For those who don’t know me: I make a lot of not so bright decisions in my life. If you know me you would also know I made a rash life choice that I regret. This life choice made me stop and think about what I really want in life; made me take time to find my self and ultimately create this blog, so I can help you guys make choices you may not regret. As I write this blog, I am also putting what I learn to practice as I give it to you guys. Let's look a bit more into our emotions and why we regret some of the things we do.
Wikipedia defines regret as “a negative conscious and emotional reaction to personal past acts and behaviors”. If you are like me, who has made a mistake, then you spend some time thinking about what you could have been: If only we could have made the right choices in the first place, so things could have been differently. Our regret is caused by thinking and problem solving what really happened and what other alternative realities could have been. Allowing ourselves to analyze our past, and future is called Counterfactually thinking. Remember in math class how you always had to find “X”?
When you are looking for “X” you are, in a sense, doing Counterfactual thinking with life. If I haven’t done “Y” then “X” may have happened; if I have done “Z” then “X” may not have happened.
I have found that too many times we let regret get the best of us and hide the true lessons from our mistakes. I know for myself, I would bury myself in sorrow and self regret, form a state of depression and never learn. Instead I would keep making unhealthy rash decisions. My anxiety would rise and I would be in an endless cycle. My endless cycle created such a negative state of being I would burrow in a land of sorrow. The odd thing is: When we kick our selves when we are down; when we make things more painful, we can make the regret more effective and burn it even harder into our memory. We rewire our neurons so that they fire the same way the next time a similar situation arises. Your brain remembers this signal and if all goes well you don’t make the same mistake.
As you may encounter a similar scenario to make the same mistake your brain will put images into your head and problem solve: If “Y” does this, then it will be “X”; if “Z” does this, then I get an alternative answer for “X”. This is called anticipated regret. When we don’t let it paralyze us, we in fact make better life choices, like looking into who you are to see that you may be creating your own depression or much smaller like eating healthier and even wearing a condom.
As we regret it helps us to fix whatever it is that has done us wrong. Whether it’s returning an impulse purchase (I like to buy many things and know of others who like to do the same), or even simply apologizing to a friend.
What if our choices cause something so major that our regret becomes so strong? Or, what if someone creates an action so strong, that they may regret? We begin to feel disappointed. Let's say I make some life choices that affected another in a negative way. The other person becomes disappointed; and this causes them to abandon their goals, relationships, and even to just give up on that current thing in life, whatever it may be. If you read my other posts you will hear over and over again that our emotions are designed to help us survive; as well as help further the human race. Disappointment is here for our survival. If a situation is worse then expected we feel powerless and ultimately give up. Disappointment also does something wonderful.
When we become disappointed, we become open to sympathy and support; as well we also attract it. Others in society will become more helpful towards us. Ultimately helping us, as a whole, to grow and learn from our mistakes and others. As we open up, we become more humble and more vulnerable as it will show us the repercussions of our actions. If you feel regret or disappointment, it shows you care and you may not be such a bad person as you make yourself believe.
In short, we use regret and disappointment to better ourselves; to abandon old goals and to establish new ones (like me writing this blog to help others, so they don’t have to learn through similar mistakes). Only by taking a step back can we become more mindful and alert to what we have done. Ultimately as we teach our selves to learn from our mistakes, and not dwell, you can grow as a person and have a newfound joy. I am a firm believer that we all care about each other, even if we do not always show it. Knowing that society comes close to help those in need, when they regret or feel disappointed, shows me that there is hope for all of us. Life isn’t always good; but we can make it alright.