When Regrets Are Bad
Regrets can often hold people in the past. But if a person takes the time to seriously dig down deep, they may be able to discover what is at the root of those regrets. Or at least see common themes.
One of the main themes of regret is fear that we failed. Embarrassment overcomes us. Culturally driven norms tell us we are (or at least should be) in control. The failure to fix is a weakness. We should have been able to correct that wrong.
Why do we insist on forever shaming ourselves with this kind of nonsense?
Besides damaging our mental health, it is exhausting and sucks the life out of our present state of being.
When we get on that hamster wheel of regret, we fail to see our actions in a broader context. We neglect to comprehend why we took a certain path or the circumstances and information we had at the time.
Regrets – A Safe Space For Some
When there is little desire to confront pain or to live in the present, regret can be used a safe haven. We can become victims of our past with regret as the foundation.
It becomes difficult to see past the idea that “if I would have done things differently, my life would have been more virtuous”. How do any of us know that? Well, we don’t unless we have some unrealized super powers. This unrealistic ego driven viewpoint allows the blame game to continue on in perpetuity. Its exhausting.
My Own Regrets, Or Not
I am suspect of anyone who claims to not have any regrets in their life. I freely admit to having many.
Based upon who I was, I am well aware now of the fact that my decisions were based upon the circumstances at hand. In numerous cases, my decisions were sometimes reactive, sometimes intuitive. And as we often discover, our intuition develops a more solid foundation with each new experience. This maturity, if we allow it, decreases our impulsive reactions of the past leading to more thoughtful decision making.
Friendships Not Obtained or Sustained
I regret not having more solid, long lasting friendships in my younger years. As a shy, introverted kid who internalized and magnified my emotions, I found it difficult to spread myself out. It was too taxing on my emotional and physical state of being. I could be distant, moody, and mistrusting of the motives of others especially in my teens. And my personality was just not dynamic enough for the cool crowd or attracting potential friends.
These were my own self perceptions. And I really don’t know what others actually thought of me other than I was a skinny, blonde, blue eyed girl who blushed whenever spoken to. I kept a low profile.
This regret is one that sits with me albeit deep within my soul. I have come to terms with it and only return to the felling when I read about the lifelong friendships of others. That is when I experience a slight divot in my heart.
The silver lining of this regret is that I have come to realize my being, who I am at the core, is not someone who will ever have a lot of friends. I value my needs and personal way of being too much to just give myself to anyone. Being my own best friend is a trait I have come to cherish and respect.
I have also learned that quality supersedes quantity in all matters. No regrets there.
Not Being Present for My Daughter
I regret not treating my daughter as a unique individual of my blood, but different than me.
During my daughter’s teen years as she was vying for any kind of attention, I was not seeing or hearing her desperation. Instead, I was sweeping it under the rug with reckless abandon. Allowing the cultural norms and my own personal experiences to gloss over what she was going through.
My need to compare her teen experience to mine 30 years earlier, was my weak attempt at consoling her. Even as I let her know I understood, she was feeling it as indifference to her needs.
Yes, much teen angst crosses generations, but reactions and responses change. These changes can be disguised in ways so nuanced that they go undetected or are denied.
In my teens and beyond, I folded into myself and suffered physical pain that I internalized, such as headaches, stomach issues, etc. My daughter, on the other hand, emotionally retreated, using alcohol to numb her pain. I made assumptions that all this would pass based upon my own experience. It did not.
Instead, I chose not to dig deeper because of my own fears. What followed was 10 years of addiction on her part and my inability to do much about it.
The silver lining to this regret is that I began retracing of my actions, reactions, inactions, leading to a great deal of soul searching. I began listening, learning about and empathizing with what my daughter was experiencing. The pain was excruciating at times, but necessary to get at what was real and true.
Now that she is on the other side, our relationship is one of mutual respect and admiration for what we have endured. We both realize we were doing the best we could with what we had to work with at the time. The journey was necessary in order to be in the amazing place we are now. I have quelled this regret.
Creative Desire Not Met
I regret not having more faith in my creative desires early on. Instead I felt bound to listen to and follow what was culturally expected on many levels. I allowed others to dictate what I should do with my life.
I remember a high school counselor telling me that I could go to the local community college for their two year graphic arts degree. He was towing the high school party line, so to speak. The recognizably gifted students were tracked to higher status universities or fine art institutions, the athletes were directed toward scholarships and college that fit their talents. I had no outstanding talents per se. I was in art, choir, not fully invested in either. Spent time in detention a couple times during my senior year for skipping home economics (a requirement). Had it been a carpentry class and not a class on how to make a dress, cook a meal and childcare, I probably would not have bailed.
I was seen as a quiet rebel with no real passions or talents and female to boot. Points stacked against me in the career path arena.
My high school interest survey showed teacher, counselor, art and other similar career paths. I despise surveys to this day because of their lack of creative and intuitive questions. Also there is too much emphasis on the results without further discussion with and research of the individual taking the survey.
But the upside to this particular regret and those with little faith in my future capabilities, I, eventually and quietly, forged my own path. Mistakes were made, but they were my decisions and based upon current conditions. Seizing opportunities when they became available, no matter if I was ready for them or not. That was the rebel in me.
As a retired college professor/administrator and current artist/writer, I have become one of the most adaptable people i know. No regrets there.
Regrets Are a Gift
Regrets are a sign of engaging in your life. Asking yourself difficult questions and a willingness to feel the pain. All vital to being engaged. Feeling the regret so we can process the regret. Because bottling it up leads to all kinds of physical and psychological issues.
Finally acknowledging my regrets and reconciling them has opened the door to a more authentic way of being. Regret can be seen as connecting to our self-concept, seeing the difference between our ideal self and our actual self. Coming to grips with this revelation is a game changer.
The Image: Shedding — Transformation
The snake as it sheds it skin symbolizes renewal, transformation, healing. In the monotype shown, I used an actual snake skin on the printmaking plate, using it over and over again creating layers and depth. A metaphor for life as we learn and grow, regret and let go, renew and heal.