We’ve all been there. That moment of realisation that we’ve made a mistake, said something hurtful, or done something we wish we could take back. We experience regret and/or remorse when we realise that our actions have caused harm to ourselves or others. These feelings can be incredibly painful, and it can be difficult to move past them. Regret and remorse are two of the most powerful yet under-discussed emotions we experience. Though they may seem similar, regret and remorse are actually quite different.
Regret is focused on the past – what you could have done differently to achieve the desired outcome. Remorse, on the other hand, is focused on the present and future – what you did that caused harm or hurt to someone else. Let’s explore these emotions in more depth and discuss how we can begin to heal from them.
What is Regret?
Regret is an emotion that most of us are familiar with. We’ve all experienced regret at one time or another in our lives. Regret can be triggered by anything – a missed opportunity, a mistake made, perhaps a choice we wish we could take back. It’s that feeling of sadness, disappointment, and remorse that comes over us when we think about what could have been.
Regret is different from other emotions in that it’s focused on the past. We can’t change what has already happened, and regret reminds us of that fact. It’s a way of punishing ourselves for our mistakes and often leads to feelings of self-doubt and guilt.
What is Remorse?
As we briefly mentioned above, remorse is focused on the here and now. It’s a reaction to the things we have done wrong and the harm we may have caused. Unlike regret, remorse leads to a desire to make things right again. It’s often accompanied by feelings of sadness, shame, and humility.
Remorse is different from guilt in that it acknowledges that our actions had consequences and that we were responsible for them. Remorse is constructive and usually leads to positive action, while guilt leads to destructive tendencies.
Do Narcissists Feel Remorse?
Within the definition of narcissism is a lack of remorse, empathy or forgiveness. Narcissists do not feel remorse in the traditional sense. They may feel regret for the consequences of their actions, but they don’t experience true empathy or guilt. Instead, they view themselves as the victims and see others as objects to be used and manipulated.
People with narcissistic personalities tend to have a fantasy view of themselves where they are all-powerful, knowing, beautiful, and influential. Even when the reality might prove otherwise, their distorted perception of self greatly contributes to egocentric behaviour.
How Can We Move Past These Feelings and Heal?
First, it’s important to understand that regret and remorse are normal human emotions. Everyone feels them at some point in their lives. The key is not to dwell on them but to learn from them and move on.
They are both different in nature and therefore are dealt with slightly differently. Below are some tips to help deal with each.
Here are a Few Tips for Dealing With Regret:
- Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t try to bottle them up.
- Don’t dwell on what could have been. It’s wasted energy and won’t change anything.
- Focus on what you can do now to make things right.
- Make amends if possible. This can be difficult, but it’s often the most healing step.
Here are a Few Tips for Dealing With Remorse:
- Acknowledge your feelings and take responsibility for them.
- Don’t try to justify your actions. Own up to what you did and be honest about why you did it.
- Make amends if possible. This is often the most difficult step but will ultimately be the most healing.
Whether you are experiencing regret or remorse, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Millions of people have been through something similar and survived. You can too. The most powerful step is acknowledgement and taking steps to rectify the situation that led to these feelings.
Charles has worked with many people who have suffered from both regret and remorse. If you feel regret or remorse is holding you back, book a free 15-minute chat with Charles via the button below.