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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Why regret is a good thing (even if it feels unpleasant)

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There are times in life when we do stupid things, things that we’d like to forget immediately. But it’s wise to reflect on it, and to feel regret – the price we pay for not listening to the voice inside. If you’re brave enough to let this in, you can learn from the unpleasant feeling.

From a spiritual point of view, feeling regret over your own folly isn’t very trendy. Some say it’s useless. We need to ‘let go’, and we need to do that now. Things happen just the way they should happen, c’est la vie. And while you say these words, you put on a serene smile and carry on, happily and enlightened.

You can’t fix the past

It’s no use crying over spilled milk. Absolutely true. No matter how elaborately you fantasize about other possibilities or how carefully you reproduce what went wrong, you can’t fix the past. From that point of view, yes, having regrets is pointless. But although feeling bad and endlessly going over what happened doesn’t change the past, it does have an impact on the future.

We all do stupid things

Reflecting on your actions and the consequences brings self-assessment. And self-assessment and healthy introspection help you analyze your own shortcomings and prevent yourself from behaving like a lunatic. Because you and me, sometimes we do stupid things. Has that occurred to you? We all struggle with our idiosyncrasies. Acknowledging that is the first step to change. It enables you to find out why you do the things you do, discover patterns and find out what to do about it. You can inspect your actions, regret them (or not), apologize, make amends if you can, and decide to do things differently next time.

Feelings with a message

By the way, who came up with the idea that feelings need to be of immediate use? Or that they have to be optimistic? They exist. Period. Good or bad, useful or inept – feelings find their way through you and they have a message for you: something needs attention.

Feelings have to be felt and sometimes understood. Once you manage to do that, there’s no point in letting go (actively), because they disappear all by themselves. It’s called a coping process, and it’s highly recommended.

Your inner voice

The only things you can regret, are the things you did knowingly. If you didn’t do something knowingly, you can still feel like it’s a pity it happened, but you won’t feel bad or guilty about it. Remorse is what you felt that time when you heard a voice inside telling you it would be wise to do things differently – and you didn’t. It’s the price you pay for not listening to your inner voice. And it feels really bad.

‘You’ll regret this,’ I said to my six year old daughter a while ago, when she refused to say goodbye to a friend because of something insignificant. She thought about it for a second. Then she swallowed her pride, reached out and gave her friend a hug. Because anything is better than regret. What a useful thing it is.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Natalia Figueredo