Remorse is a plague of the heart and mind that is one of the most gut-wrenching afflictions. I think remorse can come in innumerable forms and sometimes sneak up on us unknowingly from a dormant slumber. I have felt remorse over relationships, my own unhealthy habits, the things I never said and wish I had, or even the way I may have glanced at a person. Remorse is a second guess of actions, feeling sorrow that we may have been wrong. Turned inward, remorse eats us away until we are walking carrion, zombies frozen in time. Lived with too long, this walk of regret becomes unproductive, a cycle of self-hatred, self-medicating, and numbing out. As I get older, I am realizing that holding onto remorse serves little purpose other than to keep us paralyzed and tunneling through the past. There is something to be said for having a conscience, feeling a pang of doubt when we make a morally questionable decision, but when your entire being is dripping in regret, you must accept that no one can save you but yourself. Only forgiveness and understanding heal regret and sadness--easier said than done.
Time apparently heals, but if you live with fear, regret, and doubt, time only prolongs and exacerbates self-inflicted pain. The cycle must end at some point. Some may choose suicide, but I choose contemplation and introspection. This takes work, but it is worthwhile work, and you are not alone in your fears.
Once I realized that I no longer want to blame myself for the trauma I have experienced, or blame myself for the trauma I inflicted on others, I can be free to create something new and different. This is what I hope for you as well.
If I lock myself in anger and doubt, I will become nothing more than anger and doubt.
I've found that the most difficult regret to contend with is the sadness that has festered within me for years as I internalized and despised all of the mental health treatment I was receiving. I’m not sure if this was due to the specific treatment I was receiving, or due to my own misunderstanding, fear, and anger that I needed medication and therapy in order to be “well”. I always thought that everyone around me needed help—not me. But in truth, I have needed a lot of help and still do. If I despise myself and my actions, then I will despise others and their actions. So, back to remorse, I’ve learned the only way to deal with my past is to forgive myself and to forgive others. I don’t think this concept is new in any way, but the depth that I need it now is new for me. I have lived for a long time in a shell that generally saw the world as a bleak and depressing place. My own traumas and difficulties colored my view, and I also learned that I had a condition which made me experience periods of extreme depression, isolation, and chaos and confusion. Understanding my limitations, and also recognizing the limitations of others and of systems, have helped me to accept “that which cannot be changed.”
Another thing: Remorse and anger are not always negative emotions. There are times when contemplating actions and questioning one’s own validity in being upset is useful. For example, “Was I to blame for my employer firing me, or were there reasons beyond my control, and do I need to go back and revisit their accusations and my actions?” When regret can be looked at not as fuel for self-hatred and criticism, but as a tool for growth, then I can move forward from the disappointment and “remorse” that I have experienced in scenarios like these. Life is not perfect and mistakes are inevitable.
This is an open discussion. Not a final word.
Heal yourself to heal others. Heal others to heal yourself.
<3 Becca S.