Regrets can work away inside you like a worm in the heart. They are poisonous and give rise to festering resentment and bitterness. But they are common and we all have regrets. So what’s the remedy and how can you avoid them?
I think regret can be a really positive emotion because it shows that you actually care. But like many positive emotions, when ignored or repressed they become toxic and can be quite destructive.
It seems that you can have regrets for the things you have done, as well as for the things that you have not done. The most potent regrets are those concerning love, maybe because we have such high expectations of our love lives. Not surprisingly then, regret is the most commonly identified emotion after love.
The Message in Regret
The message is simple. It is that you haven’t acted as you should have. Even where regret arises through association it still requires the same response. For instance, this could be the actions of your family, peer group or even your government in other countries. It still requires you to stand up, at the very least, and be counted, either by saying something or taking some action.
The Remedy for Regret
The fear I have of regrets is being left with them, unable to remedy them. Most regrets have a window of opportunity when you can do something and the feeling goes. This has been a strong motivator for me … to go and make up after I’ve fallen out with people, to apologise to old girlfriends for not finishing well, to retrace my footsteps and give money or help people I’ve passed by. I have come to value the untroubled sleep that a conscience clear of regret brings.
The emotion that accuses you when your conscience is troubled is the same as regret. It is the voice that speaks from the darkness of our shame when we have violated our own boundaries or values. It is reminding us that we are not being true to ourselves. It may be in incidents in which we did or did not do anything. It can also be through activities or statements in which we are implicated by association.
The only remedy is to hear the message and act on it – stand up and be counted … be true to yourself. All these emotions aim at the same target. They are all moving us to lead lives of integrity, in line with our values and in defense of our boundaries. Our greatest enemy is fear. We count the cost of what others will think, of being exposed and not being understood.
How to Live Free of Regret
The first step is simple … be honest. Owning your regret is being honest … and then telling someone about it is liberating. It is a step in being truthful to yourself and open to another.
Being honest also puts your regrets into perspective. It calls them to account … are they genuine regrets or just fantastical ones that evaporate with the telling? Are they realistic or impossible? Are they genuinely yours, aligned with your values, or have they been projected onto you by others?
The second step is to be determined to be more attentive as well as more obedient to that voice. This means being more aware in the moment so that you can hear the slightest whisper of a rising regret. It means moving towards a life of spontaneity and away from a risk-assessed premeditation of everything. It means learning to balance mind and gut and become equally attuned to the sound of both sources of wisdom.
Here’s a simple test to show how attuned you are. Ask yourself honestly … if you eat what is good for you. See what the voice of your inner wisdom replies. Now that you’ve heard it what are you going to do? Obedience nips regret in the bud and will earn you respect – self-respect to start with and then the respect of others too … and you’ll sleep better too.
There is much regret associated with our sexuality … many things we wished we hadn’t done or opportunities we regret having missed. This seems to be a time when sexual regrets are being aired publicly through social media. It is a window of opportunity to clear the air that we breathe individually and together as a society. If you feel this is your time you can do this by taking the steps I have outlined above. If you ask the question of yourself with absolute honesty you will hear the answer that you need to act on.
For those for whom it is too big a question to ask alone or you need a listening ear and help to guide you through that process then call me on 07933 709169 or contact me here.