Emotions Explored: Regret

Welcome to a special 5-part blog series called “Emotions Explored“. This week, I’ll be exploring some of the strongest emotions that I’ve been experiencing in the past few months, as well as looking deeper into how those emotions affect humans as a whole, and how emotions make us who we are. Before we can look deeper into what emotions drive us in our daily lives, we have to figure out what an emotion is in the first place.

e⋅mo⋅tion [i-moh-shuhn] –noun 1. an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness. (source)

No matter what we’re doing, we’re always feeling some sort of emotion. Even sitting here writing a blog entry has an emotion, to some it could be considered “fun”, giving a person a sense of “happiness”, or for others it could just be out of sheer interest. Emotions can range anywhere from a lasting feeling, to a temporary state which can change when the person begins doing something else. Overall though, emotions can sometimes be difficult to deal with, especially when they are changing in a rapid fashion. One feeling, though, that works with both extremes of long lasting or temporary, is the feeling of “regret”.

re⋅gret [ri-gret] –verb 1. to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.) (source)

Regret is a very easy emotion to feel, especially when looking in retrospective. Looking back at our lives, everyone makes mistakes somewhere, some costing them more than others, but it’s just something that happens. Unfortunately, this emotion can cause serious emotional distress in some people, especially if a decision that they made cost them something such as a friendship that had been long lasting. Regret, though, is not limited to things that people HAVE done, but also including the LACK of action that a person could not have taken in a certain situation.

Looking back at my own life, I find a lot of things to regret. Many people will say, “You have to continue looking forward. Looking back at the past and regretting what you should or should not have done will get you nowhere. Life continues on whether it was the right decision or not.” It’s a very true statement, although sometimes some of the decisions that you make leave more of a lasting impression on yourself. A good philosophy in life is to always keep looking forward and not back, and as they say, “Live life like you were dying.” A morbid statement by itself, but when taking into overall perspective, we are all always dying a little bit every day. Unfortunately, living like we are dying and doing everything that we want to do is not exactly a smart philosophy to live by, especially in the monetary aspect of it.

When looking back, I can find too many things for myself to regret. Much of it can stem from disappointment of letting loved ones around me down. I’ve never been the most wonderful student in the world, and my parents have always looked for me to be the best that I can be. By making the not so smart decisions to not try my hardest in school has led for them to become saddened by me at times. While I would love to change that, you cannot go back and change what has already been done, so I just have to continue looking ahead, and hope that I can redeem myself at a later time. None the less, there isn’t a moment that I go on without regretting how much better of a son that I could be. Perfection is impossible, but staying true to yourself and being the best that you can be for others is not.

One of my deepest regrets, though, comes from my relationship status. I’ve had two major opportunities in the past in which I could have been quite happy with someone who liked me as well, but for both of them, I found a way to push them away, and now neither of them talks to me on a regular basis. Most people will probably be thinking that I did something pretty stupid, make a stupid action, and it made them dislike me fast, or that there’s some sort of trait about me that is unlikeable. With one of them, I can openly admit that I made a move that was not smart, and in doing so, made her become awkward when speaking to me, or so it seems from previous encounters. The other one, though, was an odd situation. I was afraid to be in a relationship at the time, and due to that, I pushed her away. Later, when I became comfortable again with accepting it, she had already moved on and found someone else that made her happier than she had been around me. Both are decisions that I greatly regret, because as my philosophy has always been, having a significant other would make me quite happy in life. I’ve never been able to prove myself to someone with how much I can really love them, and losing the opportunities to do so has made me quite sad. Another saying is, “There’s always other fish in the sea”, but not having a chance to even see if the ones that I had already caught were worth keeping doesn’t make it easy to accept that statement.

The main thing to remember when it comes to “regret” is to always keep at least one eye looking forward still. If you dwell in the past for too long and wonder what things could have been, you will never be able to move on, and it will keep you tied down from unleashing your full potential to do the best you can in your life. Everyone has regrets, it’s just a natural emotion in life, but continuing to push forward no matter what’s already happened is important in keeping yourself ready to make the right decision somewhere down the line in the future.

One Comment

  1. Shannon

    Why am I replying? That’s right – damn psychology degree and the fact you are looking at the queen of regrets. I’m pretty sure there’s not a day that goes by that I wonder what my life would have been like if I made different choices. It could quite possibly be that “things happen for a reason” or it “just wasn’t the right time”. Who knows. But I can’t base my life and future on opportunities that have passed and in fact I hope these regrets made me a stronger and wiser person.

    It is these higher-order mental processes of human cognition that distinguish us from other animals. And in fact, regret may have a positive impact on human behavior when seen as a learning opportunity. Regret can enable others to search for paths to correct the actions that caused those earlier regrets. Yet without opportunity, regret flourishes.

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