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A while back, as I was planning the posts for the Ashwood Therapy social media accounts, I was looking at quotations found online which either spoke to me or reminded me of some of the insights clients and I have come to during therapeutic work.  One which stuck out a little more than some others was this one:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now”

I was struck by the wisdom of this old Chinese proverb, and could see that the call to action in it is as relevant today as it was many years ago when first coined.  I think that to regret not taking action in the past is only natural, and perhaps there are times in all our lives when we wish we had followed one route or another but didn’t.  I guess the important thing is what we take away from that.

Sometimes clients arrive in therapy laden down with regret over not effecting change that would have been better made 20 – or more – years ago.  It can be the case that talking through why they didn’t take that particular path has a beneficial, therapeutic effect, and certainly, it may have been that other people or circumstances prevented them from carrying out the action that they wish they’d have been able to take.  Sometimes, there is a temptation to keep looking back at what could have been: “if only…”  Regret, once voiced, can lead to us re-examining our response to our current situation.  It can also, if we are not careful however trap us into thinking that opportunities only existed yesterday, and that there are none available for us today.

With gentle challenging in a trusting relationship, the role of the therapist can be to sensitively point out that while that particular course of action may not be one that is available any more, there are still choices to be made, which in time can either be looked upon favourably with satisfaction, or with the same, heavy heart as before.

It has been my experience that change can be more about the journey than the destination, and so even if the client doesn’t get to see that sapling become a mighty and towering tree, knowing that they have at last planted something that will one day blossom can be comforting indeed.

Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com


Regret | Ashwood Therapy Blog