Regretting the past

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Regretting the past

Have you ever done something then regretted doing it later?
Have you ever done something then kept feeling bad for months or even years after doing it?

Regret is almost the same feeling as guilt but with the difference that it appears after the situation happens. Your mind sends such feelings because it wants to make sure that you are not going to do that thing you did again.

Regret is a powerful emotion and it usually succeeds in letting people think many times before doing the bad thing that they have done before, but do you know that feelings of regret can be carried over for years and years until they makes you feel bad every single moment of your life??

Accumulated regret

Haven’t you noticed that lots of people feel worse as they grow up? You might find a young guy saying “Oh my God I turned 20, am so sad my teen hood ended” or you might find a man saying “it feels so bad to turn forty that fast”.

One of the very strong reasons that make us feel bad as we age is that we regret what we have done in the past or regret the things that we haven’t done. Suppose that a man who believes in honesty and openness reached the age of thirty without being able to stop lying. Most probably one of the reasons that will be making him feel bad at the age of thirty is the accumulated regret over the past years that resulted from lying.

The more we grow up the more we tend to regret the goals that we didn’t achieve and the dreams that we weren’t able to make real. If someone had a big life goal and he wasn’t doing much effort to reach it then each year he grows up he will feel worse because of the accumulated regret (see How to achieve your goals).

On the other hand, this means that if you managed to do the things that you believe in and move in the direction of your goals you won’t feel that bad when you grow up but on the contrary you might feel better.

How to prevent the accumulation of regret?

If you believe in something then you’d better start doing it now, if you believe in God then you must start getting close to him now, if you think that you are doing something wrong then you must stop doing it right now and if you have big dreams then you must start fighting for them now.

Otherwise, your disappointment and your guilt will turn into feelings of regret which might remain with you for the rest of your life. Even if you are now 50, 60 or even 70, it’s not late, as long as you start moving in the direction of your goals, values and what you believe in your mind will automatically withdraw the bad signals within a short period of time and the feelings of regret will disappear.

Usually we keep regretting something as long as the bad effect of what we have done is still there, as soon as we take actions and reverse the effect our feelings of regret will disappear.

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