While making the wrong decision can have a massive impact on your life it is important to learn to see past it says DESPINA NICOLA

A crucial decision can cause years of sleepless nights and days of torment, but which can be overcome. Let’s use the story of Harry, who lived in a state of trauma because of his decision to sign a contract that led him to financial ruin, to illustrate this point. This is his story.

His mother, a single parent, struggled to bring him up. She worked two jobs, raising Harry and his sister the best she could. They all lived in a leaky home and by the end of the month they were often penniless.

Fed up, Harry pursued a better life. He managed to secure tertiary education place, believing this could free him from poverty. Although relatives had abandoned his family, these desperate circumstances led him to beg at his uncle’s door for financial support for his studies.

Despite being neglected for years, Harry saw the uncle as a father figure. He was promised financial support for his education. However, very little was actually provided. Setting off with little money, Harry was determined to succeed. As well as excelling at university, he took on a part time job. After graduating, he managed to find a well-paid job and meet the love of his life. Things were looking up.

Back home, Harry’s mother was miserable. She pleaded for Harry to return home but without the woman he had fallen in love with. Feeling obliged to support his family, Harry gave up everything he cherished and returned home. There, he had no job and no money and was forced into the leaky home again. Desperate for financial aid, he returned to the uncle for support. The uncle agreed to fund his needs on condition that he signed a contract at the bank.

Unwittingly, he was to became the uncle’s guarantor to the sum of €500,000. Still, he naively exchanged his signature at the bank for a low paying job at the uncle’s office. It transpired his uncle had no intention to pay back the loan. This had devastating consequences for Harry. And the nail in the coffin was that his mother sided with her brother to not support Harry further.

This one decision left Harry in pieces. He regretted going down this road. Such life-changing decisions can lead us towards melancholy. Have you ever asked yourself, ‘What have I got myself into?’ It could be settling for a dysfunctional relationship, working in an intimidating environment or being put in a position to forego time with loved ones?

“Learning how to deal with regret is about having to step back and realise that you did what you did with the information you had at that time,” says trauma therapist Shannon Thomas. Harry took the resources he had, eventually moving from ‘What if’ to constructively work with ‘What is’ and to rise from the trauma. Here is the six-stage process Harry went through:

  1. Harry begins by naming the negative emotions. Pain arises and he still spends time feeling it. Pain can kickstart an awareness which helps with problem solving. The more pain you feel the more chances you have of the message getting through to the problem-solving part of your brain, which serves to take you out of shame and regret and to develop a single-minded approach. Harry’s subsequent crucial decision arising from this is to cut ties with his toxic family and replace them with dependable friends. He then goes on to seek job opportunities.
  2. Harry begins to see that his clouds have silver linings. He modifies his behaviour and shows gratitude for his blessings, such as meeting new friends and finding a high paid job. He is grateful for the tools at his disposal and for the support of friends. These help kickstart the action steps to help him start his own part time architectural business. In a relatively short period of time, he doubles his salary.
  3. Harry shuts down the negative chatter and is good to himself. Harry chooses to see shame and blame as a thing of his past. He now focuses on his goals and on positive relationships. Harry has been crushed but has survived the hardships.
  4. Harry makes amends by re-visiting the people he hurt and asking for forgiveness. He writes a long e-mail to his now ex-girlfriend and apologises for ending their relationship. In this way, he gets closure.
  5. Harry’s perceptions change with the season. In autumn, he loses what he has, in bitter cold winters he reflects, in spring ventures and builds, and in summer he enjoys the fruits of his labour. Every season gives Harry a new perception of life. He is no longer stuck in autumn. He learns to accept that no feeling is final and sees the gift every season offers.
  6. Harry seeks people with experiences similar to his. Others can offer ideas or tools to alter his perspective. The enemy in his head has lost the battle. He has a tribe to support him now.

Harry has begun to realise that his life’s purpose is to be a mentor, showing others how to rise out of hardship and despair. He has truly risen.