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A 1984 study at San Francisco State University found that regret is the most common negative emotion people express. Researchers associate the inability to feel this emotion with brain lesions, neurodegenerative diseases and mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Regret has a key place in human evolution: It sharpens people’s thinking and helps them avert future mistakes.
The way people deal with feelings of regret determines their ability to turn them into something positive. Trying to suppress the feelings, or endlessly ruminating over them won’t do much good. Instead, you can make feelings of regret work for you by following a three-step process.
Don’t whitewash or self-criticize. Instead, practice self-compassion by acknowledging that making mistakes is human.
Also, consider the fact that other people might have gone through a similar experience, and that the event may not taint the rest of your life.
The effectiveness of self-compassion is especially evident with regret.
If you don’t want to entrust them to a friend, write about your negative experiences or speak them out loud into a recording device.
Research shows that putting feelings into language helps individuals clarify and process them. If you decide to share your feelings with others, know that people tend to view others who show their vulnerability more favourably.
Instead of those unpleasant emotions fluttering around uncontrollably, language helps us capture them in our net, pin them down and begin analyzing them.
Try to self-distance from the experience by pretending you are giving advice to another person who had an identical experience. Or, imagine your future self looking back at your current problems.
Another technique is to pretend you are a neutral expert analyzing your predicament, and then write an email to yourself outlining the lessons learned and giving instructions on how to move forward.
Solve the problem or leave the problem. But…… Do not live with the problem.
Most people don’t want to experience regret – yet it’s impossible to go through life without regretting something from time to time. Best-selling author Daniel H. Pink – who likes to turn conventional wisdom on its head – argues that, rather than being an unpleasant feeling that holds you back, regret can serve as a powerful catalyst for improving your life and that of others.
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