A Powerful Technique That Can Help Heal the Pain of Regret

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” ~Rick Warren

Regret—whether for things that you have done or things that you had no control over—can keep you frozen in the past, unable to move forward. Sadly, there are no magic wands that can turn back the hands of time and change what has happened, but despite this I believe we’re not entirely powerless to affect the past, after all.

I first began thinking of this subject when my daughter was young and having serious ongoing problems with fear. She wasn’t able to go to school or to be separated from me for any length of time at all.

I really could sympathize with her. As an adoptee from Korea, I knew that she had been relinquished by her mother at birth, placed in an orphanage, then with a foster mother, and ultimately taken from that woman to make the long journey to America and her “forever” family—but not without a whole lot of emotional baggage onboard.

I wished with all my heart that I could have been with her through those first months so that she would have known that she was safe and loved. I was sure that was the root of her troubles now, but no amount of safety in the present seemed to make up for the lack of it in her past. It seemed there was nothing I could do about her rocky start in life. Or was there?

Being a meditator, and someone who is comfortable with visualizations, one day I had the brilliant idea to try simply “re-writing” her past.

I visualized myself in the birthing room with Lia, taking her tiny body into my arms and telling her how much I loved her, that she was safe, and that I was waiting for her. I also whispered in her birth mother’s ear that I would take good care of her daughter, and that everything was going to be all right.

The visualization felt wonderful, and I repeated it many times, going on to visualize myself at my daughter’s side through all of the other changes she went through in those scary first months of her life.

Whether or not I was actually impacting my daughter, I certainly found these visualizations helpful to me! I felt I was somehow able to make up for what she had missed out on and, over time, I really think it did help Lia to overcome her fear (although I’d never be able to prove it).

Perhaps it was only because my energy had changed, which affected her in turn. At any rate, she gradually seemed to relax and gain the confidence that had eluded us through so many years and so many other attempts to help her feel safe.

Since then, I’ve used my “time travel” meditation in many other circumstances. For instance, I think every parent has had lapses of control that we deeply regret in hindsight. I vividly remember once losing my temper with Lia as a toddler, for breaking an item that was precious to me. As she grew older and seemed so intent on always being perfect, I wondered sadly how much I had contributed to her fear of “messing up.”

So again, I went back to that remembered situation in a visualization. Obviously, I couldn’t change the fact that I had yelled at her, but I visualized surrounding her in love and whispering that everything was okay—she hadn’t done anything wrong.

In my imagination, we watched my earlier self yelling, and I told her, “She’s just tired, poor thing. She’s not really mad at you, she’s mad at herself. Let’s just send her some love.” And we did.

As before, I have no idea whether my visualization actually had an impact on Lia’s perfectionism (I hope it did), but it certainly helped me feel more compassion and less shame regarding my past actions.

On yet another occasion, I mentally placed a retroactive bubble of love and protection around Lia when she was facing a scary situation that I hadn’t known about at the time. There are literally endless scenarios for tweaking things in the past, so don’t go too crazy with this! Save it for the situations that really weigh on your heart.

These techniques work equally well even if you aren’t a parent. You can mentally send the adult version of yourself back into your childhood to provide love and support to your earlier self.

Children are especially vulnerable, since they have so little understanding of the true context of what is happening. We all remember times when we felt alone and frightened—how wonderful to take that scared child in your arms and let her know it will all be okay, that she isn’t truly alone.

Although it’s tempting to imagine different outcomes for those painful times, I try to always stay true to what actually happened and simply provide whatever energetic support seems best. For better or worse, we are the product of these experiences; they are a part of who we are. But it may be possible to heal some of the wounds they left behind, even many years down the road.

Does it really work? We know so little about time, but quantum physics gives us some understanding of how slippery a concept it is. At the very minimum, these techniques bring present comfort and a sense of being able to help what previously seemed beyond help.

The feeling of powerlessness to change the past is one of the most corrosive aspects of regret. Even if it is only “imaginary,” the sense of efficacy we get from taking some retroactive action is priceless.

For very traumatic situations, especially ones that you have not already explored in therapy, I would definitely recommend first trying these techniques with a therapist. However, most of us have a long list of more garden-variety regrets we could safely use “time travel” meditation to address.

To begin, simply relax and breathe deeply, gently allowing the situation to come into your awareness. Let your intuition be the guide, and use any words, color, light or other visualizations that occur to you. (As a general rule, you can never go wrong by simply blanketing the experience with love and compassion.)

Don’t force yourself to feel forgiveness if that isn’t what you feel—if there is some antagonist involved, you can safely just ignore them and concentrate on providing comfort to the one who needs it. Remember that you are the “wise adult” in this scene, there to provide perspective and support, not justice or retribution.

Continue to breathe deeply and notice whatever emotions come up. Close the meditation when it feels complete, and return as often as you like! Sometimes once will be enough; sometimes (as with Lia’s birth) it will take many sessions to feel complete. Again, let your intuition be your guide.

Be respectful if you use the technique on other people or situations that you didn’t personally experience. I felt close enough to Lia to insert myself into that scene, but I would hesitate to do so in most other situations. I also shared with her what I was doing and, even though she was still fairly young at the time, I think she loved the idea that her mommy was there, at least in spirit, at her birth.

Although it’s true that “what’s passed is past,” it may be possible that we don’t need to leave it at that. I believe we can send our love and our energy through time and, in the process, perhaps heal ourselves of painful regret.

About Amaya Pryce

Amaya Pryce is a spiritual coach and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her newest book, How to Grow Your Soulis available on Amazon. For coaching or to follow her blog, please visit

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  • Vanaja

    I totally get what you are saying.Thank you for writing this article.

  • Amaya

    Thank you for taking time to leave a comment – I really appreciate it! This meditation has been a lifesaver for me, in my personal life and as a parent. I hope it will help you as well!

    Warmly, Amaya

  • Elena

    Thank you for this wonderful idea. I have been struggling for a long time with regret — even shame — for past actions that I cannot seem to move beyond. I think your meditation could provide some relief and the beginning of self forgiveness.

  • beachmama

    I like to remember that our thoughts precede our feelings . . . change our thoughts, change our feelings/emotions about the circumstance.

    I love the visualization you did about the birthing of your daughter . . . I think it would be a helpful thing to do ‘with her’ in addition to doing it alone. I have gone through trauma and have come out the other side a healthy individual because of how I’ve chosen to ‘reframe’ my experience. I’ve also done this with my son (who is now an adult). I never lied or ‘polyanized’ a circumstance with my son nor did I attempt to manipulate in his mind what actually may have happened to him, but I have always given him words and actions of empowerment. Often times that was through visualization and when he was little and felt powerless, ‘acting out’ the ideal circumstance where he felt powerful was something we often did together. He’s grown into a grounded, loving human being which given his experience, is a miracle . . .

  • Amaya

    Yes, this is exactly what I was getting at, too: changing the effects of the circumstances, since I couldn’t change the circumstances themselves. Thank you for writing of your own experience with this!

  • Amaya

    I do hope that this helps you as it did me. Regret and shame keep you mired in the past – showering those “mistakes” with love and compassion can be so freeing. I wish you the very best. Love heals everything.

  • Shanker

    Hi Amaya,
    I like your approach to your own method. You were very honest on the effect your method by saying ‘whether it was effective on her or not, it was effective on me’. Generally, people declare success in such methods without any valid and repeated evidence for their claim. Thanks!

    I also regret my past but I’m not sure whether I’ll forgive myself for it. I’m also not sure how I could have handled them in any other way. Yes, I’m confused about them!

  • Amaya

    I love that you, too, are very honest about your feelings regarding your past. Even if you don’t feel ready to forgive, it might help to simply hold the situation in your meditation with love and compassion for yourself as you were at the time. As you say, you were doing the best that you knew. I firmly believe that we all do the best that we can, even when our minds say that it wasn’t good enough. Good luck with this, and I truly hope that you are able to find some healing. Please contact me on my website if I can help – I offer a complimentary coaching session there.
    Warmly, Amaya

  • andreamirch7

    Dear Amaya,
    I have been struggling with regret about not making one life dicision for a long time. I am very big believer of visualisation, and I tried your meditation, and whoa! I “rewrote” the past, and lived life as though I made that decision, and what I felt this time was that I didn’t view everything I imagined like a missed chance, but like it had actually happened and I lived it(and I’m sure I did in some parallel universe, since I also believe in mutidimensionality of time). The relief I felt after the meditation was surreal, and I found t appreciate the present so much, without the feeling of regret.
    This is a proof that we shouldn’t lose hope about solving a situation, a solution may come at any moment! I
    A thousand times thank you!

  • Amaya

    Dear Andrea – I am so happy to hear about your experience with the meditation!! Thank you for letting me know. I agree that it is never too late, and since all times are NOW, we have so much power in the present moment to heal ourselves (and consequently to heal our relationships as well). It is wonderful that you were able to let go of the regret and feel gratitude for where you are right now. Congratulations!
    Warmly, Amaya

  • Jana

    Hi Amaya thanks for sharing love this. I will use this technique. I have a question though what if there is a past regret that I don’t wish to revisit but has caused a lot of anguish in life today? Thank you

  • Amaya

    Jana, if you are feeling anguish over this event, you are revisiting it frequently anyway! I would suggest that you ground yourself very carefully through any kind of soothing meditation before consciously “going back.” Take all your spiritual resources with you (whether you call it God, Spirit, angels, love – whatever helps you to feel safe). Surround yourself in a beautiful bubble of love, and then simply hold the intention of healing. Your Higher Self will take it from there! You will know when you’re free because the situation or memory will no longer cause you anguish.
    Good luck and please contact me through my website if you’s like help with this!

  • Nirvikar Shakya

    How can I forget the past .

  • Joseph Guerra

    Hello Amaya I have been depressed for many years but didn’t really know it as I was always acting out to cover for the depression My question revolves around How do you move on to the future when everybody keeps talking about the past and how wonderfull they are, I don’t like being someone who is always just talking about himself but since these people probably figure I’m depressed they would rather not call, must come across in ,my voice

  • Emma Pearson

    Live in the PRESENT Joseph. It’s a GIFT. I have struggled with depression for years too. Be MINDFUL of sweeping statements like “everybody….” Try and mix with people who live in the PRESENT not the PAST. Try to be GRATEFUL for what you have that is good no matter how small. If you deal with the present then you will have a past worth talking about and the future will sort itself out. Its not as easy as it sounds though honey. You must practice making wise, positive choices, every second of your life. Be kind. Find something you enjoy and then find others who share your passion. Remember to be realistic and not too ambitious because if this doesn’t work out….it will be easier to deal with.