Sunday, 7 December 2008

Regrets, I've Had a Few

Actually I have a lot. Most people have. We regret eating that last slice of pizza. We regret losing touch with old friends. We regret speaking without thinking. It is all part and parcel of the learning curve of life.

Skipping merrily through my blogroll this week I came upon a comment thread which touched upon the nature of regret. The post in question was about infidelity and the comments were the usual self-serving, self-justifying witless selection of variations on "yeah, you go girl!"(Which roughly translates as "I don't actually give a toss about the rights or wrongs of the situation or the reality of the actual impact upon your homelife, I just want you to keep posting the titillating stuff." Most commenters either want a vicarious thrill or a justification for their own indiscretions. It is a mutual support group where self-awareness is handed in at the door in exchange for blinkers. But I become barbed and digress.)

One of the comments included the old chestnut that "you only regret the things you don't do." Which is utter, utter bollocks. There are lots of things I haven't done which I do not regret in the slightest. (I do not regret turning down the opportunity for a fumble with, oh, lots and lots of people. I do not regret deciding not to drive after a bottle of wine, or choosing not to do things just because everybody else was.) Conversely, there are lots of things I did do and regret mightily. (I shan't give examples, but I am sure you can think of a list of your own.)

Regrets are what differentiate the healthy from sociopaths. We make choices which harm ourselves or others and feel bad about it. It is not a badge of honour to regret nothing. It is a mental deficiency.

21 comments:

True Lateral said...

Agree entirely, and don't mind admitting to many, many, regrets myself. Perhaps the styling of selves as non-regretters is part of the delusion of control over our lives. A related self-delusion that annoys me is when people insist that they are immensely lovable despite their obvious flaws (and if you don't in fact love them, then they don't care anyway), a mindset that denies any idea that we should at least try to be better than we are. Lowest-common-denominator stuff.

somechileanwoman said...

What an interesting post. I was just talking to my best friend last night about regrets! I too believe that you only regret the things you don't do is a bunch of crap. I've made lots of mistakes and most of them include things I've actually done! The things I haven't done I can take care of, I can change that, but the things I've done already I can't do anything about, it's much too late. Thanks for posting Luka.

Lady Julia said...

An increasing number of people seem to consider it perfectly acceptable not to own responsibility for their actions. If you're not accountable, then of course you cannot regret.

Very thoughtful post, Luka. Thanks for sharing.

Jackie Adshead said...

Having regrets for things you did (or didn't do), is part of growing as a person. And should hopefully go hand in hand with "learning and not making the same mistake again" (for the bad things you did) and "that would hurt me/someone-I-care-for too much for me to want to consider doing it"(for the things you didn't do). Making the decision which one to go for is the stuff of morals........... BUT I think that the not having regrets for the things you did (presuming they're not THAT bad and also relying on SOME very civilised morals involved in it) isn't a bad thing.... if positive things come from it.

Now awaiting Luka to argue "ethics" with me.....

Neysa Lee said...

Regrets are what differentiate the healthy from sociopaths.

Very succinctly put. Another old saw I've always scoffed at is "never complain, never explain" (in other words, never communicate except to flatter, suck up, or beg?). As with all such credos, it's ridiculously over-broad. Of course there can be such a thing as whining or protesting too much, but what about legitimate complaints and excuses? They do exist, after all. And they sometimes have great value.

Freak At Heart said...

OMG OMG OMG I have so many regrets! The list is far too long to recount! Many of those regrets have made me a better person and have helped shape who I am today. While many I just wish were not regrets at all! But alas this is all part of life, and to be honest while I have far to many regrets someone who has not has not truly lived!

Luka said...

True Lateral - I think my problem with the "regret is pointless" argument is that it displays a certain degree of arrogance. Sort of "I am aware that I have done something that wasn't entirely beneficial all round, but fuck it. No point feeling bad about it now, it's done."

Ah, yes, the loveable rogue mindset. I have met a few people like that.

SomeChileanWoman - that's a very good point. What's done is done, but what is undone is still open to choice.

Lady Julia - oh yes, you are quite right. I don't know if blogging and the unconditional support given to pretty much any confession has led to this state of affairs, or if it simply now has a forum in which to be showcased.

Luka said...

Jackie - yes, of course I agree that not regretting something genuinely inconsequential (eating an entire packet of Hobnobs, lying about your best friend about not looking fat in her new tight trousers, that sort of thing)is not bad. My irritation is when we get into the "I know I am doing things that inarguably cause harm to another, but I don't have any regrets because at least I am living life to the fullest! Woo!" territory.

Neysa - I'd always heard it put as "never apologise, never explain" but yes, it's the same set-up. Or, my personal favourite, "if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all". What a load of crap. That kind of passive nonsense is exactly how abuse, in all its forms, thrives.

Freak at Heart - I don't think it is possible to live a life free of regret, unless you are in a coma.

B said...

The quotation has been taken out of context. It no doubt goes back way further, but reminds me of the Mark Twain quote
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw out the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."*

A modicum of common sense suggests that is a mantra about not holding back in life, take a few well thought out risks in the hope that you sour higher. I don't see how it has anything to do with infidelity. But then I'm sure if I was being a cheat I'd want to twist whatever mantras I could find to ease the guilt. (Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero... that one can work too!)


*am I a sad fuck for knowing that quote off by heart?

Walker said...

I have no regrets even though I regret some of the things i have done.
Does that sounds weird to you.
I have had to do some regretable things in life but they had to be done and in that sense I have no regrets.
Everything i have done has lead me to this place in life and your blog and even though I could have chosen another route by not doing what I did once unpon a time I would probably still feel the same way but maybe not here commenting on your blog.
I don;t see why we should regret choces we make when there is nothing we can do about them today.
We're not painting or scuptures where you can go back and fix things as our lives are not pages in novels we can return to to edit.
Regrets I've had a few but none I regret doing.

Luka said...

B - not a sad fuck at all, I am entirely impressed!

I suppose it all comes back to the very nature of regret itself. It lends itself to "if only I'd..." and "I should have...." All of which imply things not done, rather than things which were. So, yes, I can see the logic in looking back over a life and regretting more of those things left undone.

To use this as a reason to do some things which really should be left undone is, at best, questionable, and that's where I step in, irritated and grumpy.

Walker - hang on, I am trying to get my mind to follow your path :)

OK, yes, I think I see what you are saying: that some things we have to do and we regret any harm that comes from that but don't regret making the choice in the first place if it was an unavoidable option. And that all paths we take lead us where we are today and that should not be a cause for regret. Is that right?

Carnalis said...

*muses for awhile*

i always thought i was a 'je regrette rien' type, but, on reflection, it is perhaps because i hadn't had any particularly painful decisions to make. If generally life goes your way, then it is easy to regret nothing. I often think, nowadays, i wish i hadn't done (him/X/Y/Z) but then you consider that perhaps that one regret might forestall an even bigger one coming down the track.

Life sucks, and sometimes you have to get on your knees and clean up the mess.

can i tempt you to another piece of cake?

Freddy said...

Regrets?
I have a bucketfull.

Suzanne Portnoy said...

I'm afraid on this one we'll have to agree to disagree. I really don't see the point of regrets, not at all. If you do things that you shouldn't have done, well hopefully you won't do them again. I've done some stupid, ill-advised things (quite a few actually) but so what? They are done and no one came out dead or particularly hurt. Well, I did have a boyfriend that passed away but as I often tell myself, it had nothing to do with me...

Luka said...

Carnalis - also, just because one doesn't regret something *now* doesn't mean one won't at some point.

I can always be tempted to another piece of cake.

Freddy - (((hugs)))

Suzanne - ah, but, now we are coming down to semantics and accepted definitions of "regret". For I would argue that if you do things that you shouldn't have done but hopefully won't do them again, that is because you have learned from a less than enjoyable emotional response - regret. But that's what I mean about semantics - one person's regret is another person's "meh".

Baby said...

"Regrets are what differentiate the healthy from sociopaths"

I agree, as well as, it differentiates the courageous from weak, lilly-livered wimps, that can't "own-up" or admit to having caused pain to another through their infidelity(ies), as it may harm their self-image....

Luka said...

Baby - you have raised an interesting point about self-image. Do we all redefine our situations to some degree in order to maintain our ideal self-image? I think some people are most definitely more self-aware than others. I shall ponder this one.

Walker said...

Yup, thats about it.

Carnalis said...

There are people who are self-aware and are correspondingly relaxed in their own skin, non-judgmental (although not necessarily un-spoken) and often very giving of their energies, and those who are so painfully self aware that life becomes about their self to the exclusion of rational, and all others.

Seeing yourself through another's eyes is often far more revealing.

No one you know said...

Yes; I wonder about those who claim, "I live my life without regrets." Selfish.

So, I'm off to shag all my ex-wife's sisters ...

Luka said...

No One You Know - hello! Will you be gone long?