Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Futility of Regret

The psychological debris from the past which burdens the majority of us through our lives is nothing but an illusion of our minds.

Deep-seated anger, guilt, regret, prejudice, the inability to forgive – whether that be yourself or others – and every other issue that muddies what otherwise would be a clear mind is simply not real.

These things don’t exist outside your thoughts.

An absolute truth is that the past can never be fixed, just as you can’t, right now, fix a car that is sitting on a driveway in 1987 – not even if you hire a quantum mechanic.

So why worry?

The present moment - the only place you will ever experience true life - is a place you can let go of your anger, release yourself of your guilt, open your eyes to how foolish your judgement and prejudice was, and forgive.

Let it all fall away and live your life, right now.

Happy New Year!


  1. Happy new year to you too!

    The one sentence about these things not existing outside of our thoughts had the most impact on me, I actually read this the other day and have kept coming back to it.

    Thanks for posting this ; )

  2. Isn't it strange that something so obvious can still be so elusive to the majority of us?

    Thank you for reading! :)

  3. Omg, such a cute doggy!!! But what's the connection between the doggy and the post? :P *feels stupid for asking* Anyway, I completely agree. I'm on the principle of living in the moment 'cos it won't last forever. And the past is just something you build upon, not something you live by. :)

  4. Ah, his name is Simba - my friend's puppy (at the time - he'll be a giant now). I loved the photo because he seems to be smiling... not much a puppy regrets, I don't think? That's a human thing.

    Great principles to live by, there. :-)

  5. I've read this twice tonight, it has appeared at exactly the right moment. ThankYou

  6. I'm really pleased it helped. :-)

  7. I really love the sentiments here!

  8. I hope they're useful, Jennifer! Thank you! :-)

  9. Hey Les, I need to thank you for writing this. The wisdom in your words is so obvious that they shouldn't need to be written, but why is it that so many of us are unable apply common sense to our everyday lives.
    I'm just going to focus on one line that especially got my attention:

    The inability to forgive (ourselves or others)

    This in itself is the route to so many problems in the world on a small and massive scale. Whether it is ourselves or others we need to get over this barrier. I'm going to draw the line in the sand (I hope this doesn't sound too dramatic :) As an individual I'm going to make an effort to make sure that I'm actively doing it myself. Then I'm gonna make sure that my 4 year old daughter learns this from an early age. There are just too many people punishing themselves for things that they've done in the past, and they're not realizing that they're crippling themselves right in the here and now.
    Thakns for the reminder Les.
    Take care brother.

  10. Thank you, Gilbert! :-)

    All of the things that hurt us are just thoughts. Our greatest fears and phobias are illusions - created and given shelter and energy by us. I really think it's time that this self-enslavement should end and educating the young is going to be such an important part of the process, so kudos to you there. :-)

    I'm really pleased this helped. :-)

  11. The puppy is so cute. I know what you're writing is absolutely true but sometimes it's hard to live in the moment. I wish I can just let go of some things, like right now for the past five weeks, I have been living in guilt and for some reason can't seem to let the past go. One of our guinea pigs' passed away in May and I feel like I should I have been a better pet owner and taken her to the vet when I felt something was wrong. Instead I made a terrible decision to wait out her sickness and the end result was her passing. You don't know how awful I feel. Sometimes I just want to go back and have things be different. I know it's impossible but what can I do?

    Your words are reassuring and hopefully soon I will let the past be just that---the past.

  12. It wasn't a deliberate or malicious action which caused her death - and there can be no certainty that she would have survived.

    What is certain is that she's in no pain, now. So why are you?

    If you're going to remember her, remember all the good times and the love she was lucky enough to receive from you. Who would be happy to know that those who remembered them did so with agony?

    Your pain comes from resisting what is. You can't do anything to change the past. You have to accept it, starting by forgiving yourself.

    No matter how much you beat yourself up, you are not going to help her. You will only hurt yourself. Perhaps your mind wants you to punish yourself, but your mind is just thoughts. Don't listen to it. It's doing you no good, here.

    We have a tendency to hang on to thought as if we're in some way 'honouring' the memory of the passed... but when it hurts us to the point that we're not living ourselves, how does that honour anything or anyone? I would say that is the oppositite of what anyone we've ever shared love with would truly want.

    When it hurts... look away from the memory. It is not disrespectful to your guinea pig, because your guinea pig isn't trying to hurt you - only your mind is doing that.

  13. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I need to stop punishing myself. Our guinea pig is no longer in pain and I am sure she would not want me to be crying over something I can not change.

  14. Be gentle with yourself. :-)

  15. Wonderful words of wisdom. I choose to live my life with forgiveness, and I agree, letting go clears the soul. I scratch my head when I encounter those who cannot or will not extend the olive branch. I do, however, have to work each day to let it all fall away. I feel much better and enjoy life more when I can achieve that. Thanks for the inspiring post! :D

  16. I'm sure it's true that people who can't and won't let go of these things enslave themselves to what must be a miserable existence. Yet there's hope that everyone can lead themselves out of such a place. :-)

    I'm glad things are going so well for you, and thank you for reading, and for the comment! :-D

  17. The greatest philosophical mysteries and elusive ,esoteric principles are so often right in front of us.

    It just takes someone to say it.
    Wisdom is hidden in plain sight. ;)

    I needed this!

  18. Hehe... glad it helped. :-)

  19. Les,

    This is a short post, but it says so much. I myself am trying to be steadfast in practicing the counsel you share. Thank you for this blog.

  20. Honoured to be of help, Bret. Thank you once again for your kind words! :-)

  21. Hi Les, I have always said, and truly believe this. Give up all hope of a better past. Only then can you enjoy the delights the present has to offer.

  22. Just saw this on my Twitter feed and wow. So timely. What a great way for me to start my day. I really needed to read these thoughts. Thanks so much for sharing them :)

  23. This post came at the right time for me. I was dwelling over what some very close family did to me in the past. I did forgive, but I am still hurting. I guess I have to really take this into my heart ad i finally be able to let go all the pain. I really hope so.

  24. Well said and I also saw this at the right moment. Enjoy your posts and your insight. Thanks for sharing them.

  25. I'm really glad they helped, Bronny. Thank you! :-)

  26. I really hope so, too, Aasiyah. It's you who will benefit most from letting go. Free yourself. :-)

  27. Hey, Laurie! Hope it helped a little. Thanks for reading! :-)

  28. Your words are so healing, Les. Thank you.

    I think I have the hardest time forgiving myself. I have a tendency to take on the responsibilities of others and then punish myself for doing so. I can clearly see that my thoughts are causing the pain, but I have been yet unable to stop the cycle for more than a few moments or, at best, hours at a time.

    Your words serve as a gentle reminder to cherish the love shared in the past, but to be at peace now because there is nothing I can do to regain that love.

    Thank you, lovely man. x

  29. Great thought and I love your blog which I've only discovered recently.

    I've often said "regret is a pointless emotion" and that I want it on my gravestone (or whatever burning thingie). But how do you let go?

    I have a (living) mother who is literally schrizophrenic and she has either abused (accidentally due to sickness) or abandoned us and I know her email now (yes! she's online now ffs) and I don't know what to do.

    I keep having "Casualty" type thoughts (uk drama series, advocates reconcile, last min makeup) etc but then I remember the things the illness makes her say (bad!! really bad), and how fucked up I am by her "leaving" us.

    I'm 50 years old and I should be able to get over this but when I think about it, I dont' know what to do or say.

    Any words for that?


  30. Hey Nicola,

    Give it a go, but expect nothing and stay in the moment.

    The only way you're going to hurt yourself through attempting to reconcile with her is if the reality doesn't match the projections you're making.

    You talk about Casualty (UK here, too) and that's an expression that you want some magical ending, but sadly life is rarely ever like that. This is projection, which is egoic... it doesn't exist outside your thoughts.

    So... expect nothing... in fact, don't even expect nothing. Just live your life, in the moment, rather than allow yourself to be haunted by the past or pulled into a future fairytale land - neither exist.

    Forgive your mother. Just let it all go. Don't feel the need to discuss it with her or analyse it any more. Just drop it.

    Also - crucially - forgive yourself. I'm guessing you'll have some residual guilt about the relationship with your mother (it's a very common thing in this species of ours to take on a burden of guilt, even if there was never really anything to feel guilty about... the ego will turn it into something you consider real).

    You have to understand that all of this pain you've carried like a heavy chain for all these years can just be let go of. You're the one who's been holding it all these years. Nobody else can release it but you. You can talk to the best psychologists in the world and for all they say and do, it has to be you that lets go.

    Stay in the moment. See the past for what it is (a collection of ghostly images in your head) and the future for what it isn't (it doesn't exist) and contact your mother with a heart full of unconditional love. Hold nothing against her or yourself. If she reacts positively to that, stay in touch with her - be a positive energy in her life. If she reacts negatively, you have to take yourself out of that and say goodbye.

    The only person that can truly hurt us, emotionally, is ourselves. Not your Mum or anyone else.

    Hope this helps a bit.


  31. Well said, Les! And, I'm sorry, I should have Tweeted that I read your Tweets. I love the background of your blog. Is it Scotland?

    Happy writing.


  32. You write such intelligent blogs and I enjoy reading them, Les.

  33. Les, I love your philosophy! You are so very inspirational!

  34. ..Who am I to forgive and what am I to forgive....only for this moment I live....

  35. Les, you bring such simplicity to life! I just love your blogs. I was reminded of your philosophy when I saw a woman, Crystal McVea, on the news who told about dying on the operating table for 9 minutes. She said she went to heaven and God lifted all her shame, regrets, secrets, and troubles (which she had lived with since her early years)from her, and that she was freed - a new person. I, myself, am not a religious person - I am agnostic (not to be confused with atheist, please!)and I believe that when we die we will say "OH! NOW I get it!" Perhaps you are one step ahead of us all! Keep the inspiration coming! I think you are helping a lot of people (as evidenced by the 40 comments on this post!) Esse quam videri!

  36. So wish I could do this. My visits to my psychologist always result in difficulty breathing when discussing the 25 years of abuse that my children and I went thru. Trying to live in the moment.