NO (don’t) REGRET for REGRETS
Some people appreciate art, including tattoo—so do I. Since I was a kid I find tattoo as a nice body art, it is like an expensive drawing in a canvass. I first started think about getting it since I was in high school, but I deliberately waited a long time. I got my tattoo a year after having my degree, and like others I regretted it instantly. And by regretted it I stepped outside that tattoo place and had a huge emotional meltdown.
I was shocked by myself because prior to the inking session, I had prided myself on having definitely no regrets. I made a lot of mistakes and dumb decision but I always felt I made the best choice I could make, given who I was then, and the information I had on hand. I learnt a lesson from it. It somehow got me to where I am in right now. And I wouldn’t change it. In other words lamenting things that occurred in the past is an absolute waste of time; we should always look forward and not backward, and try the best to live a life free of regrets.
‘’Things without all remedy should be without regard; what’s done is done.’’ This is such an admirable philosophy that something we might all agree to sign on to, a nice quotes said by Lady Macbeth to her husband. But on the other hand I think that to live functional and being human, you need to learn to live, not without regret, but with it.
Regret is the emotion we experience when we think that our present situation could be better or happier if we had done something different in the part, we took different path before heading to something. And it is painfully easy to imagine that you could have made different decision that would have led to a better outcome. We feel regret when we think we are responsible for a decision that came out badly, but almost came out well.
We have a vast body of literature on consumer and financial decision and the regrets associated with them—buyer’s remorse, basically. But then some researchers to step back and say, well OKAY, but overall, what do we regret most in life?
I think top of the things we regret the most in life is EDUCATION, all of our regrets pertain to decisions we made about education. We wish we’ve got more of it, and take better advantage of education that we did have. We wish we’d chosen to study different field. Others very high on our list of regrets include career, romance, parenting, various decisions and choices about our sense of self, and how we spend our leisure time—or more specifically, how we failed to spend our leisure time. The remaining regrets pertain to these things; finance, family issues unrelated to romance or parenting, health, friends, and community. Our financial decisions account less for our total regrets. So if you are confuse which one you buy, Samsung or iPhone product, let it go. Don’t stress much yourself. Odds are, you’re not going to care about it after few years.
For the things that we really care about and do experience profound regret around, what does the experience feel like? It feels terrible. Regret feels awful. But it turns out that regret feels awful in four very specific and consistent ways.
First is denial. When I went that time after getting that tattoo, I stayed up until late night. There’s exactly one thought in my mind—Make it go away, and I want my mom now! This is primitive emotional response. We’re not trying to solve the problem. We’re not trying to understand how the problem came about. We just want it to vanish right away.
The second characteristic is a sense of bewilderment. So the other thing that night that popped out in my mind was— What was I thinking? There is real sense of alienation from the part of us that made a decision we regret. We can’t identify with that part. We don’t understand that part. And we certainly don’t have empathy for that part—which explains the third component of regret, which is an intense desire to punish ourselves. That’s why in the face of our regret, the thing we can consistently say is ‘’I could’ve kicked myself then.’’ The fourth component is that regret is what we called perseveration. To perseverate means to focus obsessively and repeatedly on the same thing. Now the effect of perseveration is basically take these first three components of regrets and put them on infinite loop.
But there’s also a fifth one, and I think of this is a kind of existence wake-up call. I spent the rest of the night before I fall asleep with the thought of skin grafts or a laser. Then I thought about how my mom will cover for this act of idiocy. The whole point of acts of idiocy is that they leave you totally uninsured; they leave you exposed to the world and exposed to your own vulnerability and fallibility in face of a fairly indifferent universe.
The intensity and persistence with which we experience these emotional components of regret is obviously going to vary depending on the specific thing that we’re feeling grateful about. Sometimes we do make decisions that have irrevocable and terrible consequences, either for our own or for other people.
I think as individual we supposed to live with three things that will help us to make peace with regret. And the first of these is seeks comfort in its universality. Having tattoo is not a taboo in most society nowadays, besides at the first place when I have my tattoo it’s by my own will and choice. The second way is to laugh at ourselves. In my case, this wasn’t a problem, because it’s very easy to laugh at yourself when you’re 24 and you want your mum because you don’t like your new tattoo. All of us that experience regrets that contains pain and grief understand that humor and even black humor plays a role in helping us to survive. It connects the poles of our lives back together, and sent a little current of life back into us. The third way we can make our piece with regret is through the passage of time, which as we know time heals all wounds—except for tattoos, which are permanent.
So it’s been few years back since I’ve got my tattoo. It’s actually not that hideous. Some people when they see my tattoo, for the most part they find it simple on how it looks. But I don’t mind it because it’s not really they’re opinion that matter the most, it’s on what the story behind with the simple text tattoo in my wrist. I mean it!
Some of our regrets in life are not as ugly as we think they are. I love this simple art written in my wrist because my mother means a world to me.
It reminds me of constantly the most important lesson regret can teach us. If we have goals and dreams, and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them, or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets, but not to hate ourselves for having them.
The lesson that I ultimately learned from my tattoo is, We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we can do better.