Some very wise man said, “Regret is insight that comes a day too late.” That wise man could also have added that regret is probably the most useless emotion under the face of the Earth. It is disempowering and serves no good purpose.
We made a bad choice, we did something that brought us grief and we feel regrets. That’s fine if it only lasts a few moments and then we chuck it up to experience but what purpose could it serve to drag it for weeks, months or even years?
Life is about choices. We are today were we are mostly due to the choices that we made in the past. Some of those choices were good and others could have been much better and that is a fact. But it’s also a fact that when we made those questionable choices, they seemed to be the best option at the time.
In retrospect and with the additional information that came later, we realize that we made the wrong choice but that’s all knowledge after the facts and not something that was predicable then. So, we did what we did or said what we said because we thought that it was the best option at the time.
What regrets all boils down to is an immature and futile attempt to turn back the clock and redo the past. Irrational as it may be, there is this belief that says if we regret something strongly enough the episode will simply go a way as if it never existed in the first place.
It’s a process that we used as toddlers where if we made enough of a scene someone would finally give us what we wanted. It may have worked then but the chances that it will work in adult life are extremely slim if not completely nonexistent. What is done is done and we must learn to cope and live with it.
The expression of regret is also used as a bartering tool to buy forgiveness. In popular culture, retribution is expected for what is perceived as wrongdoing. There is this feeling that if someone hurts us and suffers because of it; somehow it will make us feel better.
That is one way that the expression of regret, if it appears sincere, might work to our advantage. It’s a simple and convenient way to buy peace and in some cases, restoring a relationship. The process is not much more than game playing but if it works, it’s worth the effort.
The main problem with regrets is when it causes unnecessary self-pain and aggravation. That is seen in cases where the sentiments of regrets are allowed to be active for prolonged periods of time. As previously said, regrets serve no practical purpose and should be eliminated as soon as possible.
The belief that regret will somehow undo a past event is totally irrational and unfounded. The past is done and it’s gone; even the gods themselves could not change it so the only logical and sensible thing to do it to learn to live with it and stop beating ourselves up over it.
We were not born with the emotion of regret. That is something that was learned when we were still quite young. At the time, we found that if we expressed regret and remorse for something bad that we had done, the power that be would forgive us and the episode would soon be forgotten.
As mature individual we need to understand that short-term regrets may be unavoidable but if allowed to persist for prolonged periods of time, the process is absolutely useless. We must try to correct our mistakes but entertaining needless regrets or remorse is simply not the way that it can be done.
Dr. Raymond Comeau aka Shamou is the Owner Administrator of the Personal Development for Personal Success Forums.
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