Quick! Help me stop dwelling on a spectacularly missed opportunity

Preemptive apology for the length of this post; I think it’s worth reading. :slight_smile:

So I had an interesting, unexpected, and extremely surreal encounter while on vacation Sunday night. Without getting into details, since they’re not germane to the advice I’m seeking in this thread (PM me if you want a synopsis), the events comprising the encounter can be broken down into two situations. The first situation was excellent and enjoyable and memorable and awesome. The second situation had the potential to be twenty times as excellent and enjoyable and et cetera, but ultimately was disappointing and unremarkable. At the time, the fact that the second situation disappointed, while too bad in its own right, did not in any significant way serve to diminish the luster of the first; I was happy enough that the first situation had happened at all.

With a little distance, though – and I mean that literally, since I’m now back home – and having understandably looked back on that night with fondness and mild regret over the last two days, I realize that there were a number of pretty simple things that I could have done or said near the end of the first situation, any one of which would (as far as I can see) have made it much more likely that the second situation would have unfolded completely differently in an unmitigatedly positive way. And the realization that I didn’t do or say any of those things at the time is something that’s begun to linger.

I’ve always been someone who looks back and wonders about paths not taken, particularly when the choices are the kind that you can’t readily (if at all) go back and make again. This is my personality, and I’m okay with that; I think it gives me a broader perspective on life, and hopefully helps to inform decisions I make in the future. But a natural consequence of this kind of reflection is that I tend to dwell pretty deeply on stuff that could have been,* which I’m less okay with.

Which means that right now I find myself feeling sadder about what didn’t happen on Sunday night than excited about what did. I felt much better about it all when I chalked up the disappointment of the second situation to random and various factors beyond my control. But now that I’ve realized that I really did miss several opportunities to change the ultimate course of things, that’s all I can think about when I think about that night.

Obviously nobody makes the right choices all the time, and it’s tough when you’re in the thick of things to see what you can see with the benefit of hindsight. At the same time, though, I think it’s legitimate to realize that you could have done things differently and achieved a better outcome. It’s just that I’m stuck in that gear.

So: anyone have any tips for how I can stop dwelling? I don’t want to forget about the night altogether; I just want to keep it as happy a memory as it was (or, failing that, as happy a memory as I can). I’m sure other people go through similar things…what do you do to get over it?

When coming up with advice, I guess you should take into account a couple of underlying assumptions: (a) that the second situation really could have been even more amazing than the first; and (b) that I’ve accurately identified things that I could/should have said or done, but didn’t, that would have been very likely to change the second situation for the better. It would be hard to convince me that either of these things is not true…I’m just hoping that there’s a way to accept their truth but not be overly bothered by it.

And thus do I turn to my fellow Dopers for their words of wisdom. :slight_smile:
*Even/especially when the stuff is trivial, since that usually means that the point of decision, and the potentially positive consequences of that decision, are more starkly identifiable. As an example, a few years back I met this girl who was smart and gorgeous, with whom I had knock-out chemistry. She was also casually dating someone. The second time we ever hung out, we were in my dorm room after a sort of friend-y, sort of date-y evening, and there was a tangible moment when I very nearly kissed her. I didn’t do it; she’d indicated that she would be breaking it off with this guy soon, and I felt like it would be better to wait until she wasn’t in any sort of relationship, however loosely committed, before doing anything physical. She told me on the phone later that night that she wished I had kissed her, and she wavered as to whether or not to invite me over to spend the night. She decided not to, and the chemistry between us was never the same. I don’t believe that by failing to kiss her that night, I missed out on the love of my life; chances are we wouldn’t have lasted. But I did miss out on the kiss itself, and, although ephemeral, that’s something very valuable in its own right. There’s still a sharp poignancy to that memory, even though I haven’t seen her for years.

I can certainly empathize.

You pretty much described me as far as processing experiences goes and how I feel about it. Heck, occasionally missteps I made 20 years ago pop unbidden into my head and I kick myself all over again.

Sorry to say I think you are pretty much stuck with it. It is who you are, how you operate and it is overall a good way to operate. I wish more people were as introspective as you are.

That said what has worked for me was to come to the conclusion that the pain of my mistakes are as important, perhaps even more important, to who I am today as are the joys of my successes. I can have no regrets (usually) when I understand that life is a process, mistakes will be made, and knowing that when I went “left” when I think I should have gone “right” is as important to who I am had I done it the “correct” way.

Of course I still mull over mistakes as I make them but I leave little room for recrimination against myself in most cases. I accept the mistake, try to figure how I might have done it better and hope I will be better the next time around. By being “sort of” ok with it all I find it gets out of my head a bit quicker and I get on with life.

That said some things I end up dwelling on more than is useful. It is depressing and stressful and sounds kind of like where you are. For that I just try to keep myself busy be it reading, working, watching TV, playing computer games and/or going out and getting drunk with my friends and pining away. :wink:

Still, this too shall pass. Maybe never completely but life will go on and you’ll be fine. In your case the “mistake” does not even sound all that bad…just not as good as it might have been so at least you can take comfort that all-in-all it was a positive experience.

Best of luck!

Whenever I start dwelling on missed opportunity I just assume that if it had worked out different the timing would have been different and I would have gotten hit by a truck walking home or something. It’s not missed opportunity, it’s god protecting you!

Sorry about the missed opportunity, that’s what you get for being human. But here’s what you can do about it: .

That’s right, absolutely nothing. So accept that you’re not perfect, and decide which state you’d rather be in: having missed an opportunity, gleaned the wisdom from it, and looking towards other things; or having missed an opportunity, gleaned the wisdom from it, and wallowing in agony over something you can’t change. In other words, it’s bad enough what happened, why make it worse by indulging in useless remorse? Turn to something you can do something about.

Sometimes forgiving yourself is as important as forgiving others.

In his book Yes Man, Danny Wallace talks about a series of circumstances leading up to his acquiring a scratch-off lotto ticket that was revealed to be a winner for £5000 or £10000 or some such, and then inadvertently voiding it by continuing to scratch off the rest of the boxes. He talks about being happy that the actions he’d taken in his recent life to that point got him somewhere that he won a sum of money like that, even if he couldn’t collect it.

Are you able to look at your actions leading up to the situation and be proud of them? You say you made mistakes, but we all do. Does it diminish your enjoyment of the first situation (which you were somehow able to bring about) that much? You still got yourself into these enjoyable situations because of things that you did.

Maybe it’s like playing Hold 'Em, where you have to be confident that you’re making the correct plays, even if you end up losing the hand because someone on tilt limped into the river and caught a gut shot straight.

Think about good things that are happening to you. Then think they may not be happening unless you took exactly the path you took. I also try to think of the times when I did exactly the right thing.

Not that I don’t obsess about stuff that happened 40 years ago. If only I had a time machine and went back to give myself some coaching. Not to mention telling myself to buy lots of Microsoft.

I use this theory sometimes. You don’t know anything about the path not taken. This may be the best of all possible worlds. If you’d kissed her, she’d have…[turned out to be a psycho / given you an STD / died young in a love triangle with you and the other lover / turned out to have an annoying laugh / kept you from meeting or marrying the real love of your life - so now you’d have REAL regrets]

I’m a Buddhist, and have recently (last night) started to consider regret from a Buddhist angle. Of all the attachments that cause karma, regret has got to be way up there, since one is not living ones life in real time, not ‘in the moment’ as the phrase goes, but rather getting stuck on a powerful emotional event rooted in the past.

Plus it’s no fun, like lust is.

Can we cut to the chase? Did you miss out on hot monkey sex, but still want to remember it in a positive way?

Ding. (Kinda.)

Thanks for the responses, everyone; I’ll reply in a bit.

Over the modest number of years in my life, I’ve found that I’ve usually regretted writing overly vague OP’s in which it’s impossible to discern what the hell I’m talking about let alone provide specifics which others might use to console me on my prior specifics.

Ok, then. I’m one of the world’s foremost experts in not having sex. Usually it is not related to missed opportunities, more like no opportunity at all. Still, that’s a fine distinction hardly worth mentioning.

So what is there to feel good about? First, think about how much better you feel now than you would feel had you taken action and been rejected. IIRC, though, you are female, correct? Straight? I dunno what the odds of rejection are in a lesbian pickup, so I can’t comment on that. And if you’re a woman making a move on a man, you’re odds are near 100%, especially if he’s married. So never mind, except you should feel good about not involving yourself with a pig of a married man

Did we meet at a ChiDope? I am picturing someone with rather straight black hair. Um, do you feel like you are on the rebound? Do you like fat guys with a rather nasty sense of humor?

Sometimes I feel as if I am the world’s biggest missed opportunity. Do not miss another chance!

Stop it.

This is not particularly helpful. (Mine is actually a hell of a story, but it’s not something I’m comfortable detailing on a public message board. Nevertheless, I genuinely sought genuine advice on a genuine topic, and many of the replies were exactly what I needed.)

Thanks especially to Whack-a-Mole, Gary T, BellRung, and (though he’s thinking of Gaudere :slight_smile: ) Boyo Jim for their thoughts. I could follow up with some additional comments, but threemae’s probably right that it’ll be more frustrating than elucidating for anyone else, and thus only marginally beneficial to me.

Didn’t mean to be snarky, threemae. Sorry 'bout that.