How to Free Yourself From The Chains of Regret

If you could start your life over, what would you do differently? When it comes to regret, the person you most often must forgive is yourself. Regrets are a part of life, we all have things we have done of which we are ashamed.  You do not have to beat yourself up, but learn from the experiences.

It is the lifelong regrets – like never having children, letting a relationship go, or not going to college – that are the hardest with which to deal.  The key is not to obsess over past decisions.  Once you recognize why you made the decision, accept it, let it go and live the life you have to the fullest.

Common Regrets

In a 2011 study, Neal Roese, a psychologist and professor of marketing at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, found that the most common regret among American adults tends to involve romance.  This was overwhelmingly true for women, with about 44% of female respondents recalling romance regrets, compared to 19% of men.  Other common regrets included family matters (16%), education (13%), career (12%), finance (10%) and parenting (9%).

The most notable regrets in people’s lives are generally tied to humans’ inherent need to belong.  People who have the biggest regrets in their lives either missed out on a relationship or lost contact with a friend.

You Are Not Alone

Regrets have the power to make us feel isolated, broken and ashamed.  But what is comforting and vital to remember is how many other people undoubtedly have experienced similar mishaps and moved on from them.  So many times people think they are alone with their regret that they are the only person who has made that mistake or no one could possibly understand what they did or what they have been through.

The Power of Forgiveness

Two studies released in May 2014 from Baylor University looked at what factors determine a person’s likelihood of self-forgiveness.  Findings from the research showed:

  • People who made amends for past wrongdoings were more likely to self-forgive than those who had not.
  • The guiltier a respondent felt and the more serious the offense, the less likely he or she was to self-forgive.
  • Women were slightly less likely to self-forgive than men.

People who have apologized for past regrets feel like they have a “moral permission to let go.  The act of apologizing alone can cause the offender to feel better regardless of whether or not the recipient of the apology accepts it.

Working with a psychologist to help you find ways to forgive yourself and others and free yourself from regret are worthwhile therapeutic goals.

Adapted from an article by Jessica Reynolds at the Chicago Tribune 6/8/14

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