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


  1. Hi Ginny.. I have recently started learning tarot and only to mention your blog has added fuel to the fire.. as all this post in one way or the other expands the boundaries of human wisdom, keep up the good work

  2. Ginny, I wrote something last night about blame or shame coming up from the past. Reading your post about regret reminded me how intertwined those words, those experiences, are. Subtle differences, but all part of the same reaction to the past. Perfect illustration with the 5 of cups from Housewifes (which I love).

    I also love and covet your layout. I would snap this up in a second if I were a copycat.

    And finally, write more! :-)

  3. Anonymous4:07 PM

    I love this blog. I love how you intertwine life, advice, wisdom and tarot. I have you bookmarked and I always keep an eye out to see if there's anything new. Keep up the wonderful, inspiring work! I wish you the best!

    -Aquarius Fellow

  4. I have struggled mightily with regret and depression and I now see the how they co-conspire to keep me stuck. Having made some pretty tough no-win decisions in my life, I understand now that regret is part of the package. Still, I appreciate getting a glimpse into how things will probably play out so I can try to avoid making a huge mistake, if possible. That's just smart.

    And yes, I want to and will try to write more, Carol. :) Meanwhile, I'm enjoying your writing tremendously.

    Thank you Vijay and Aquarius Fellow, you inspire me. :)

  5. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

    I needed this right now. Thank you.


  6. Anonymous9:56 AM

    Dear Ginny,

    Another insightful and useful article. Thank you for inspiring us to go through life with both eyes and our heart open.

    As I write this comment I am literally sitting in hospice with my father who may pass today. What I am aware of is very much aligned with your wisdom....experiences and lessons from my past have helped me to be open and supportive with a loving presence, leaving nothing that needs to be said or shared unexpressed.

    This truly is the way to approach Tarot, with an open mind and heart, taking full responsibility for my request for guidance and the wisdom that appears through the cards. After using all my professional and intuitive skills to pay attention to my father's preference about being removed from the respirator, I turned to the cards for confirmation, for which the response was absolutely in alignment. Once the machine was removed he could breath more naturally and comfortably on his own, for four days now.

    Thank you for your wise and timely article.

    Much love,

  7. Ah, Katrina (((hugs))) such a difficult time. I agree that we can't look to the cards to sidestep personal responsibility and we must draw on our past experiences with regret and use them positively not to avoid regret but to place it in perspective. My heart goes out to you as you accompany your father.

    So glad this was helpful Donnaleigh! :) I needed it, too!

  8. Thank you for the insightful article :) I am new to tarot but it has since made a great difference in my life. I am reading everything that I can about tarot and how others are using it to change their lives.

    In my quest to find the meanings of life and hoping to incorporate tarot and oracle cards into my Christian belief (again, I am new to this religion so I don't know enough to even know if the scriptures have anything to say about tarot), I have encountered new knowledge and new beliefs. I am not concerned about the opinions of other Christians who frowned upon the tarot since I do not even belong to any church now. But I do care about finding meanings to my own life.

    Thank you once again, for your articles. I will keep reading them. Warmest blessings.


    I am a new learner to Tarot. Mostly for my own self discovery and understanding of the world, not really to give readings for others. I wiped out my book to look up the 5 of cups.

    I found had I been keeping up with my reading on the internet, I would have had some insightful advice already. Anyhow! wow, last week a friendship... I guess ended, I am sure I was as loving as possible, as per my comment on your most recent blog on, rudeness. She basically ended this friendship, I got very VERY depressed about this cried and cried as if I had done something wrong, but I soon realized that her and I are in darn near exact circumstances and her judgement of me and conclusion of our friendship was fully on her, and now I think I fully accept that now, I love going out there and receiving 'reinforcement' for my decisions and words ;)

    Great one!

  10. Welcome Garden Beast -- yes, part of the issue we have with regret is also knowing what part we have played and what is not our responsibility. Often we regret things that weren't even ours to regret. And what someone thinks about you (when judging) and does about your relationship speaks more about them than you.

  11. Perfeito: só nos arrependemos mais do que deixamos de fazer.Kisses!


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