How to deal with regret & guilt

Written by kristyn hammond Google
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How to deal with regret & guilt
Feelings of guilt and regret can stay with you for years if you try to avoid them. (David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Guilt and regret are natural feelings that can inspire personal growth if you identify the reasons you feel them, understand why you feel them and cope with them appropriately in your life. They're natural, emotional correction tools that help you understand the mistakes in your life and provide a reason to correct those mistakes. Guilt and regret can also be senseless, related to decisions or changes in your life that you could not have made. Understanding the difference between these kinds of guild is key to addressing or overcoming them.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Identify the feelings of guilt and regret by asking yourself what instance inspired these feelings. Determine who you hurt as a result of your decision. Determine whether your feelings of guilt are a result of you letting yourself down or for hurting someone else. For instance, if you feel guilty for stealing a co-worker's dessert during lunch, you may realise that you feel guilty because you stole from a co-worker while feeling added guilt from having eaten something you should not have.

  2. 2

    Analyse the differences in your feelings of guilt or regret and address each situation individually. Accept the feelings from having let yourself down as your body's method for correcting this behaviour. Change the behaviour in the future and forgive yourself from the infraction. Remind yourself that self-guilt or regret is a natural defence mechanism, programmed by your expectations for your own behaviour, in your mind to help guide your behaviour. Use these feelings as a motivation to improve your behaviour and avoid unhealthy decisions in the future.

  3. 3

    Confront the people you hurt, through your action or inaction, and make amends for your choices. Offer a sincere apology and suggest ways that you can mend your relationship. Accept her refusal if she is unwilling to reform that relationship. Avoid long waits before speaking to her about your actions. Remind yourself that the time you wait to work on your relationship is wasted and is the source of additional guilt or regret later.

  4. 4

    Transform impossible guilt and regret into a learning situation. Remind yourself that some mistakes can't be amended, such as after the passing of a loved one or an infraction that is too severe for an apology. Tell yourself that no one is perfect but work to better yourself and avoid making the same mistake in the future. Confront impossible feelings of guilt and regret within yourself by asking yourself questions about alternate decisions you could have made and better choices you can make in the future. Let your impossible feelings go, a little at a time, as you work to improve yourself as a person.

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