Understanding What Regret Feels Like

Regret is painful, yet can also serve as an invaluable teaching moment. Regret can help identify common thinking traps such as all-or-nothing thinking – the tendency to interpret one decision as representing your entire personality – which may prevent future missteps from becoming life changing events.

Regret, like all emotions, can serve as an indicator for future decisions and actions. Tuning into it may reveal valuable insight about who you want to become as a boss, parent, or professional.

1. Pain

Regret is that pit in your stomach that tells you you’ve done something wrong, whether from an isolated incident or feeling out-of-line with your values and goals in general. Regret often comes from either specific actions like failing to support someone in times of need, or larger decisions like leaving school early; either way it can be painful.

Regret is often linked with feeling that we haven’t lived up to our potential, which can result in feelings of failure, low self-esteem and helplessness. Regret can influence decision-making processes as well as any risk-taking behavior displayed.

Many people may perceive regret as an unpleasant emotion, yet this mischaracterizes its purpose in our lives and our growth as people. All emotions – regret included – serve a useful function and can help us navigate life more successfully while learning from past mistakes.

When regret is painful, try taking a step back and considering what lessons have been learned from your experience. Additionally, practicing mindfulness techniques to calm both mind and body may help; for example noticing breathing patterns, paying attention to sensations in the body and watching thoughts without judgment are effective approaches to take.

If the emotions surrounding regret are causing significant distress, it’s important to seek professional mental health assistance. Consulting a therapist can help unpack and make sense of your emotions as well as providing tools and coping strategies to manage it more effectively. Joining a community with people struggling with similar emotions may also offer support and empathy.

2. Guilt

Guilt is that sinking feeling that arises when something you did (or failed to do) caused pain or harm for another. You wish you could take back time and change what happened; and this regrettable emotion often results in feelings of remorse, shame, and self-blame. People often feel guilty after making choices they regret such as turning down job or relationship opportunities or acting negatively towards someone. But regret can also arise from events outside our direct control such as telling someone an important secret without permission or failing to send important emails that required your attention.

As it can be difficult to know what steps to take when in a state of regret, the tendency is often to dwell in it or indulge in unnecessary worry and anxiety. Mindfulness offers a solution by helping us focus on breathing while being present to all the emotions that are surfacing rather than running away from them with technology, distraction, food or drink.

“Putting a name to something helps us better understand and process it,” notes Fielding. For instance, an individual who felt guilty over the sudden death of her granddaughter was eventually able to move from that feeling into deep sadness upon realising there was nothing she could have done to prevent it.

If your regrets are impacting your mental health, seeking professional assistance such as therapy may help to alleviate some of the burden. Sometimes making amends through verbal communication or writing is also beneficial in relieving some guilt-inducing burden.

3. Anxiety

Regret can be an oppressive source of fear or worry, exacerbating mental health conditions like depression while disrupting sleep patterns. Regret may lead to obsessive thinking which is particularly difficult for those suffering from anxiety disorders and other conditions that amplify vulnerability for these sorts of thoughts and emotions.

People living with mental health challenges tend to experience more regret than their counterparts without mental illness, likely because their minds perceive the world in different ways, making it easier for them to find meaning in negative experiences that result in regret.

When struggling with regret, the temptation is to run away from it, but this only deepens your feeling. Instead of distracting yourself with technology, entertainment, food, alcohol or drugs – try pausing to fully experience all your emotions first before acknowledging why and how your regret exists.

Remembering feelings of regret are completely normal; everyone makes mistakes. Additionally, remembering how valuable past experiences were can help change negative self-talk into more supportive, growth-oriented language.

For instance, if something you did caused others harm, take steps to make amends. For instance, if offending a friend was the source of your regrets, write them an apology note; or not taking advantage of new opportunities talk with your manager or boss about opportunities available now. It is essential to deal with regrets in a healthy way and it may help to consult a mental health professional with knowledge in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety and depression or connect with an online support community for assistance.

4. Disappointment

As its name suggests, disappointment is a feeling of sadness when something doesn’t live up to your expectations. This could include anything from ending a relationship badly to not gaining employment that was promised to you. Unfortunately, disappointment often goes hand-in-hand with self-criticism and ruminating; therefore it is vitally important that someone listens and practices techniques which may help.

One way we often deal with regret is to distract ourselves by engaging in tasks, social media posts or eating. But this form of avoidance only makes regret more potency when it comes to impacting our thoughts and behaviors.

Remorse can make us feel powerless to alter past decisions; all it can take to change them is wishing we’d made different choices at earlier points in time. Unfortunately, this can become destructive as we constantly compare ourselves with the highlight reel of social media or our imagined past lives where things would have turned out differently.

Reducing regrets through distance can help put them into their proper context and lessen their hold over you. One technique proposed by psychologist Carine Minne is imagining yourself flying above yourself while looking down from an airplane, as described by Carine. Minne suggests this can provide perspective that will put what’s bothering you into its proper perspective – ultimately helping reduce their power over you and ease anxiety.

If you can’t speak openly about your regrets with friends or family members, journaling may help. Writing out one’s feelings every day for three days has proven useful in understanding and managing emotions.

5. Anger

Anger can be an understandable response when your boundaries have been violated or when your actions have been misunderstood by others. It can be caused by external events like traffic jams or cancelled plans; or by internal circumstances like your thoughts.

Anger may feel similar to regret, but there are key distinctions between them. Regret typically involves guilt-inducing thoughts about how things should have gone differently; disappointment, however, often involves external factors beyond your control, like friends cancelling plans or investments failing.

People struggling with anger issues can often find that their behaviors put them into conflict with the law and can cause significant physical and emotional damage to themselves and those around them. Coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs or self-harm might provide temporary relief; however, in the long run these measures only compound problems further.

Unresolved anger can manifest as passive-aggressive behaviors and lead to the development of an aggressive and antagonistic personality that makes others uncomfortable.

Accept and allow yourself to experience these negative emotional experiences is the best way to manage them, rather than trying to suppress or avoid them. Instead of running from them, stop and acknowledge what’s happening within yourself; rather than turning to technology, entertainment, food, drinks or drugs as a quick fix, try mindfulness techniques as an alternative approach that may help calm and process feelings more effectively. If these emotions continue, seek assistance from mental health professionals; they can help identify root causes while giving tools necessary for change.