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regretHaver

Dealing with REGRET

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The last six years of my life have been pretty a much a complete and utter waste. To be fair to myself, life dealt me an unusually difficult  set of circumstances which were beyond my control and resulted in real hardship. However, I failed to think and act my way out of the situation; instead, I let the negative overwhelm me and became paralyzed. I didn't act because I couldn't see the positive and the possibilities. The pattern was despair --> indecision --> inaction --> stagnation. So throughout this time I stayed in place, straddled the fence on suicide much of the time, mulled over my options the rest, and instead of making progress, stagnated painfully in an easy, menial job that payed just enough for me to get by, missing crucial opportunities. After making some difficult changes I am now back in motion, but my mind keeps going back to all the wasted time and thinking how much further along I could be, how much more money I could have, etc. if I had made up my mind and gotten with it sooner. The particular job and investment opportunities I wanted, but thought I couldn't do, are now in all likelihood gone forever, and I will most likely have to watch those things go on without me. How do I glean the lessons of the past without dwelling on them? Is there some mental trick to just wiping these things out of your consciousness?

Edited by regretHaver

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 Is there some mental trick to just wiping these things out of your consciousness?

If you wish to call it a "mental trick," may I suggest focusing on that ideal future you desire. With or without knowing the specifics of your situation, accept the fact that you cannot change the past; it was a dark time, and now you are gaining your vision again. Incidentally, could you explain a bit about your experience with Objectivism? Philosophy is extremely important to one's actions and mental health.

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Try thinking of five things you are glad have not happened to you whenever the thought comes up. It will change your mood for the better immediately. Psychologists have done a number of experiments on this method and found that it works.

I think the underlying mechanism must be that it swamps the crow epistemology with positive thoughts, which sounds like the kind of thing you're looking for.

Edited by William O

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As you describe the issue it looks like a job for a pro. You'd be prudent to talk to a therapist about this; it's an issue they often treat. I wish you success in the venture.

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Sounds like your feelings are justified. You're regretting actual mistakes. There's no reason to try and "wipe" that out. Just accept it, it's a part of you. Especially since you have learned from those mistakes, and identified a pattern of behavior that you must avoid to fall into again.

You should focus on your current plans and dreams, of course, while keeping in mind that everybody makes mistakes and has regrets ... and that it's fine to feel emotional discomfort in the face of uncomfortable truths about ourselves.

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Sounds like your feelings are justified. You're regretting actual mistakes. There's no reason to try and "wipe" that out. Just accept it, it's a part of you. Especially since you have learned from those mistakes, and identified a pattern of behavior that you must avoid to fall into again.

You should focus on your current plans and dreams, of course, while keeping in mind that everybody makes mistakes and has regrets ... and that it's fine to feel emotional discomfort in the face of uncomfortable truths about ourselves.

This article tends to confirm your advice:

"Regret, like all emotions, has a function for survival. It is our brain's way of telling us to take another look at our choices; a signal that our actions may be leading to negative consequenes. Regret is a major reason why addicts get into recovery!"

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201205/the-psychology-regret

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The particular job and investment opportunities I wanted, but thought I couldn't do, are now in all likelihood gone forever, and I will most likely have to watch those things go on without me. How do I glean the lessons of the past without dwelling on them? Is there some mental trick to just wiping these things out of your consciousness?

The interesting thing about job opportunities is that they are perpetually in flux -- even after you've been granted the opportunity, or stumbled upon it, or are pursuing it independently, you'd better be figuring out your next step, or the opportunity dies. The world's most successful businesses today won't exist in a shorter time than you'd think, if they remain the same. Constant change, planning, looking down the road is what's necessary -- and not coincidentally, it reflects the human need to never stop figuring out how to survive and make things better. Keep moving or die, as they say.

The point is, even if you'd pursued the absolute best opportunities in absolutely the best ways (and there is so much legitimate variation here -- there are no perfect opportunities), you'd still be in the same boat as Facebook, Apple, Caterpillar, the new trendy restaurant downtown, the guy who wrote a killer best-selling Amazon novel last year, or the girl who just got the junior executive position at Yum Brands: You've gotta figure some new shit out, because that other stuff is done now, and the world has already changed and is working with a new set of variables and values.

While your life isn't "as good" (or, not good in the same way) as it might have been, it's not hopeless, nor even necessarily bad. You now have a 6-year depression informing your decisions, which will give you a different perspective (and in many cases an edge) over competitors, or even just for your own decisions on which opportunities to explore.

It's kind of cliche by now, but whenever the idea of "it's too late to be successful" comes up, I always think of Harland Sanders, founder of KFC. He'd had many setbacks and held many jobs until in his 60's, he "recognized the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first KFC franchise opened in Utah in 1952." Now, KFC "is the world's second largest restaurant chain (as measured by sales) after McDonald's, with 18,875 outlets [!] in 118 countries." What I like about this story is it didn't take a degree in rocket science to achieve (but even if it had, there's no reason why you can't become a rocket scientist at 60!) -- it's relatable, a lot of people could make themselves successful in this kind of way.

 

The feelings are hard when you're good and depressed. But, as long as you're not brain dead, it's far from over. 

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