Monday, January 7, 2013

REGRETS,GUILT AND REMORSE


Updated on 30 May 2017

If only........There are hundreds of ways in which any one of us could complete this sentence.This is one disadvantage of being a rational animal--we are often overtaken by regrets.We feel sorry for what we did or failed to do.Sometimes we obsess about what we said to someone,or again,could not muster the courage or presence of mind to say.Over & above,there are traumas & travails dished out by lady luck,which leave us dumbfounded & often heart-broken.So many triggers cause anxiety & misery.It happens to all of us &  we wish that such & such had not happened.

Benefits of Regrets
Repenting once in a while,for a short duration & then switching to the present is perfectly normal & even fruitful .When kept in check regrets tell us where we went wrong so that we can suitably modify our behavior & reactions.This gives us a second chance to patch up with those we annoyed ,wronged or hurt.Regrets could be aptly termed as milestones on the road to self-realization.They help us to become better & wiser.So far so good.

The Flip side
But if carried to the extreme regrets or guilt can spiral us into depression.Trouble arises when we are consumed by regrets to such an extent that we disconnect with the here & now.This is injurious for our mental health.Shame,self-hate,sorrow and a feeling of worthlessness are the likely outcomes.It is not healthy to indulge in regrets too often & for too long.

Regrets,Guilt and Remorse
Our emotions climb up a roller coaster as we proceed from regrets to  guilt & then to remorse.
Regret is a mild dissatisfaction for what took place or did not.It irks us for a while but then we wish that it had not happened and move on.
Guilt is more distressing & totally personal in nature.It is like acid eroding our intestines,claiming our attention much more than is good for us.
Remorse is much more unsettling than regrets or guilt.It invokes strong emotions & can wreak havoc on a person's peace of mind & self esteem.Mostly it is connected to acts which are contrary to societal norms & expectations.But sometimes a hypersensitive person may even take on blame where none is justified.Whether factual or notional,self blame & dejection are overpowering in remorse.The protagonist is convinced that he did something terribly wrong.It is bad news for mental health & can drive a person to the depths of depression.

Getting rid of guilt
In order to recapture our equanimity it is essential to face the issue squarely in face.
*Are we really as culpable as we think ourselves to be?
*Do others also think similarly?
*If it was something we did,then was there any evil intention behind it?
*Did we know how it would pan out?
*If it was a mistake on our part,then have we repeated it since then?
*If the answers to the above questions are"No"then it is logical & perfectly justifiable to dismiss that episode as an error of judgement.Mistakes are but natural in an environment where innumerable stimuli & so many concerns crowd our minds.It is not possible to do justice to each & every issue that stares us in the face.Even if some answers to the above questions are yes,the very fact that you are regretting your action proves that you have evolved from that stage,you are not the same person who committed that wrong.So rest your mind.

Overcoming Remorse
We now come to the most important segment of this post.How does one regain peace of mind when one is plagued by severe self censure?Regrets and guilt motivate us to amend our behavior & start with a new slate but remorse demands something more.We perceive ourselves as a kind of criminal & it becomes increasingly difficult to live with that self image.

*Of course the first thing to do is to say sorry to the one you wronged if s/he is still available.Own up your fault and offer assistance to rectify it.
What if that person is no longer within reach?Even then,vowing not to repeat that behavior in future will assuage your conscience.Suppose you meet an accident victim on road & pass him by.Later on you feel bad about this.You can make amends by helping anyone in sore need of outside help & thus satisfy yourself that you are a better human being today than you were back then.

*Be happy that you feel remorse.It denotes that you are not a psychopath.The rest is in your hands & peace will come by and by.

*You are not omniscient.As such you cannot predict how your acts are going to affect others.Sometimes even good intentions misfire & the person affected may blame you for it .He may even insinuate you did it purposely.It is up to you to clear this misconception at the soonest.Even if the other person is not convinced,knowing that you had no evil intentions should be enough to relax you-you cannot please all,or control their train of thoughts.

*Do not lap up all the blame put at your door.Think back.Is it really you who are responsible for this wrongdoing or are you being made a scapegoat?This happens quite often.People don't want to recognize their contribution to a crises of their own making & will take out their frustration at an innocent but vulnerable associate or a witness.Not only others,but you yourself may also unjustifiably blame yourself for someone else being in a tight spot.

*Hindsight is always wiser & crystal clear.It is mostly hindsight which causes remorse.When you are faced with a few options you will naturally take the wisest route,but it may not turn out to be best for all.Instead of going into depression over this,recapitulate the conditions which prompted your course of action.Was there any indication then that this is how it will turn out?What else could you have done under such circumstances with that limited knowledge?You are not God!You cannot insure the welfare of all.

*You are not omnipotent. Any action can set off a ripple effect leading to repercussions which may turn out to be unsavory.Sometimes things go out of hand,they do not follow your bidding.Why should you blame yourself for it?

*Remember none of us is perfect---you learn & grow as you age.Even if you did something wrong,offensive,violent or vulgar purposely;after a lapse of time you may feel that it was a terrible thing to do.This remorse itself is a sign that you are no longer the villain which you were at that time.Therefore forget the episode & resuscitate your self esteem.
At this point i am reminded of a youth who came to me for counseling.He had teased a girl but was now repenting his act & asked me how to tell her that he was sorry for his deed.He did not know her whereabouts.I advised him to just treat it as a learning lesson & stop self flagellation.This just shows that we learn & improve with time--it happens.One mistake does not make devils of us.
Sometimes regrets also stem from major life changes & these really pinch.Patience & fortitude in the face of such changes will lead us to cooler climes once again but focusing on the unpleasant aspects of a change or hankering for the past bodes ill for our future because --
Of all the words of mice and men,
The saddest are,"It might have been". (Kurt Vonnsgut)
No one can deny the veracity of this statement.We all come across so many changes in life & many of them are unsavory.However, live we must,& that too in life conditions thrust upon us.It is up to us to make them as congenial as we can & then be gracious about it.

Image courtesy--ayahjournal.com



38 comments :

  1. A very relevant and important topic you chose to write upon. I completely agree when you say that one mistake doesn't make a devil of us. I see so many people (especially women) caught in the habit of self blame. Everything happens to teach us a lesson. Letting the past go while keeping what it taught and cultivating a sense of self worth is very important here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You have summed it up very nicely Meenakshi,thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mmm! It is necessary to feel remorse, face up to what was wrong in what you thought-said-did, pledge to correct it and then to forgive yourself. In India, unfortunately, too many either stay put at Step-1 and far too many jump straight to the last step!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Suresh thanks for this thoughtful comment--you are bang on target.

    ReplyDelete
  5. We often use this terms in a loosely interchangeable manner, Indu, and your post, and your earlier posts on this topic help clarify the different emotions and assign them their proper place in our mental landscape. I was trying to write something about being proud of where I am in my journey and how I got there, and this post has helped me get clarity for some of the places that I was stuck at. Deepest appreciation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my! you overwhelm me.A writer of your caliber & getting clarification from my post?It is very sweet of you to say so.

      Delete
  6. Very relevant and much needed! Wonderfully presented too! Thank you doc:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Amitjee--you always make my efforts seem worthwhile & i am encouraged by your comments.

      Delete
  7. A very pragmatic approach to life's regular problems. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks Tomichan,welcome to jeeteraho.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lovely post, Indu. I always learn something from your posts. You have lucidly explained the topic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And lovely comment from you Rachna--thanks a ton!

      Delete
  10. Awesome post Indu. Regret, guilt and remorse helps you build your character. But, if they exceed a certain limit affects the mental health too. Nice tips to overcome that feeling. Beautifully written!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sri Valli you are right, regrets do help us to evolve but too much of everything is bad.
      Thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  11. Every post of yours is an affirmation of your deep insights into the human mind and its vagaries. The post is a logical sequence of action, guilt, regret and remorse. But what mark your posts are the sensitivity and depth of the subject matter. They are easily digestible even for lay persons like me. Thanks for this wonderful post. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a coincidence Zephyr-i come from your post & i find your comment here .Thanks a million-you have made my day !

    ReplyDelete
  13. Very enlightening Indu! The process of feeling low to hitting the nadir overwhelmed by feeling of remorse!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Now that is a very thoughful post for sure .. and lot os sense ..
    although in todays modern world people dont do anything for remorse or feel guilt..

    this all makes us Humane.. but sadly the humane out of humanity is fast evaportating into this air ..

    Thought provoking post
    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true Bikramjit--humanity does seem to be evaporating.
      Thanks for taking time to read n comment!

      Delete
  15. A very insightful post, Indu. I agree completely with your take and I am impressed by your understanding. Sure, everyday gives us a new opportunity....

    Repentant people should accept responsibility for past failures and not drown themselves in guilt. The sorrow of an alcoholic, can either drown him in crashing waves of self-pity . . . or carry him to the shores of a new life. Man makes mistakes. The easiest, quickest path to happiness and peace is to repent and change as soon as we can.
    Just loved reading this incredible piece.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Panchali thanks a lot for your endorsement,it means a lot to me.
      Human mind is a strange thing--some repent excessively while some are just bereft of this emotion.

      Delete
  16. Very nice article Indu.....As you said, if the wrong done was not intentional, 'we all make mistakes, so move on'. Else, remorse itself is an indicator that we have turned over a new leaf and did not let the vice rule us....So becoming a better person is not a bad thing....Such remorse can become a real positive power if turned in the right direction..I read somewhere about some elephant poachers who started movements to protect the pachyderms....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jaish you read the posts thoroughly & come out with deep insights which add meaning to the subject.Thanks a lot

      Delete
  17. I don't have to say particularly that your posts carry a huge depth and meaning. Every post is a learning for me. They don't deserve to be read and left like that. Many of them have to be bookmarked and re-read, which I keep thinking to do and fall in the lapse of time..May be I should print them and bind it into a book :) Coming to this post, I feel glad that I think on the same lines like you do. Unfortunately, knowing all of it, sometimes, I still brood over with guilt. A very insightful post..never repent for what has happened, for you can't change it..all you can do is never repeat what you have done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Latha your generous praise has come like a precious morning gift to me,thanks a lot!
      We all have some lapses-after all we are only human & still evolving.Guilt only shows that we are sensitive & righteous.But don't brood too much.

      Delete
  18. Thanks for this post Indu ji

    nearly all have us have to face this phase in life ---and self analysis is the only weapon to combat the feeling of guilt and remorse---and to keep us from falling into depression .I personally never point out a mistake the sole intention being not to hurt the person.i am told that this too is not always correct but somehow I just can't bring myself to do that
    thanks for this post
    reading it has opened new thoughts and that is welcome

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like you i too have seen that nobody relishes being told he is wrong.It also spoils the atmosphere.Of course guiding the kids is a different matter.

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment.

      Delete
  19. Wonderfully written. What you said is right, regrets might keep us in check but taking it too seriously would again do a lot of harm. to avoid all this we should ensure that we think twice or even thrice before speaking or doing something.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Very well said Ashwini.Indeed this too ought to have been included in this post.Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  21. A very good and relevant post Indu in todays times of stress and mental overload..

    Regrets are good to the extent they serve the purpose of making a better person.. u can't take that load forever on your back and walk at the same time.. that road heads straight to the mental hospital in Agra..

    need to balance our regrets with optimism, correction and hope..

    some wonderful insights you have presented in an interesting form..

    Good one this..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deepak you have summed up my post very beautifully-thanks.

      Delete
  22. I searched around for a post on Gemini sun sign but couldn't find it..

    I would love if you do it anytime you are free and feel like..

    Applicant,
    Deepak :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK Deepak i will do it after a few days.

      Delete
  23. If we just know how to love ourselves and think less, most of our (not what are caused by others) issues will be gone.

    A very practical account...enlightening!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True Alok,thanks for visiting.
      Have a nice week.

      Delete

Thanks for reading my post.I hope you liked it :).