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Regrets–we all have them

By Ox Drover

“The Road Not Taken” is always out there beckoning to us. I should, I could ”¦ Why did I do that? Why didn’t I do that? Regrets!

Having been involved with a psychopath, and reeling from the devastation in the wake of the relationship, leads us to ask ourselves what might have happened if we had made other choices.

I question myself—if I had chosen differently, would the relationship have been a success? If I had dated John or Frank instead of the psychopath, would I now be happily married in a solid relationship? If I had just done things differently, like I started to, would it have been better? If I had just gotten out of the relationship sooner, or later, would I now be better off?

With our regrets, we beat ourselves up for being so stupid to put up with the abuse. We saw the red flags of suspicion early on, felt the sting and pain of his words, his disrespect, yet, now we regret not paying attention to ourselves back then. How much better our lives would have been if we had only listened to our own intuition, to the things we really knew, really saw, but brushed aside, thought we could fix.

We searched for the words, the perfect words, to explain to him how he was hurting us. Why couldn’t we find those perfect words, the ones we were so sure would make him treat us better?

Regret is normal

Regret in the past choices we have made in life: Go to work and get married, or go to college and get an education. Have children, or wait. According to those who study regrets, having regrets as we mature is a normal, natural and a universal human emotion. Neal Roese, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Illinois says, “Regret is a very complicated emotion that involves all these things (pain and fear) coming together—it’s raw feeling plus all the complicated imaginings of future possibility.”

Another psychology professor, Carsten Wrosch, Ph. D., at Concordia University in Montreal, has linked regrets to many physical and social problems, which include sleeping problems, headaches, migraines, panic disorder and even skin conditions.

Henry David Thoreau said, “To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

Letting go

If we continually dwell on our past mistakes and missed opportunities, this consumes our ability to live and enjoy the present. Letting go of regrets though, is not a one-time event; it is a process of disentangling ourselves from them.

One of the ways suggested to start to let go of our regrets over past decisions is to consider it final. I find that when I have a decision to make, once I finally decide that decision is final, anxiety about making that decision seems to go away. Looking at that decision later, whether it turned out to be good or bad, I am more able to accept it.

People who study regrets and decision making also note that if we can “fix” a past mistake or correct it, our regrets tend to hang on longer and be stronger, but if we accept the fact that we made a bad decision that can’t be fixed, we tend to let go of it more easily.

Having regrets for past decisions, and especially regrets related to our relationship with the psychopath(s) in our lives, is normal and natural. As long as we hang on to those regrets and try to second guess ourselves, though, it impedes our healing and moving on.

Letting go of those regrets, the self-recrimination for our part in the relationship, for not finding the perfect solution, for not leaving sooner, or any of a thousand other choices we made, will be an ongoing process. But it will lead us, if we let it, to using those choices to make a better life for ourselves now and in the future.


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382 Comments on "Regrets–we all have them"

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I think mine ran its course.. My thinking back is my awareness to see what really and actually occurred .. and why I got caught up in his spin. I don’t have regrets in the things that I did or didn’t do. Nothing about me caused him to be so delusional. I tried to talk to him about reality and that is when it began to fall apart. And this was good for me not bad. Regrets… umm.. I am just stunned about how I got so in his web… when there were so many signs that he was not what I wanted.. why I overlooked the obvious.

Great post Oxy. You wrote “Having regrets for past decisions, and especially regrets related to our relationship with the psychopath(s) in our lives, is normal and natural.”

Well, two of the people I know who have told me they have NO regrets are both pretty far gone on the psychopath scale of traits.

I regret that he didn’t or couldn’t see my side to things. But that should be his regret not mine.

I regret falling for his spin.. that is what I did… I for a time, believed him… reality and signs to the contrast. I regret believing him and not myself, pulling back more in the beginning. Had I, it would’ve been exposed and fallen apart faster. I regret giving him the benefit of the doubt when he gave me little to none.. if I did something that he didn’t like or that didn’t fit into his agenda. I regret that I wasn’t as sophisticated and aware as I thought that I was.

Dear Oxy, thank you so much for yet another great post! It was very comforting, specially the following:

“People who study regrets and decision making also note that if we can “fix” a past mistake or correct it, our regrets tend to hang on longer and be stronger, but if we accept the fact that we made a bad decision that can’t be fixed, we tend to let go of it more easily”.

I am full of “To do lists” of self imposed “past mistakes”, some dating back from my childhood, some fairly fresh, to “fix” them. I will have to weed these lists out. Do some “deep-soul-cleansing”. Thanks for the reminder! I regret of having “wept over spilled milk” for so long! ((((Hugs))))

I’ve always said that I don’t have regrets. That everything happens for a reason and I should learn from it. Well, in this situatuon, I regret not standing up for myself sooner. I regret ignoring the signs that were there slapping me in the face every day! About 2 months into the relationship, I found out he was married with kids by reading an article about him. I remember that first time feeling the burning in the pit of my stomach, completely turned me inside out..it was going to be a reoccurring feeling for the next 4 years. But I went out to dinner with him that night and asked politely for him to explain. I regret going to that dinner and allowing him to lie to me. Maybe if I would have never answered his phone call after I read that article, I wouldn’t have wasted 4 years of my life with him. But I’m learning that from this day on red flags will not be ignored, and the second you lie…Don’t expect for me to hang around long enough for you lie to me again.

Yeah Amber!

Thank you for your kind words.

Letting go of the regrets for “the roads not taken” has been a difficult process for me, but I am slowly getting there. My head is pretty flat from all the BOINKS I have laid upon it with my BIG cast iron [email protected] I have beaten my skull into fragments more than once pounding on myself with the regrets, but now that I am letting go of those past choices it is much easier to make progress in the healing. As long as I hung on to those regrets, those self recriminations, I didn’t make much progress toward doing better.

The positive choice to let go of the regrets, to forgive myself for my past choices, made today’s choices easier!

I see you point Oxy, the regrets do hold us back if we dwell on them and punish ourselves with them.
On the other hand, they can be lessons that propel us to make different choices. Sometimes the hardest lessons have the most profound effects. We don’t want to be like the P’s who cannot learn from their mistakes because they won’t even acknowledge them. They are like children who are perpetually held back in the first grade. They like playing the same games over and over because that is what they know. This way they can always be the smartest in the class – of first graders. LOL.

A great post,,Oxy. and very timely for me! I still tend as we all seem to, to “beat myself up” over mistakes, and i have to learn to forgive myself and move on. I know now it was stupid for looking at my daughters pics on facebook,it was NOT a good idea, as its like picking a scab thats not healed over. Also, I was even more upset, as she now has my other daughter on facebook, and there wasa picture of her. As I havent seen her or even a pic ture of her in nearly 17 years, I cant tell you how upset this made me. She still looks beautiful,{she is the one living with the rich Jewish boy, with his 3 kids by her}. But her eyes look so sad.and she looks mentally disturbed to me. Obviously all that money isnt making her happy. I still dont know why she cut me off, but I guess if she is also a S. this is what they do.
All I can do is pray for her, and remember what a sweet cuddly {but even then manipulative!} child she was. Time to close that door, and move on. My Iranian kids are coming over for lunch tomorrow, -I confided in Roya today on th ephone re my P daughter,and they are coming over to hug and comfort me. Im learning to ask for help now, I cant do it alone! And my husband is sick of hearing about the whole thing. Onwards and upwards! Its all part of “accepting the things we cannot change”.Thanks again Oxy, and all of you!! and {{HUGS!!}}} gem.XX

Dear Gem,

I know it hurts, and to wonder “why” makes it hurt more as well, but ACCEPTING it as FINAL, and to quit beating yourself up over the past is a step forward.

Accepting the things we cannot change, that we do NOT have control over is a big part of the healing process. When we feell that we “should’a” or “could’a” done something different to have a different outcome, we stay stuck in that past decision. We stand there beating ourselves over the head about something we can not go back and change now.

I can say “I should have done X” but you know, in the end, we really don’t KNOW that doing X would have made things better or worse—I can also look back and say that if my P son had come home (after his first term in prison) that I might very well be dead, and have been dead for a LONG time now. So we can’t second guess the past. We CAN accept the present and make the very best of it that we can.

Lily is still not answering her phone, so I don’t know how she is doing. I keep praying for her that whatever her physical situation is that she is at PEACE. Even if that peace means she thinks her children care for her. She is so physically ill now that whatever peace she can get I think is so important.

I think it is so important that we can heal emotionally while we are physcally in pretty good shape, so that we don’t let our emotional pain drag us down physically and vice versa.

I iimagine it is hard for David to understand the full level of pain you have had from your daughters, no matter how much he loves you, but I think you know that the people here on LF have a pretty good idea of what you have gone through. My hugs and prayers for you sweet, Gem!

Dearest Oxy, thank you so much! Im OK today! Looking forward to seeing my new “KIDs” tomorrow.God is so good to me to give me a brand new set of adult kids! Its a bit like the story of Job, he lost everything, but God gave him back everything he lost, his health, his wealth, his livestock, a new wife and a new set of Kids!! And 7 fold what he had before!
{i presume he got a new wife, his old one sounded like a P! “Curse god and die! what kind of encouragement is that?} I hope he left her, or she died, LOL!!
Thanks again dearest OXY!! and Love, Gem.XX

Well, Gem, if she wasn’t a new wife, she at least had to have 10 more kids! LOL That in itself (another ten pregnancies) was a pretty big punishment to my way of thinking! LOL

I know what you mean though, I feel that way about my adopted son, D…God gave him to me to replace the son I lost and he is a jewel of high price! I literally owe my life to him!

I am glad that you have your new family of love! Because that is what FAMILY is all about—LOVE—not blood.

This post hits home. I find myself frequently wondering “what would my life be like now if I had married a long term boyfriend I had in highschool?” I know it would be better, the boyfriend had so much character and was a good person. The guy I chose to marry seemed so much like my brothers and ‘fit’ so well with my dysfunctional family. THAT is my biggest regret in my life, marrying someone who even set the red flags off when we were dating, and I STILL married him!

Great article. I regret everything with the S and I have to stop it. Everyone please wish me luck. I am going to try and petition the court for my ex to have supervised visits with our 3 year old. I heard it is very hard though to do.

I am trying to get my argument together. He is inconsistent. He has received 2 DUI’s. I don’t know where he lives and with whom. He doesn’t use common sense. She has asthma but and has been to the er but he doesn’t care.

There is so much physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the world that I am just scared. Why do I have to wait until something happens. I believe he is living with his mistress and 4 kids ranging in ages from 2-13. There are cruel kids in the world and I don’t know how her kids are. I don’t even know who she is but judging by her character from having a child with my husband during the marriage she is a low life scumbag.

He is supposed to get our daughter tomorrow but I don’t want her to go. It is halloween and he “doesn’t celebrate” it. I want my daughter to enjoy it. Plus lately this may seem far off but I have been thinking about the flu and swine flu. My ex is so stupid and dumb that if one of those kids had it he wouldn’t care to subject my child to it. He wouldn’t use common sense and not have his daughter around it. One day it was freezing cold and he didn’t know her coat was in her backpack. He brought her home at night with no coat and I was mad. He said “what”. I grabbed her and slammed the door in his face. Any other reasonable person would have given her a sweater and just rolled up the sleeves.

I can’t stand my ex and I want him out of our life. It has taken me awhile to realize it but I now know. He is not a good person and he can’t help it.

Thank you for this post, very timely for me as this is something that is causing me a lot of pain.

Oxy – Very well said! I almost want to puke when I say this, but here goes. I guess (HE) was what it took to wake me up, to make me respect myself, to make me see my flaws, to make me untangle the mess. The one thing I have not been able to overcome or stop thinking about is ‘ maybe he is happy now and really in love and in a good relationship’ and I was at fault. But I would never in a million years want to live with such evil again.

henry,

(HE) is never really in love. (HE) has always been an illusion, and will continue to be an illusion, no matter what appearence of happiness is portrayed. With this in mind, (HE) will never be in a good relationship.

You, are at fault for nothing.

I second what Isabell says. Amen to that!
Of course I have a problem with shaking the thought that the p is now happy and all too so I understandingly and gently say Oxy needs to chase you (henry) down with the skillet! Not me though this is about you and your thoughts! Love, hugs, and prayers!

nic,

Be extremely careful in how you present your concerns. Read up on Parental Alienation Syndrom. If the court percieves you as wanting to punish your ex, control and alienate his relationship as a parent, embarrass and humiliate him through supervised visits, etc., YOU will lose custody.

Focus on your concern for the best interest of your child, as it relates to the unsafe choices your ex has made resulting in him getting 2 DUI’s. This is a real safety concern. Now, if the DUI’s were 10 years ago, and has had a spotless record since. If you have no evidence that he’s a heavy drinker, you will be perceived of attempting to alienate him from your child’s life.

Leave your concerns about the things you fear could happen, as well as your worries about cruel children, and the fact that your child didn’t have a coat on, etc….at home. If you have no proof of abusive behavior, you cannot speculate that their will be abusive behavior. And, trying to cut the father out of the child’s life, just because he is a jerk, and you realize this now, will serve to discredit YOU in court. It sucks, I know. The system is perverted, in my opinion. But it is, what it is, and you must learn to function within the system.

One last thing… DON’T EVER express directly, or indirectly that you want him out of your children’s lives. To do so is a guaruntee that it will be YOU that is legally cut out of your child’s life.

Focus on the real and factual danger, the DUI’s; especially if he received them, when your child was with him. This is considered child endangerment. Make sure you have documented proof of whatever it is you are going to present as your argument to the court. If you don’t have facutal, reliable, credible proof of what you are alledging, you could be setting yourself up.

Be wise, my dear… Be very wise.

Its wierd.,if they really{narcs and Ps } cant help the way they behave,its tempting to feel a tiny bit sorry for them, like the are wired all wrong, have something missing in their DNA, wiring, whatever. But its not something like colour blindness, or being tone deaf.They are malignant, psychotic, dangerous, treacherous, envious. I mean if a blind person bumped into you, they say” sorry,I didnt mean to hurt you, I just cant see you.”Are Ps blind like that? Or are they deliberately mean, hateful scheming, treacherous? Or are they just blind?A friend of mind said of my daughter,{then aged about 13,} “Theres something wrong with her. I cant place it, but shes emotionally flat.” I was offended at the time ,but she was right. Even my daughters ex said years ago, when he was playing around with the kids, and she was looking on, blank face. he said,”Its called fun, Deb!!”And one day when Holly, then 3, and I were scuffing in the Autumn {Fall} leaves, looking for pixies, her Mum said,”Come on, Holly!” “Mummy, Granny and I are looking for fairies!” D .just glared at her, and yanked her away.Of course, she would never be able to play pretend with her little girl, all she saw were leaves. Its sad, but the only thing that helps me feel not too sorry for her,is,if shes emotionally flat, presumably shes not capable of feeling acute emotional suffering and pain. I really hope this is true, as shes still my daughter and i dont want her to suffer. I should,but I dont. I feel sorry for her, but sorrier for me for being suckerd by her for 30 years! No longer, God give me strength!Love gem,XX

geminigirl…

In my world, and my children’s world… scuffing looking for pixie fairies is equal to heavenly promises. Pure joy.

Emotionally flat, is scary. And, must be heartbreaking for you.

I have no advice, wisdom, or anything of value to add, other then..I’m so sorry.

Warm hugs to you…

OxDrover

I know my energy is suddenly taken up with concern about the law, cases on TV, how to spot them, how to heal from them…how to educate myself about them having had first hand experience of one. I am trusting I need to do this for now and that it is ok for now.

How I will ever trust a man again is right now beyond me. I don’t even aspire to it anymore. I have discovered I can’t even go on a date….so serious regret operating here.

I have a good amount of No contact time (4 months) and he is not coming after me (he has everything, I do not have anything he wants) the threat of court is hanging over him, but I won’t do it because I refuse to give him another ounce of my life.
day by day a little more of me is returning, and your article helps me locate myself in this journey of recovery we are all on or about to go on, We are not alone. Thank God I’m not alone. I hold on to the hope of new life some day but at 50 it seems unrealistic..anyone out there find new love after psychopath age 50 plus?

Stayingsane,
I hear it’s possible at any age. I guess it all depends on us, and how we interact with the world.

We each might have the dream of a perfect man, but we know that he doesn’t exist. first, who are we to judge what or who is perfect for us – we are only just getting to know ourselves. And second, the people we meet add to who we are and to our growth.
So get out there and meet guys and have fun. Don’t look for the guy that meets all your criteria because those can change as you grow and change. Just watch out for the guy with the red flags. And report back to LF so we can put him through the vetting process.

My regrets go all the way back to about the age of 12. I can see how the choices I made then, all led up, one by one to where I am now. However, I have to accept that this wasthelife I chose,and it hasn’t been all bad. Ihave had 3 serious relationships with meninmy 50 years, and I am convinced that all three were disordered in one wayor another.Mygreatest heartache, and frustration inlife has sprung from these relationships. I am aware that I must be accountable (in some way) for choosing these men, and look deeply into myself for the reasons.

I can honestly say that I have lost faith in men, relationships and my ability to find and maintain a healthy one. It’s kind of sad, but it’s better than the alternative. Someone said something about feeling like damaged goods, and that’s what I feel like when it comes to intimate relationships.

I’m not totally unhappy, though. I feel like I’ve finally resigned myself to it. I guess it’s like Oxy said, if you think there’s still something you can do to fix it, it makes the regret deeper and longer lasting.

This weekend is what we call Florida-Georgia weekend down here, and I have memories of really fun times with the xp, 7 years worth. Lotsof drinking, patying with friends, cook outs, beautiful fall weather, so I’m feeling a little nostalgic.

I’m beginning to see myself as very eccentric these days. I’m learning how to knit, and I managed to finish a blue and orange gator sweater for my beloved tabby cat, PInky-doodle, just in time for the game. Of course it’s close to 80 degrees today, and he hates the sweater, but I took some pictures of him in it….Very cute.

I can tell you, though, this is not how I imagined my life at age 50. I may well be destined to be the rather odd cat lady who sits and rocks and knits…………..and to think I was so damn hot. LOL.

Thanks for the article, Oxy, and thanks all of LF for being here. Love.

Hey KIM…..
Anywhere near Palm B.?

Dear Guys,

Thanks for your comments, I always enjoy the different takes on an article that different people have, and how it may ring a different chime-note in different people who are in different stages of healing.

Stayingsane, the feeling you have about wanting a relationship after 50 and wondering if it can even be DONE is one that I had for sure, and I got a “relationSHIT” at 58 because I was needy and fearful of being “alone” so was vulnerable to a P.

Sure I WOULD love to have a good relationship now, but you know I know that I DO NOT NEED ONE to have a happy and successful life. That attitude change for me is profound and so when I got the invitation a while back for a “date” I went, had fun, but didn’t look it as my “salvation” I was no longer needy, and this past week he called back and I saw a RED FLAG, so X’d him off my list as even a possible “date” without the slightest bit of regret.

The “regrets” I had of the decisions made in the past, like not marrying “John” instead of “Sam” because you know, If I HAD marriied “John” I do NOT know how that would have turned out, I only IMAGINE I do! So I give up that “regret” of not taking the OTHER ROAD than the one I did because none of us truly KNOW where that road would have eventually led.

We might not even be alive if we had taken that other road.

Isabel, thanks for your comments. My case is in no way parental alienation and custody will never be taken away from me but I appreciate your concern.

I told my ex that I will give him a 15 minute grace period in picking up our child. Well, he is more than 30 minutes late each time and I still let him take her. He was 3 hours late 2 weeks ago and I still let him come. So I am doing everything in my power to let him see her. Yes, he is in control.

Well, today he was supposed to come at 10 and I have not heard from him and it is 12:30. I don’t expect to hear from him. That is my issue. Him not coming when he is supposed to but I am supposed to be available whenever he is ready. I can’t just go to his house because I don’t know where he lives but he can come to my house.

It is so ridiculous. I am just going to enjoy being with my child and know that she is safe with me. He does not care about her and that is evident.

Nic

I would hold it to the time specified! Not a minit over! The Control issue is not a wepon! If your not there on time than sorry about your luck! It is a child not a pet! Hold him to exact times or he still controls you like a object! Late ? take me to court and argue why you are late! Do not relinqueish control to the P . Don’t play their game!

Stayingsane

Congrats on the four months of NC! That is huge!

But not so huge that you’ve had time to regain your trust, of course. I think where you are right now sounds like just where you need to be and should be. You are making progress and getting your own life! Get your red flag detector in excellent shape. I got involved with a P at at 56. So watch out! Life is not over at 50. What were you doing 20 years ago? Think of all that has happened since. You (knock on wood) easily have 20-30 or maybe even 40 years of life ahead. May be the best years yet, with or without a man!

Thanks all. Everything taken on board. So grateful for you guys. I am okay to be at this stage. Interesting to note life is not over at 50, even though my faith in men is…. just for today.

Stayingsane:
Life begins at 50……..you go girl!!!!
Keep on keeping on!!!
Your doing great!!!

Dear Nic,

Iam with Easy on this one. Next time, notify him that it is ON TIME OR NO TIME—-Late? well, don’t bother coming. Late returning her? then that much time off your next visit.

YOU take control back from him. YOU CAN DO IT!

Remember back when he wasn’t putting her in a car seat? You know he doesn’t care about you or her—so if he doesn’t show up on TIME, put the kidlett in a car seat and LEAVE—DON’T BE THERE WHEN HE COMES. Make sure, too, that you have a WITNESS as to what time you left and that it was AFTER he should have been there. A few times of that and he will either quit coming or be on time, now wouldn’t that break your ehart if he quit coming. LOL Love Oxy

Hi OxDrover,

Your post about regret is a poignant one. How different we would do things over if we’d the chance to… blessed with the knowledge that we’ve had bestowed upon us. Regret will always be painful and deep when we have given so much to
those who were unworthy of the gifts.

Much of what happens to us, unfortunately, occurs due to the programming and roles we were assigned in our families of origin. Unspoken rules and roles from that time shape our choices in ways we are likely to deny vehemently, until alas,
the pain of continuing to relate in those old ways is too much to bear. The impetus to change ourselves lies within that pain
and regret. The urgency of the need to do so becomes apparent when the old ways of relating just don’t work any more.

Unfortunately for us, the old ways of relating meant “taking low” almost all of the time from those who didn’t appreciate us. Whether we gave a great deal or not no longer is the greatest sadness, but that we’ve allowed it to go on for so long.

Life teaches us some very harsh lessons to be sure. Looked at
from a spiritual (not religious) perspective, we can all find very personal meaning as to why certain things have happened in our lives. Each of us knows in a very personal way that we are working on certain themes that keep repeating over and over until they get our attention. The circumstances and the people may change throughout our lives, but we know the things we are here to work on in this life.

I believe that in this way we are making a contribution to
anyone we relate to in our own sphere of influence in a healthy, loving way. HEALTHY self regard doesn’t come cheap
when it has to be learned in adulthood. It’s a gift your parents
are supposed to model for you growing up. Most of us know
the pain of strugggling to learn positive self regard in the face of abuse. Once attained it can never be lost again.

There is so much to learn in this life. Wondering how life would have been had we chosen the other and if it would have been better is a natural reaction to what is unfair.
A great deal of our growth has come through the very people
that have pushed and stretched us to our limits to understand
them. Sociopathic behavior, no longer being a riddle, allows
us our freedom to move forward and explore who WE are.
What good is sharing warmth and a sense of relatedness with
those who don’t understand, value or even recognize what we’re holding in our hands and hearts extended to them?

Better to take the gift of knowledge and use it to heal.

Much of what I’ve read here has provoked a great deal of thinking on my part. My mind keeps going over the themes
involved.

The film adaptation of the book The Colour Purple by Alice Walker keeps flooding my mind. It is resonant with so many of themes that are universal in the struggle for selfhood and healing. The first time I viewed it I was floored at how deeply Celie’s plight touched me. Each one of the characters in the film has something to say about unhealthy relating and its damaging effects that ripple outward upon all they touch.

It’s also a story of love and hope and compassion. It’s a story
about healing and faith most of all through the most painful of
circumstances.

Ultimately, Celie finds a sense of inner peace and acceptance
of what her life has evolved into. So much of what she endured early on was out of her control. The same applies to many of us. Along the way, she, as well as we ourselves, have had kind and not so kind teachers. Some of them modeling truly cruel behavior and others awakening in her the awareness of her own unique beauty as a human being; bringing her the gift of real regard and relatedness.

I believe at the end of the journey the goal is to truly love
and value ourselves. Regardlesss of the amount of struggle and pain life brings, there will always be those who touch us and fill our lives, even in the midst of despair brought about by uncontrollable situations and people who have run amok in our lives.

I’m wishing that for all of us as well.

Peace

Oxy, thanks for a very provoking post. And one that is comforting to those of us who are still beating ourselves up.

Regret is one of those words that we define differently, or maybe feel differently depending on where we are in our lives or our healing. I know that when I first started to recover from this relationship, I was brutally beating myself up, thinking that I was “just too stupid to live.” And at the time, I would have said that I was drowning in regret.

But that is not how I define regret now. Now, more often, I look back and see things in my life that I would have done differently if I’d known then what I know now. At the time, I was doing the best I could with the needs and the level of maturity I had. But going back now to look at some of these past experiences — ones that caused me a lot of pain, or ones in which I made mistakes that caused other people pain — they seem more like lessons than anything else.

I had a minister who used to pray, “God, I know that you’re sending me a lesson here. And I’m willing to learn. So if you don’t mind, could you just please hurry up and let me know what I’m supposed to be learning?”

I mentioned last week that I was thinking writing a post about guilt, because I think it’s such a big factor in our lives, and largely unrecognized (because like shame, it’s so uncomfortable, we push it to the background). I had a major collision a few weeks ago with a ton of guilt I’ve been carrying around for decades, and avoiding thinking about. I discovered that some children I took care of when I was in my mid-twenties, while their mother essentially abandoned them to travel around with a new boyfriend, had not done well when they grew up. One of them is dead now from an overdose.

I supported them and their father for two years, and I ultimately had to leave, because I just couldn’t bear the burden anymore. It’s hard to talk about this even now, because I knew that it was going to be just one more blow for these youngsters. And I loved them.

The guilt I felt when I got these information just whacked me with what some people might call regrets. But I would call guilt. And it took me a while to sort it out. But eventually I did. There were a lot of circumstances around that involvement. It began only a few months after I was widowed by my second husband, and it was an escape for me from grief. I had no boundaries in those days at all, and no sense of what I could manage with any concern for my own wellbeing. And though I did my best to fix it, the entire situation was bigger than me. No matter what I did, it was actually caused by people who were deep in their own dramas and who would continue to destroy any stability or emotional security those kids had.

For me, the learning in that situation — now more than 35 years later — was that there are tragedies around us. People we love may be involved in them, as we may be too. And no one, however well intentioned, can control everything. Sometimes, we just have to embrace hard realities, and not stop loving, but also recognize that we have to take care of ourselves. Because if we turn into human sacrifices, then we have nothing to give.

So I grieve what happened, grieve the loss of the little girl I loved and the difficulties her brother still faces, continue to love them across time, and comfort myself with the idea that we all did the best we could.

As far as not biting off more than I could chew, I learned that lesson at the time. It was a hard lesson, and I occasionally forgot it in later years. But it was pretty well learned because it was so painful, as all of us here are learning from our experiences with the sociopaths.

So this for me, is what regrets are really. Just a look back to recognize something I would do differently now, but not be sorry. Because I can’t be. It was the story that brought me to where I am today. To a great degree, I caused these stories for myself, as I did the one with the children by volunteering to become so deeply involved with their lives. From my perspective today, I caused my story with the sociopath too, by wanting what he had to offer. And that was caused by other stories I volunteered for, which all emerged from patterns set up in a very dysfunctional childhood.

Oxy mentioned regrets about roads not taken, and I can probably relate to that more than anything. I feel like I wasted so much of my life struggling with the dysfunction I carried from my childhood. But even that was my story. I took the roads I did, because they were the ones that were most meaningful to my development. I believe that. And I could wish that I had a different childhood, or wish my parents had different childhoods, or wish that the whole culture wasn’t so fear-driven and addiction-ridden, but what’s the point?

Ultimately the big challenge of life is to love ourselves and to learn to use what we have. Whatever it is. Regrets are important, because they hold learning inside of them. But if they cause us guilt or shame, then maybe we need to work on forgiving ourselves for being human. Oxy wrote that in an earlier post, and I always thought that was a great way to say it.

This is a great thread with so many thought-provoking comments, thanks for starting it Oxy.

keensight, you said, “Sociopathic behavior, no longer being a riddle, allows us our freedom to move forward and explore who WE are.”
That should be a quote on everyone’s refrigerator or maybe make a bumper sticker. That wisdom is profound because, understanding sociopathic thinking has opened up an entirely new perspective on my world – like nothing I would have imagined.

Kathy, I’m sorry to hear of your loss. I understand that you regret that you couldn’t do more, but you did the best you were able to at the time. You said you had taken on more than you could chew. Those words describe us all, when we were small children being abused by adults. In our child minds we focused on a strategy that would help us cope, but most of the time, the strategy was flawed. How could it be otherwise? we were only children. Now that we’ve grown up, we are learning to release that strategy so that a new one can be found. Unlike the P’s, we aren’t stuck in the perpetual childhood that keeps us repeating the same evil deeds over and over as vengence for what happened to us.
Maybe that’s the meaning of forgiveness: finding a new strategy.

Dear Keeninsight, thank you for your response, very thought provoking.

kathy, thank you for your response too—and also thought provoking.

That is the thing I love about an article like this, is that so many people see different things, meanings, etc. in the same words. Our words in any language are poor conveyors of FEELINGS and how each of us sees something a little different in a word such as “regret” or “guilt” or “love” and how our lives are impacted by it.

Those differences are wonderful because they EXPAND our lthoughts and though each of us is unique, yet were are also alike in so many ways.

The spiritual aspect to healing is I think such an important one (separate and apart from religious views or thoughts) I believe mankind is a “spiritual” being because we can analyze our motives and feelings as I think other mammals are not able to, and I think one of the things that is different about us and the personality disordered is the “spiritual aspect.”

This is just observation on my part, but though I know Ps that at least pretend to be religious, I do not know any that show any spritual insight, it seems beyond them. Who knows, maybe that consciebnce or lack of it is what “spirituality” is all about.

Sure, our “raisin'” influences what we think is right and wrong, or what we think we “should” or “should not” do or expect, but at the same time, we are independently able to analyze these beliefs (if we will) and see that they are or are not VALID. You may have been raised by a family that taught you prejudice against other people, but as an adult you can either continue to accept this belief, or examine it and say “that is not true in light of what I observe” and discard that belief. We ARE able to “reprogram” our belief ssystems that were “fed to us” as children. Earlier on we may have acted on those beliefs, and AT THAT time we believed them, but we have the power to de-program those beliefs, to install new beliefs, and new conceptions of truth, and while we may look back and say “I did so-and-so, but at the time I was acting on xyz belief, now I no longer hold that belief as valid, so I will no longer act on that” We are FREE moral agents, and I think that is what a good manyy of us are doing here, is to examine our “truths” and see if indeed they ARE true, or if they are “contamination” from our families of origin, or from our culture etc. i.e. we are spiritual beings on an eartly journey and we have self determination and are NOT predestined by our past to live our future by a set of codes (guiltly feelings, or remorse, etc) that someone else installed in our heads. Just learning that we CAN reprogram ourselves, that we are so powerful and able to alter our internal landscape if not the extermal one. I can’t alter the external land scape that I am a 62 (almost 63) year old white female who grew up in rural America, but I CAN alter the internal land scape of that woman, and I am working dililgently to do so. Looking back and saying that I regret that I didn’t do things differently in the past doesn’t do anything except make me feel bad about where I am today.

I SHOULD have listened and not baked myself in the African sun, I woujldn’t have these liver spots on my face or near so many wrinkles, but I can’t go back and unwalk the path I walked when I was 19 or 20, or retroactively put sun screen on. But I will wear sun screen and a hat today to keep from making them worse or turning them into cancer. But, I am NOT going to continue to beat myself up because 40 years ago I did something dumb!

I agree that “forgiveness” is not about the person who did an unkind deed, but for ourselves, to get the bitterness out of our own souls jso that we can move forward away from that event, and not continue to keep it as CURRENT pain. That means forgiving others deeds, but also our own mistakes and bad deeds.

Keensight, I loved your post, you expressed what we all feel – in a gentle way. The sociopathic riddle is one I’ll never truly understand, it bleeds into
what I wanted to understand and make into ‘normal.’ I know I’m entering a new phase, I’m over 50 too and I have to not put any demands on myself
other than to just find new ways of acceptance, of myself and of others in a way that is healing and not condemning. I had a number of days of bad
headaches lately, have never been prone to them but had taken on alot, still dealing with feelings about this person as well as a bad tooth I got taken care of (that I hoped would solve the headaches!) as well as the good news of having to fill more orders for my business. And I just pushed
and pushed myself, still coming here to read periodically, but had to stay as quiet as I could – the headaches forced me to do that and I even
had to take off an afternoon from work one day as it seemed like my head was going to implode! I ended up at my son’s house and took a wonderful
walk in the sun by the river with him, my daughter-in-law and grandson and cried in front of them. They didn’t mind, they are supportive and I felt better, it was a real release. But I have to not be hard on myself that I let myself get so fragile, even needing that release. We’re so good, even dysfunctional about understanding others and what they ‘need’, that we neglect even giving ourselves the praise and support we need to forge ahead. Kathleen and Oxy, I love your posts always, too, thank you for being here.

I think it is hard to imagine what comes next and we all can tend to write off men or opening ourselves up to them in the future. I don’t feel I never want to be in another relationship though – I just feel a certain kind of release and freedom to do things I want to do now, and not let anyone else
(or myself) get in the way. Sometimes I’ve felt ‘invisible’ in the sense of the kind of respect I’m afforded by loved ones or bosses, sometimes it’s very subtle and I want to work on understanding that better as well for the future. It’s time to accept more responsibility and risk more in putting myself on the map, without apology.

As I told you all, I found a new pic on facebook of my P daughter whom I havent seen in nearly 17 years. I started to really beat myself up for being so stupid as to look her up.
Decided to call my Iranian “Kids”, they came over for lunch yesterday andwe had a great day. I was able to share my sadness with Roya, and she hugged me while I cried, and comforted me, so did my lovely new son.”Mama , we love you, we are your new family now, we will always love you and be there for you!”they said.So thank God I didnt battle that sadness alone, as my husband gets tired of hearing about my P daughters, and they have been very mean and heartless to him too.So alls well, I was able to turn things around, have a happy day, get support from my new “kids”
and stop beating myself up. How good is that?!!and {{HUGS!!}}} Mama Bear Gem.XXX

Mama Bear Gem,
I am so excited to hear you had someone to put their arms around you while you cried! It is a wonderful feeling to have that, I thank God he came to you in your time of need! Your iranian kids sound very good, I’m so very happy for you, not only that but I never thought I’d have an iranian brother and sister well except maybe in God’s family, you know what I mean!

God bless you Mama Bear! I love you! Love, hugs, and prayers, heavenbound

Oxy,
Very thought provoking article! I have spent the last few days trying to remember stuff that happened throughout my up-bringing, that have influenced me & my decisions. I didn’t even realise how many bags & how heavy they were until I set some of them down. I am still reading The Betrayal Bond, & doing the exercises as I read, discovering things about myself I never knew until now. Makes me wonder how I made it to 55 not being able to see these things.
Love & hugs to all of you, may our journey together be a healing one.

Dear heavenbound, thank you darling for your sweet words. of course we are all in the same family of LF, and it is a very special family, even though we may never meet, but NEVER SAY NEVER!! God DOES hear our cries and our prayers.
I wish you a very happy day, dear!! All will be well!
I love you too, and {{HUGS}} to all of you,
Mama gem.XX

This is probably off topic but check out latest Mac ads – are they using the ‘sociopath as PC’ approach? Especially in the one with big guy “call me when you’re willing to compromise’ and the repeated ‘trust me’ one. For some reason I decided to watch them other night and that ‘trust me’ one
really hit home… just that phrase gave me the creeps!

Persephone,
Amen. And I saw a Pepsi (?) app for I phones that has pick up lines for guys to use, depending on the type of woman they think you are. Our culture, or many parts of it, is leaning way over on the Narcissist and P scale.

I am making huge progress. Not sure when it happened, but I’ve totally lost my appetite (even in the abstract) for “strong” men, “leaders”….fine for getting a job done, but not fine for a mate. Likewise, a guy who is “coming on” to me is a turn off….and I think that would be true if I were single. I’m so over flirting, love songs, all that. I feel like I finally get what real love is about and it takes a long time for that trust to be earned and established. I’m so out of sync with the current culture that if anything happens to my husband….I’ll never find another. I am no longer hungry for validation by a man. Not sure how it all came about but just really got clear about that very recently. Feels GREAT.

PS It became apparent to me when a guy that I know was “interested” popped back in via fb (ugh), and the thought of him is now disgusting, where as five years ago I thought he was so hot. VICTORY!

I agree persephone and justabouthealed….that our society is learning over on the N/S/P scale. Now I see things on tv, or talking to people in public and under my breath, I catch myself saying, “sociopath.” I hope that my experience only makes me aware and not paranoid to get to know new people. I find that I question EVERYTHING out of people’s mouths now. I guess in the long run it will be to my benefit to question everything because if I don’t and I let my guard down, I don’t want another S sneakin in because I was nice enough to just believe everything he said.

Persephone,

It is funny isn’t it, about how “older women” are “invisible” in some areas of our culture? You see beautiful young women on the media and front pages, but most ads are geared toward young men and women, unless it is for incontinence pads or false teeth powder. LOL

Of if you see an ad for an ED pill for men, he is always dancing with or holding hands with a woman who looks 15-20 years younger than him.

Age and wisdom are no longer the same thing, and I see so many older women who go to great lengths to “dress young” and try to appear “younger” than their ages –and men too with the hair dyed jet black with white roots and the “comb overs” to hide baldness. I can “sense” sometimes the “invisible” changes in the way (mostly) middle aged people interact with me, but I am not going to let them make me FEEL invisible.

And it used to be in cultures (and still is in some) that the elders are revered, etc. Not in the USA!

Amber, whhhoooo hoooo for you.
I do the same thing. My P-dar is soooo finely tuned, the slightest passive-aggressive nuance registers a beeeeeeep!

It’s not that I expect everyone to be perfect, because we all have an inner P, but when you get loud beeeeep or several small beeps grouped together, you have a red flag.

I think I figured out the difference between a narcissist and a sociopath. They are similar but a narcissist is really self centered and will attack if it gets a narcissistic injury (real or imagined). It needs constant reassurance or it will turn into the devil. The sociopath is similar except it’s already one big oozing, festering, pus-filled narcissistic injury and that’s why it’s always on the prowl for someone to take revenge on. The sociopath will stalk it’s prey by mirroring and will even try to seem meek and humble. That’s because it is basically a wounded predator, ready to strike as soon as it’s got the victim within it’s reach. Other sociopaths, like mine, prefer to destroy their victim slowly. They realize that they are decaying and they want someone else to decay too. They will smear their oozing infection all over their victim subtly. They don’t want the victim to know it’s coming from them. They want the victim to think they have an infection or disease. The victim then slowly comes to believe in their own defectiveness. But in truth the defect was just a projection of the P.

Oxy and jah:

You both make a good point, and I know I get the word ‘attractive’ more than ‘pretty’ now – I know I still look good ‘for my age’…so what! But even my lover who was younger would harp on that to the point I felt like,is that what I’m mainly about, lookin’ good? He’d say how intelligent I am but there was this other fear that would creep in that I better stay fit and as young-looking as I could, ok if he started to go a bit though! I plan to take care of
myself but only because I do have some vanity and feel better when I stay fit.

The ‘invisibility’ I was speaking of is this feeling of finding myself at work and not always
being introduced by bosses to new people, even when I’m right there. Or having them
say things about my talent with art and it can seem a bit patronising – and I know it brings
up something in me that why am I allowing myself to be invisible, and why am I not putting
myself in a leadership role, why always an assistant or subordinate to someone who I may
respect, but who just has different strengths than I? Don’t know if I’m expressing this right –
I just know lately I’ve felt more like I want to break away and really use MY strengths more
and is that arrogant? Once again, whether we’re old or young, whether we think we’ve been
victimized or victims or not, we can still reclaim who we really are and do what we’re best at, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Like you said, Oxy I’ve become more aware of ‘older’ people now just being like me, just
further down the road, with hopefully more perspective and appreciation of life than a younger
person can really grasp when they think they’ll be around ‘forever.’

skylar..thanks for that!! And you couldn’t be more right. I beleive my ex was both a N and S because he was insanely self centered and knew it. He had no qualms admitting he was selfish or wanted everything to be about him. ME ME ME all the time! But I think he was more of a S because of his destructive behavior, inability to tell the truth, complete lack of remorse etc etc. He knew he was wounded and decaying. He would often say to me that he didn’t want to take me down with him, which was a LIE! He could say that till he was blue in the face, and all I asked was he tell me the truth so I could make educated decsions for myself as to whether I wanted to stay or leave. And he STILL would lie, to keep my around. So he knew he was taking me down with him, but wanted to pretend that he cared enough to keep me around. I know he got off on me telling him that I wanted to make it better and I would never leave him. He set his trap and he knew he had his grip on me. As long as he had that, he wasn’t alone. In the end, I felt like a nuttcase!! Ewww…he makes my skin crawl now. I keep replaying the last conversation I had with him over and over again in my head disecting every single little statement. How he tried to make himself the victim, telling you, “YOU’RE the one that has changed.” WTF?!?!? That shocked me. But I know now it was him just trying to portray his negativity and guilt onto me, to take the attention off him. And I called him out on it. No way was I going to let him play reverse pyschology on ME anymore. I wish someone would stick him in a white room and study him. The world would be a much more ENLIGHTENED place!

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