A Dozen Ways to Avoid Regret (and a Warning about Endless Therapy)

Regret is one of those things embedded in the human condition. It fits a discussion in most any time. I wrote this in 2016.

Dr. Gerald Stein

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When we suffer regret we are, by definition, occupied with the past. We lament things we did or didn’t do, time lost, vanished opportunities. Perhaps, however, it would be useful thinking about how to avoid regret going forward. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Recognize life’s limitations, learn from failure, and don’t stop trying. Anyone with imagination can think of several possible lives to lead, places to go, experiences to pursue. If  you are honest you can even envision a different spouse or children, no matter your great good fortune in those you have. Thus, the world is like a candy store in which only so much consumption of sweets is possible, to borrow a metaphor from Haruki Murakami and Forrest Gump. The earlier you recognize this the more you are forced to refine and narrow your choices. Moreover, you must reach for some of those candies without ever having tasted…

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14 thoughts on “A Dozen Ways to Avoid Regret (and a Warning about Endless Therapy)

  1. Metal Crystal

    Hi Gerry, such a great blog today. I’ve been dwelling on the past lately. I needed to hear that. We’re going to Sugar Grove in a week but this trip we are bringing Jack and the girls so not planning any adult time. I’m sure we will be back soon now that we’re vaccinated so hopefully we can get together next visit. Hope you are all doing well. Love Cheryl Sent from my iPhone

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  2. dragonflythinktank

    I was just telling my therapist a few sessions ago about how I was dealing with regret – which came before the pandemic, but then it worsened afterward. I took regret to mean grieving over losses. I kept thinking that if I weren’t traumatized and harmed by others, I would have had a much better life. But then comes self-blame and shame – at least for me. And my bucket lists were always for the far future. But I like how you said that it is best to do things in the present, and that can include items on our bucket list.

    For now, I think therapy is a journey I needed to take. The good thing is that I feel like I can give myself permission to just relax and heal during this time. I’m too exhausted and emotional to move forward right now, or to even pursue dreams and goals. I’d rather focus on what I’ve been neglecting all these years: me (and the many fragmented parts of self within).

    Thank you for another thoughtful post, Dr. S! It is really fitting for the times we live in today! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • drgeraldstein

      It does sound like the right journey. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest therapy should be abandoned as soon as possible. Nonetheless, to the extent manageable, life must still be lived. Everything comes with limits. You seem to be in the right therapeutic place, with the right counselor for you. Thanks for your comment, dragonflythinktank.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dragonflythinktank

        Thank you, Dr. S. I just meant that therapy is helping me through feelings of regret and grief for all the losses in my life, in addition to all the traumas. Indeed, I do have the right counselor (thankfully), and I’m very grateful for her. Sometimes I think that I’m getting worse, but there is a sense of relief that I experience – sometimes later than sooner, as I tend to have delayed reactions to things. But I really hope that I’m in the right therapeutic place. It feels weird to focus on therapy but also to enjoy life where I can – with some of the little things in life (like Care Bears, toys, coloring books, watching shows, and having a pile of new books I intend to read – mostly the Classics).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. drgeraldstein

    Therapy does not always (or perhaps ever) cause improvement in an ascending line. There is pain, there are plateaus, and challenges.

    Glad to hear of your belief in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lydiahopebakker

    I think it’s time to stop my endless therapy. It makes me sad to keep digging. I want to keep living. But I’m too attached. And that’s my problem.

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    • drgeraldstein

      Your dilemma is a poignant one, Lydia. Ideally treatment should enable you to build relationships outside the office, but even then there are some people whose preciousness can’t be replaced. Decisions like this always come down to the question of what the continuation of therapy costs us, and what benefits there are to staying vs. leaving. Good luck with this.

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  5. I wish I could post…I cannot see what I am typing. Do not know if this is a Word Press problem. Thanks for the article Dr. Stein.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drgeraldstein

      You are welcome, Nancy. Not sure what the trouble is. No one else has reported it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • dragonflythinktank

      Hope you are okay, Nancy. I remember you from before (I used to be Peace Penguin and some other names, but I deleted those old accounts and created a new one). I’m not having any trouble on my end. It could be your browser settings and/or your app settings (if you’re using a tablet or a phone, or if your tablet mode on your laptop is on). Hopefully you are able to fix whatever is going on with your device.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you, Dragonfly! I will have to look into this and maybe see if there is an app available on my iPad. I remember you too and missed your presence here, and I worried about you because I could sense you were struggling with the isolation this pandemic has brought upon us. Glad you are ok and thanks for reaching out. Guess what? I just realized I am responding on my other iPad and I can see what I am typing. Hmmm! 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The multitudes of “what ifs” and “if onlys” – regrets – from the past make it difficult to trust that current or future actions and/or decisions will result in fewer questionable ones.

    Liked by 2 people

    • drgeraldstein

      Understood. The other side of the argument is that making no choice is also a choice, subject to the same for error. It only gives the illusion of safety. Good luck with this challenge we have all faced at some time.

      Liked by 1 person

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