Did not do. Did do. Should not have done. Should have done. Could have done. No going back.
Regrets live in our mind as burdensome reminders of perceived failure, manifesting as self-judgement, which may result in ill-health and troubled relationships.
Memory, a mysterious aspect of our being, allows us to savor positive past experiences. The vacation, a delicious meal, the first kiss with a beloved. Memory also serves to torment us with the discomfort of other choices. An impulse purchase, a lie, an episode of unfaithfulness, misplaced anger, violent action. On and on and on.
Those who have experience with 12-Step Programs are familiar with examining regrets and making reparations. In a similar vein, Jewish tradition teaches that when you have knowingly done a wrong to another person, healing comes by directly (if possible) spelling out the wrong you have done, asking for pardon and offering appropriate reparations. If the other refuses to accept your apology, try another time. If refused again, make one more attempt. If refused again, it is considered that you have done your best, and your conscience (karma, to mix religious metaphors) is cleared. If the individual harmed is no longer living or available, find a way to make an appropriate reparation by helping someone else.
In addition to regrets over actions done, we regret that which was undone, such as missed opportunities. My clients have expressed regret over not being more adventurous, not taking more chances, dithering over a decision until it was too late, staying in a life-sapping situation rather than summoning the courage to leave, not taking better care of their health, or not finding ways to deal with problems and stress.
Healing regrets over that which was left undone may take the form of asking for pardon, if the past choice had a harmful impact on another. “Undone” regrets may be healed by simply doing what needs to be done, such as tending to one’s health, or by doing what might be regretted if an opportunity slips by.
In same way that other forms of negative energy are addressed, become aware of your regrets through examination of thoughts, dreams, and reactions. What a burden regrets are! Journal the regrets, examine their origin, and contemplate their healing, whether they center on things done or left undone..
And, as always, ask for help if needed.