Escaping the Grip of Regret, Part 2: The Power of Regret
In my last posting, I tried to open up the whole subject of regret, and the powerful and sometimes crippling place that it can occupy in our lives, and how we can be held in slavery to regret of all the choices we could have made differently, or courses of events that could have turned out differently. In this posting, I’d like to pose the question: what exactly is it that gives regret its formidable power?
I believe that Paul Simon’s Slip Sliding Away is a wonderfully expressive song that expresses something of this aspect of regret with great eloquence:
In regret, something of our energy, our emotional life, ourselves, even, gets caught up with “the way it might have been”. The longed for possibility, what could have been, comes too close to the heart for us to let go of it entirely. And yet, at the same time, we are caught in the excruciatingly painful awareness that the longed-for will never be, cannot now ever be. The chance for it to be is gone for good, and we feel the pain, but can’t let go.
All of this would be so simple if it were a matter of will! If we could just give ourselves a stiff talking to, and tell ourselves that the past is past, that we should leave well enough alone and move on, how great that would be! But with the worst cases of regret, it just doesn’t work like that. We may reason and reason with ourselves, and yet sometimes we just can’t let go and move on. To do so can feel like we are killing a part of ourselves, which consequently just lives on in some shadowy half-life.
The reality is that regret is grounded within us somewhere other than in our everyday conscious minds. It is grounded in the deepest hopes and aspirations that we have, that have somehow been unlocked as we dared to hope for their fulfillment, and have then been undone, by our decisions, or just by the course of life. We are caught and crucified by our yearning for a life other than the one that turned out.
Regret will not truly be healed through our self-discipline. It may be hidden in this manner, but not truly eased or released. It is only by having the courage to truly go into the regret, to open it up and understand it, that we can begin to transform its energy into something life-giving.
Have you ever had the experience of moving beyond a deep regret? How did that happen for you? I’d welcome your private communications, or any of your comments that you would like to post.
I wish you all the very best on your personal journey to wholeness,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst
VIDEO CREDITS: “Slip Sliding Away” © 2010 Paul Simon under exclusive license to Sony Music Entertainment. These images are used here in the fair use context of critical discussion.
© 2010 Brian Collinson , 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario, Canada L6J 5L7