Benefits of Regrets
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
Trouble arises when we are consumed by regrets to such an extent that we disconnect with the here & now.If taken to extreme this habit can spell doom for our mental health.Guilt,shame,sadness remorse & a feeling of worthlessness could result.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,& 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 warranted.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.
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 & guilts 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.
*Be happy that you feel remorse.It proves that you are not a psychopath.The rest is in your hands & peace will come by and by.
*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 & 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.
*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.
*Do not lap up all the blame put at your door.Think back.Is it really you who are responsible for his misery 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 by stander or a looker on.Not only others,but you yourself may also unjustifiably blame yourself for 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 try to make the best choice 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 can neither please all nor insure the welfare of all.
*You are not omnipotent.When one action is taken it sets 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 no one of 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 not at all welcome.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.