78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Regret is Life's Hangover

Regret is a powerful emotion.  It can help us learn from experience or plunge us into depression.  And what can be even stronger than regret from actual choices is "anticipated regret" where we project ourselves forward into the future and predict what may happen.  According to the results of a study done in 1996 where participants were given lottery tickets and asked if they wanted to trade tickets with one equally as likely to win, most chose not to trade thereby eliminating the risk of doing something that could bring regret.   According to this article, The Amazing Power of Regret to Shape Our Future: "Anticipated regret is such a powerful emotion that it can cause us to avoid risk, lower our expectations, steer us towards the familiar and away from new, interesting experiences. We anticipate more regret when we go against the grain, when we make positive decisions ourselves, rather than letting the chips fall as they may."   This is what sad experience and its subsequent regret teaches us, to shy away from situations in which we must take personal responsibility for a negative outcome.   

 I don't think other animals experience regret as humans do.  I don't imagine my dog is ruefully kicking her own ass over getting into the garbage and strewing it all over the kitchen even though it cost her crate time and a scolding.  Though the experience may, we can hope, teach her not to do it again, because animals learn as we do to avoid negative experiences (if the negative outweighs the positive, anyway), I doubt she's feeling that bad that it will cause her not to chase the next squirrel she sees into the neighbor's yard. We humans have this amazing memory that associates itself with strong emotions such that it can impact both our present and future experiences.

One of the motivations for getting a tarot reading is this desire to avoid anticipated regret.  We want to make the right choice, i.e., the one that won't bring regret, and analyzing our current mindset and attitudes and peeking at the likely outcomes is all part of a thoughtful deliberative process.  But I think life is rigged in such a way that we can't avoid regret if we want to learn anything. 

"I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations - one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it - you will regret both."  --Soren Kierkegaard

Housewives Tarot

Since we're stuck with regret, it's probably best to learn to live with it.  A tarot reading can certainly help parse out the possibilities and assist with making a decision you feel mostly positive about.  This is a good thing because when the inevitable regrets come, you can be assured that you made your decision in the best way you could, given the information you had at the time.  Life can be understood backwards, hindsight being 20/20 and all, but it must be lived now and forward.  And some things can't be changed, there are no do-overs.  While it may never be too late to go back to school and earn that degree, we can't turn back time and erase having married someone, having children, or any of our other choices and experiences. The healthiest adults accept this and accept also that it's really never too late to earn more regrets.
"The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides. Accept life, and you must accept regret."  --Henri Frederic Amiel

 The challenge is not to live without regrets, but to accept them, to integrate them into the sum of your lived experiences, and to use the education that comes with them not to avoid regret in the future but as additional information with which to make your decisions now.  Becoming wiser doesn't have to mean losing one's capacity for new risks and daring opportunities.  Becoming wiser means having the experience to know how to deal with the regrets when they happen.  Because happen they will.  The strongest regrets those in hospice centers express tend to be not the things they have done, but things they didn't do.

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been.”― Kurt Vonnegut