Speaking of Regret and Do-it-Yourself Sturdy Prisons

Leyland A. King

August 5, 2017

Last week I wrote an article about happiness. It was, as intended, neither a professional piece nor a fix-you-upper. It was merely about how I experience the world through reflection and thoughtfulness. Of course, conversations with persons of like-minded interests, and frequent doses of eclectic reading do help.  The mental health professions have their respectable place with decades of credible empirical research, supporting the practice. One’s mind could be a terror-filled, conjuring place to roam. As to my article referenced, the link below would take you there.

I Love My Life   -Bruises, Balms and All

I am thankful that it was well received, prompting me to explore with you some questions asked. Today let’s discuss what seemed to be the most noticed, regret -an ever-evolving thing that is potent and ever-present. It has roots that run deep and sprouts that descend to labyrinths, the best of armies won’t dare go. Whether it is destructive, malignant or just a stray dog that follows you to bed, regret is unwelcome. It needn’t be.  The tragedy is that regret is misunderstood by so many of us. But of this we can be sure, regret is a part of our humanity that has to be wisely managed. Regret stifles happiness.

To get to a place of troubling regret there has to be a specific point where the affected believes that a decision he made was profoundly wrong. It may not be either, but what is most important is, he believes that he was in conflict with himself – the violation of his personal values and self-regard. It might have nothing to do with morality, just a belief that, for eg., had he not gone to the movies, his loved one would not have died in a smash with a drunk driver.

No interested person should tell someone bothered by regret to “get over it” or worse. If regret didn’t have a function, it won’t be there. It’s a personal responsive experience.

Healthy regret is a teacher, welcome it and learn. It is not a judge nor a jailor. Regret curbs inclinations to bad habits, vices, and crimes. Even innocuous choices could be second-guessed. Regret may be thought of as a battle between who I am vs who I ought to be.Decisions are made in contexts unique to you. Based on information and circumstances of the younger you. Had it been possible to go back in time, remember that you are doing so absent the improvement; the experience you now have, therefore it is very likely, maybe certain that you would make the same choice that led you to regret. Who, but you know what was.

It might be helpful to remember this: when serious is the threat, the price of integrity plummets. 
If you insist on building a prison set upon an island of regret, why not make it a commodious structure. Because you might be there forever. Invite the judge over occasionally, the one that put you there. No one can dispirit you as thoroughly as a judge. Have room for the flagellator and tormentors too. No keys are necessary for your prison doors since you are the ever vigilant custodian of a prisoner unwilling to leave.

Knowing right from wrong, is it possible to regret right actions? Absolutely. Because regret entertains a range of regurgitation, some not even logically related to the core issue. In fact, given the capabilities of the complex self, some of what you think you recollect, might not be entirely true. Once given hospitable space there might be no escaping the perceived dark cloud that tags only you.