’t know who they are if they were happy.
- They think they are too smart, cynical, and analytical to be happy—that only stupid people are happy.
There may be many reasons we don’t do or be what we really want, and it’s useful to look at what might be getting in the way. Let’s see if we can tease out what we are holding ourselves back from; the reasons why may appear in the process.
Think about how you would view your life if you knew you were dying soon. What would you regret right now? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
- Not doing something creative more—playing music, making art, performing, etc.
- Not getting out of a relationship.
- Not getting into a relationship.
- Not having kids.
- Having kids, and not doing other things with the time, money, and responsibility.
- Not telling people how you really feel about them.
- Not standing up for yourself.
- Not finding a new job/career.
- Not loving more.
- Not telling the truth more.
- Not traveling more.
- Not giving more.
- Not facing your fears more.
- Not getting past an addiction.
- Not playing more.
- Not taking more time off from work.
- Not enjoying your body more.
- Not accepting yourself.
- Not forgiving.
- Not taking a risk.
What is it for you? How could you be happier? What could you do differently? What do you long to do? Who do you long to be? What do you long to change? What will you regret not doing? What one thing do you want to change so you don’t have regrets on your deathbed?
It’s time to come out as you!
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Cynthia W. Lubow, MS, MFT, therapist in El Cerrito, California
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