Join Our Community

Ditch the Pity Party

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Ditch the Pity Party

Why pessimism makes you sick.
Carol  Ritberger Ph.D.
Carol Ritberger Ph.D. More by this author
Nov 06, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking, “I wish I had just told him/her how I felt,” “Wow! I sure blew that opportunity,” “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” “My intuition tried to tell me. I should’a listened,” or “That dress would’a been perfect. Why didn’t I buy it?” Well, if you have, then join the ranks of people who suffer from the Could’a-Would’a-Should’a Syndrome, otherwise referred to as the “living with regret” syndrome.

Regret is a difficult companion to live with mentally, emotionally, and physically because it increases our susceptibility to pity parties, erodes our self-confidence, undermines our ability to achieve what we’re capable of, alters our moods at any given moment, robs us of joy, changes how we see ourselves, and affects our health.

Regret can cause us to become bitter, cynical, or judgmental, and to even turn on ourselves. Most important, it keeps us from living in the present moment, which is where we need to be if we’re to heal our body and change the source of the regret in our life. Regret only sees life from two perspectives: the past and the future. When living in the past, we’re always comparing where we are now with where we’ve been. This is not healthy. When living in the future, we’re always planning what we’ll be doing rather than just doing it now. Again, this is not a healthy perspective.  

The Real Problem Isn’t Regret

While it’s true that regret can promote destructive, self-sabotaging behavior and cause us to lament the past, it really isn’t a contributor behind why we become sick. The contributor is simply the pessimism we develop as a result of living with regret. It’s what distorts our perspective of life and drains us of energy. It’s what emotionally debilitates us and robs us of the joyfulness life offers. It’s what causes us to focus on problems rather than solutions and leads us to believe that trying to change ourselves or a situation is pointless. It’s what causes us to ask, “Why bother?” And, it’s what causes us to give up on life and on ourselves.

Pessimism, as with regret, is a futile process with no reward in the end. It’s like a dog chasing its tail. Let me explain. Regret creates pessimism. Pessimism causes us to dwell on disappointment, anger, resentment, frustration, sadness, and other types of emotional distress we feel as a result of the regret. The more we dwell on these negative emotions, the more pessimistic we become until it reaches a point where we give up. And then we regret giving up. When viewed this way, it seems silly, doesn’t it?

It might be helpful to remember that we aren’t born with a gene that makes us more susceptible to regret or pessimism. Both are learned behaviors. They’re something developed based on the past; and when we live in the past, there is bound to be regret, which is even more reason to live in the moment.  

Effects of Pessimism on the Body

More than any other part of the body, pessimism appears to affect the stomach and upper digestive tract the most. In fact, it appears to be the primary underlying contributor to gastric ulcers. Originally, ulcers were thought to be caused by too much hydrochloric acid and pepsin, which eat away the mucus lining of the stomach. However, researchers are now rethinking whether that is really the case, as some of the latest studies are showing there are people who actually have an “ulcer personality,” meaning they display predictable, learned personality characteristics that make them prone to ulcers. These characteristics include being excessively independent or self-critical, and having less social support, unrealistic expectations, or reoccurring bouts of remorse and regret.

Regret-Proof Your Life

Here are 5 simple steps to help “regret-proof” your life:

  • Shift your perception of the past. Rather than using it to compare where you are now with where you were, use it to help you see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown.
  • Transform the way you tell your story. We all have a life story that we tell and retell. Change that story so you’re not using it to elicit the sympathy of other people or to get attention. Instead, use it to inspire others to change their life and interestingly, it will change yours.
  • Stop the Could’a-Should’a-Would’a Talk. At the time you make your choices, they are based on the best information available. And, contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, hindsight isn’t a teacher. It’s an imitator.
  • Reclaim your dreams. You can’t change the past, but you can reclaim the essential experiences from the past that can help you live your dreams every day. 
  • Laugh more. It’s interesting how laughter keeps you engaged in the present moment. Besides, it’s hard to be pessimistic when you’re having a good belly laugh. When you laugh, it’s even harder to take regret seriously.

Will these steps guarantee you an easy life? Probably not, but they will help rid you of regret.

About Author
Carol  Ritberger Ph.D.
In 1981, Carol Ritberger experienced three profound events that changed her life forever. After her near-death experience Carol was able to see the human energy system. Today, Carol uses that experience and knowledge to help others heal. Continue reading