Friday, January 7, 2011

The Power of Regret



The accidents of our lives bruise us into dirty individuality. —Gregory McGuire*

I don't believe in original sin. According to my cosmology, humans are complicated individuals who come into being with a lot of karma, "good," "bad," and everything inbetween. Hence I don't get the idea of taking on shame just because we are who we are. I also don't get the Jewish slant on the same idea, that we should in some way or another always feel guilty about mistakes made or plans that never worked out, or about our moments of greed, failure, ambition, bitterness and thoughtlessness.

Some of us fare better than others over the courses of our lives, but what that means is beyond me. It seems that everything we experience is a part of working through our very complicated karma. Sometimes that process includes some suffering. Don't ask me why - the reasons for human suffering are incomprehensible. The God I worship can wrap his/her "arms" around the why of suffering. It's too big for me.

Both shame and guilt are too punitive to be of any help in moving forward. Both states of being are energetically sticky, like greasy velcro. When I feel guilty I become a magnet for every negative idea and situation. It's like a black hole that sucks me ever deeper into it without presenting any opportunity for healing.

Regret is a different story, at least for me. Maybe this is simply a matter of semantics, but when I feel regret, I am able to work with the matter at hand. Regret does not feel oily or sticky to me. It's not a comfortable place, but it provides the emotional space I need to learn. When I experience regret, if I work with it, I am able to find healing and wisdom, whereas when I feel shame or guilt, I am lost, emotionally.

I'm still in the process of reviewing everything that went down in 2010. It was such a great year for me in so many ways. Still, I have a couple of serious regrets about the way a particular situation unfolded. I'm sitting with that feeling this morning, trying to make space around it, listening, hoping to learn and move on. It's high time to put 2010 to bed; my prayers this morning included a petition to move fully in 2011, pronto. I think I'm almost there. May it be so.

Happy Friday to all. Shalom.



*Thanks to Tess of the great blog Willow Manor, for posting this quote on facebook.

23 comments:

Vicki said...

Please don't have regrets~ only endless possibilities! So love you my friend...

Reya Mellicker said...

Regret helps me, Vicki. It's my friend. Glad to be well loved, btw. All is well.

janis said...

Oh Reya~ very thought provoking! I love reading your blog♥

Liza Ursu said...

I had regret about deactivating my Facebook account as part of a New Year's resolution.
I worked through it,
by reactivating : )
Great post Reya.

Pauline said...

Not just semantics - there is a quality to regret that spurs us forward, where guilt and shame induce that feeling of being mired in one's emotions. I like the distinction. Sitting with regret does allow you to explore the situation, make some sort of amends and move on. Great photo of reflections and a hint of moving on in the subject of vehicles.

blonderthanyou said...

as always ...elegantly stated...
with much love
xoxo

Reya Mellicker said...

Blonder: I MISS YOU.

Janis thanks and Liza so glad you returned to FB. Resistence is futile.

Thanks Pauline - didn't think about the vehicle and moving on. Cool!

The Bug said...

I know that guilt causes me to just immerse myself in bad behavior - "I've already been bad, let's just compound that error by eating a whole tube of cookie dough & being slack on the job." Very destructive emotion for me. I agree - regret is a lot more positive in its outcome if you'll just work through it. Regret says, "well, that wasn't your most shining moment - how do we make sure that doesn't happen again?"

Jo said...

The whole thing is rather tricky, isn't it? We must allow ourselves the space to review our actions, thoughts, and deeds, and maybe the feeling of regret is what mandates us to create that space if we want to move on.

The tricky part comes in realizing when we have crossed over from self-examination into self-indulgence, which only causes us to dwell even longer in that from which we want to move away.

You know what I'm gonna say, right? Je ne regrette rien!

Much love as you move onward and upward, allowing 2011 to be the year of your own design.

Mrsupole said...

Shame and guilt, naughty, naughty feelings that can make one depressed and sad.

Regret can be over good things one did not do or over bad things one did. You are right that regret is a better feeling to have and get over, so it can be positive. Is not liking something one did, regret or guilt?

I think that we just have to take one day at a time and if we are blessed then the next day is better. I think there is always something better if one looks for it. When one focuses on the good then one is not wasting their time focusing on the guilt or shame.

2011 will be a great year for you Reya, it is in your karma.

God bless.

The Pollinatrix said...

Reading your post makes me realize that I probably can't define any of those words as well as I used to. From paying closer attention to my inner states without judging them, what I know now is that I will get a yucky sick feeling in my gut when I'm not dealing with something in a way that's loving and clear, which really means when my THINKING is stinky, whatever my outer actions might be. This awareness then points out to me my need to accept all that yuckiness, to allow it to simply be and sit with it, watch it, talk with it.

It may take a few days, but eventually in this way I move through it and come back to love and clarity, often at a deeper level than before the yuckiness took over.

Val said...

your photos are astounding! i try not to look back too much incase i turn into a pillar of salt like in the story - which i take to mean tears? but still do sometimes. sigh x

Reya Mellicker said...

Val, you too (like Jo and many of my brilliant friends) are a quick processor of information. You guys don't HAVE to look back in order to learn from life's marvels and perils. Me? SOOOOOOOO SLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW at understanding, and because I get overwhelmed in the moment, it's usually somewhat after the fact that I catch on to any possible wisdom gained.

Bug says it perfectly Regret says, "well, that wasn't your most shining moment - how do we make sure that doesn't happen again?"

Yep. Onwards and upwards.

Pam said...

Everyone processes things at different rates and ways Reya - I think your understanding is all the better for a bit of breathing space. It's wonderful to come to a conclusion about something, and to often find it here ie. clarification of shamanistic issues that are often a mystery, or as you mentioned, a synchronisity of thought/feeling. Thanks for your recent visit and comment.Brought a smile!..(as did the Bug's comment about "well that wasn't your most shining moment...".
My regret,strangely enough in light of this post is trying to do aim for perfection in things (impossible!)- and perhaps if I did things differently it would be to tell myself "you know you ARE ALLOWED to stuff up!(after all I'm not critical with others).
Aiming for perfection has its own price ie. not trying or attempting things for fear of failure, and I think we can be too hard on ourselves.We're only human.Regret is part of that, though when my daughter is dealing with those in palliative care, she says she has seen too many die with regrets, and it has coloured her outlook on, and how she deals with, what life throws her way.
Thought-provoking post Reya!xx

BlahCooCooBlah said...

I have many regrets. I think we always will have them as humans. Lovely blog, following :)

Meri said...

You give voice to my thoughts about guilt and shame so beautifully. And I think regrets, at their best, are moments where our reflections lead us to kinder, more gentle interactions.

Nancy said...

I agree. Regret gives some space for movement - shame is a black hole. The only good to come of it is the desire to never do whatever it was that brought that into your life.

steven said...

reya - it's funny that regret should come up here. i run my life backwards sometimes, well parts of it, and play the "what if . . " game that can leave me wondering if i made a mistake, was super smart, deeply regretful, or worst of all bugged at myself for playing such a goofy game! i hadn't thought of regret as a window for learning, i've always relied on obvious mistakes for that. i figure regret is a kind of mistake all on its own. steven

Whitney Lee said...

You know, I read this post this morning, and until I posted this evening, I didn't realize how this has stuck with me all day, coloring my thoughts.

I've got plenty of guilt and shame, though not as much in the last few years. I take that as a sign of growth. I hadn't really thought of regret in this light. It's nice to consider the positive aspect of a negative emotion.

Susan said...

One of my regrets, Reya, is not being able to read your blog and other favorites as often as I once did. But that's a lesson in learning to prioritize the things I enjoy, right? Here's to learning more in 2011!

Mary Ellen said...

Sr. Wendy, in her chat with Bill Moyer, calls that regret thing 'contrition' - she says, we recognize the fault/error/harm, ask forgiveness, and move on - while guilt is something, she says, that people just wallow around in. I found that a helpful distinction.

Reya Mellicker said...

Contrition? Oh I love that. Thanks Mary Ellen.

Susan, so great to "see" you!

Natalie said...

Great post, and I adore that photo.