Several years ago, my son said something that has stayed with me- "Nothing is more expensive than regret."
It's a sentiment that rings true for many of us. We often find ourselves thinking, "If only I had done this differently, things could have turned out better."
Everyone knows the feeling of regret. They are aware of something they did or did not do that haunts them. At one time or another during my sessions, I’ve heard several people say, ‘I wish I’d been kinder to my Mom’ or ‘I regret not working harder to get it’ or ‘I regret not thanking my Dad’ or ‘I wish I hadn’t given up on my dreams’
You know that feeling, right?
If you’ve never felt remorse or regret, you’re a liar!
Or worse still, you haven’t lived!
No one makes it through life without words left unsaid, poor judgments or thoughtless omissions.
Regrets are an existential wake-up call and quite often it takes hard work to let go of them. There is a story I read about Johnny Depp who got a ‘Winona Forever’ tattoo when he was dating Winona Ryder. He unsuccessfully tried to get rid of it after the failed engagement, but what still remained of the tattoo was ‘Wino Forever’
Yes, it’s hard to get rid of regrets, they’re stubborn!
Most often we confuse regret with remorse. Regret is what we feel for ourselves when we limit our options, when we hurt ourselves, our careers, or our reputations. Remorse, on the other hand, is like a nip of conscience, what we feel when we hurt another with manipulation, withdrawal of love, or even not noticing another’s pain.
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with choices, and we feel compelled to make the best decisions at all times. We are addicted to success and feel the pressure to maximize our utility. Unfortunately, we often spend more time dwelling on our losses than enjoying our gains. We tend to remember the unhappy experiences more than the happy ones and obsessively brood over our mistakes.
The Dalai Lama speaks about regret in his book, "The Art of Happiness." He notes that regret is a feeling that can weigh us down, and we should acknowledge it without allowing it to consume us. To live a spiritually conscious life, we must learn to let go of the past and future and be present in the moment.
It serves no purpose to judge yourself or wish to undo that which is now written in the sands of time. Start by just knowing regret for what it is so that you are not swept away by it. Say to yourself, “This is regret. Why do I want this now?”
In essence, regret is a reminder that life is fleeting and that we should cherish each moment. When we cling to the past or future we are denying what is sacred about life with its unique pain and joy. So the key lies in surrendering to the truth of every experience as it arises one moment after another, never fixed… always moving.
Until next time….