Coping with Regret

This thread, while very amusing in parts, makes me sad. My post in that thread is something that breaks my heart every single day, and is the biggest regret of my life.

How do you guys feel about the major mistakes of your past? Are you more in the “I’ll-bitterly-regret-it-until-the-day-I-die” camp? Or do you feel like other stuff, stuff you are happy about, wouldn’t have fallen into place had you not made the mistakes you made? Or that you’re a better person because of it? That what you learned from it made something even better possible? I know most people here aren’t much into the belief that things are “meant to be”, or the concept of suffering making one a better person, which both seem like they could be effective coping mechanisms, so how do you get over the sadness or regret of those “I wish so bad I had/hadn’t …” moments?

Despite being one of the most sunnily optimistic, ridiculously cheerful, annoyingly positive people I know, I fall firmly in the bitter regret category.

How about you? How do you handle the consequences of your mistakes?

I generally try not to think about times that I’ve screwed up. This is easy with stupid little things I’ve done (why did I say that?) I do sometimes wonder how my life would have been different for more significant turning points; not just decisions I’ve made, but also things like “What if the Air Force hadn’t rejected me when I tried to enlist while I was in college?”

But there are decisions I’ve made that occasionally haunt me. One fairly recent mistake pops up in my thoughts a lot, and I have to consciously tell myself that dwelling on it won’t accomplish anything, and I’m just going to have to live with the consequences. I’m hoping that with time I’ll stop beating myself up over it.

I mostly think that if I had done things differently, I’d have wound up with a different set of good things and bad things in my life. And I’d only regret not having the good things I have now. So I’d probably wind up with regrets either way. So it’s not worth worrying about. Too much.

There isn’t much point of fretting over something you can’t change. You can’t change the past, only learn from it. It sounds cliche but sometimes it really is the hardest thing to forgive one’s self.

I try to learn from my regrets and change for the better. When I feel pain over a regret, I ask myself if I am doing better, and console myself if I think I am. But I don’t manage to push all the pain away, and don’t know if it’s possible or wise.

About the bad things that happened to me but were not my choices, including things that happened because of a choice that was arbitrary (eg take one road instead of another and then get into a completely unpredictable accident) - these things I feel sad about, but wouldn’t use the word “regret” for them, imagining that “regret” implies sadness over some intention.

I should add, I try to have some realistic view of how well I could have done considering my own past, and cut myself some slack on this basis.

I have done a lot of that, beating myself up over long-past mistakes. I’m working on being more accepting of myself. I’m doing better, but sometimes, some casually mentioned thing will lead down that well-worn path of regret and sorrow. I try to remember it’s not reasonable to punish myself for so long over the mistake. Also, it wasn’t even that big a deal at the time. If you had gone on trial for that event, how long a sentence would you have gotten? You have done your time, friend.

And now, a nearly wise saying. :rolleyes: There’s a good reason your windshield is so much larger than your rear-view mirror.

I move on and try to learn from the experience. There are things I’ve regretted doing, but nothing major, and I don’t see any point in dwelling on them.

As far as bitter regret goes, I reserve that for bad financial decisions.

Some of the other things I mentioned in that thread were more about things I could never see coming, so it wasn’t a decision, per se.

I left out one piece of advice on my list, which was not to get engaged to someone I was miserable with and move to North Carolina. Because of the long string of circumstances after that relationship ended, I met my husband and have a beautiful little girl with him. If I had never been involved with the other guy, I never would have moved to this area of NYS and would never have met him.

Besides, some mistakes are learning experiences and make us who we are.

God that last part sounded so trite, didn’t it? You get the point, though.

I’m perfectly capable of regretting something bitterly and of learning from it.

The two greatest regrets of my live I do regret bitterly, but… only the first one was conscious. I came to the sticking point and lost my courage and fell back, and knew it, and never claimed the reward, and my life (and hers) moved in a different direction.

Now, the first regret was the kind of chance that does not come to someone often, and I tried to understand what happened, and how I could make myself better so that it would not happen again.

The second regret was of similar kind, but I did not know I had the chance until long afterwards. There was nothing I could have done at the time, given what I knew, but I still regret it. I tried to contect her later, but there was no response.

So there was nothing to do but continue to learn, continue to try to make myself better, and hope that such a chance comes round again.

The only thing I “regret” in life is anything I might have done to hurt someone else. The rest I just shrug off as lessons learned, and try to take into account that every decision I’ve made, good or bad, has gone into making me the person I am today and giving me the life I have today.

The biggest thing I’ve done to regret is still playing a huge part in my life. I have so many emotions attached to it. I can’t even call it a regret really. It was more of a big mistake. It should have ruined my life entirely but yet it has the potential for something great to come from it. I love not knowing.
I’ve always loved these lines from “The big Kahuna”…
Phil: The question is, do you have any character at all? And if you want my honest opinion, Bob, you do not. For the simple reason that you don’t regret anything yet.

Bob: Are you saying I won’t have any character unless I do something I regret?

Phil: No, Bob. I’m saying you’ve already done plenty of things to regret. You just don’t know what they are. It’s when you discover them. When you see the folly in something you’ve done. And you wish you had to do over. But you know you can’t because it’s too late. So you pick that thing up and you carry it with you. To remind you that life goes on. The world will spin without you. You really don’t matter in the end. Then will you attain character. Because honesty will reach out from inside and tattoo itself all across your face.

I was going to post and tell you I manage regret very well, but it just occurred to me the frequency of the times I look back in shame. I’m not only talking about the big mistakes that forever alter the course of your life, I’m talking about when I was in fourth grade and the teacher yelled at me for talking too much, or the only time I got detention in high school, or being totally bossy and pretentious for an 8-year-old.

But really–practically–I think about that stuff and then I realize how ludicrous it is to beat yourself up over past mistakes. As humans, we are allotted a certain quantity of screw-ups. I have tried the best I can, I know I’m doing better than some, and really considering where I started out, my ability to make rational and wise decisions and to take responsibility for my own mistakes is kind of impressive.

I’m just glad I didn’t screw up more. :stuck_out_tongue:

Honestly, I make amends where needed. I learned this late in life, that I could go back and make amends where I should. I hate living with regret almost as much as I hate living with resentments. I’ve tried to limit both and it has not been in vain.

I hope I never lose the desire to be honest and forthcoming with my most treasured posessions in life. My self and my wife.

Olives you always bring a smile to my face when you post. You are such a good person at heart and we don’t even now each other outside of a virtual relam. You bring a lot of light into this little area of the internet. Thank you. I hope you and your husband remain happy and in love and never lose that life spark that is definitly in you.

You have no idea how much that means to hear. You totally just made my day!
Stay classy, Phlosphr!

“We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”

Words that I live by. I have taken a close, hard look at my behavior in the past, done whatever I can to make amends for my mistakes, dealt with the feelings, and now I am moving on.

Keep Coming! :slight_smile: We will understand the word serenity and know a new peace.

No prob Olives you deserve the best.

This is pretty much the way I look at it. I feel bad for hurting others, but the rest of it, I try to be philosophical about. As I’ve just posted in the other thread, without making those mistakes, I would not have met my wife, and my wife erases a whole truckload of regret. She is definitely worth the suffering my decisions cost myself.

I long ago decided that not to regret things. So I don’t stew over things, what’s past is past, look to the future, etc. But, as a consequence, it can take me several tries to learn from a mistake. If I don’t allow events to be painful, they don’t make enough of an impression on me to affect my behavior. It’s a somewhat shallow way to live and I sometimes wonder if I should think more about it. But then I just go play another game of Sudoku and read some celebrity gossip and the feeling passes…