How To Identify Regret
Everyone has bum days. Days where everything goes wrong. Days where even the things that didn’t go too wrong still don’t feel quite right. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of waking up in the wrong frame of mind for life. Sometimes, other people’s messes genuinely get in the way of your own joy.
Sometimes, it’s your fault.
Sometimes, the reason you feel bad is because you made a mistake.
Which is fine. To err is human. No one gets everything perfectly right every time. In fact, most people don’t get much right at all. They just manage to coast along on some not-entirely-wrong decisions and keep a positive outlook on things.
When you know a problem is your own doing, you can start working on not making that mistake again.
But life isn’t always that obvious. Sometimes it takes a moment to figure out if it was you that went wrong. Or if it was someone else’s mistake. Or if it was just a bad coincidence. Often, you need to stop and evaluate every aspect of a situation – including all the stuff you’re not privy to – to get a decent grip on things.
Other times, you only need to look as far as your own feelings.
Studies looking into emotional responses have consistently identified four key feelings that indicate regret.
Or, the “make it go away” feeling. The first thing you feel when you regret your own behaviour is the desire for all the bad things you’ve caused to stop. You don’t want them to have happened. This doesn’t always mean that whatever is wrong is your fault, but it is indicative that something needs to change. Then, your best option is never to wallow in self-pity.
The “how could I have done that?” reaction. This is the part when you start to reflect. When you look back over what happened and realise that, actually, it was sort of your fault. You understand what you did and exactly where you went wrong. And you wonder why. And you can’t answer yourself.
This is as simple as it sounds – you make yourself suffer for your mistake. You get upset to the point that you miss out on your normal awesome life. You feel so bad it becomes damaging. It is, essentially, the “I could kick myself” phase.
This is the one that makes everything else so negative. If you just felt your mistake once and learned from it immediately, you wouldn’t be at such a huge risk of depression. But you don’t do that. You repeat your failing over and over again. Perseveration is this repetition – it is the way your own mind reminds you that you’ve messed up and makes you feel bad about it.
Like a bully you carry around in your head.
Think about the last time you regretted something. You’ll be able to identify all of these feelings in the aftermath.
Next time, catch yourself while they’re still going on. Once you can recognise the symptoms, you can start fixing your problems more quickly. You’ll get over things faster and be able to get on with your life much sooner.