Regret Assessment

5:18:00 PMPaul

One may often be advised, it seems, to live without regrets. This assumes that one only regrets unattempted actions. It also assumes one may live with complete disregard for the effects of one's behavior. This is emotional irresponsibility. The truth is that the consequences of each individual action as well as the collective results of a timeline of aggregate activities and pursuits rarely satisfies.

This discussion is not concerned with those content to act carelessly and distance themselves from the aftermath. That is not regret. The others involved in a situation, abandoned to contemplate and complete the sense and psychology of it all are the ones who struggle with this concept. So.

What is regret? For the purpose of this discourse, regret will be confined/defined as follows--a conflict perpetually devoid of resolution, internally produced and processed by comparison of an outcome with desired results coupled with recollection and repetition of the course of events leading to the outcome in an attempt to reconcile the exact disruption and disconnect between intention and actuality. It cannot be judged upon the result alone, for a subject may lose a job or a lover, but none of this may matter to that subject and therefore there is no source or seed for regret. Regret can also not exist without consciously created internal expectations. Regret cannot apply to natural behavior, for example, wherein the outcome would not itself be complete, but a continuation of a larger goal, in this case survival. Whether one fails or succeeds to find food, food will always be a necessity. The expectation for satiation is not consciously created. The third component of regret is reflection, searching to understand why the anticipated effect was not acheived. And this third step proves to be the biggest obstacle to a static, content mind. It's the aim of the discussion below to remedy this.

For the purpose of one's long-term mental health, I propose the utilization of a categorical system for regrets, a way to expedite the process of obsession and qualification and measurements of sides. In such a system, all regrets, and for most of us there are many, can be labeled either disapppointments or mistakes.

Disappointments can be attributed to others' transgressions, whether perceived or admitted on their part. It is the shortcoming of another or their unwillingness and/or inability to fulfill dictated and/or implied expectations. This is only a valid attribution when the subject is completely forthright in explaining intentions. This does not necessarily reveal the subject's expectations of other parties, but certainly dictates that no ulterior motives be present. It means that while an explanation to another may contain the immediately desired outcome, the long term goal may remain hidden, even though the long term goal is easily predictable by all parties involved as a logical extension of the short term completion. Again, to food, one may eat a certain food after being told that it possesses certain health benefits. This now imbues the act of eating with a certain conscious level of expectation. If the provider of the information was dishonest or ill-intentioned and the result is that the food does not promote good health or even has an adverse effect, then the consumer now regrets the decision. While an argument can take place externally with the immediate expectation of resolution, nothing can prevent the comsumer from still debating the time or money wasted or the insult to intelligence. Very rare is it that someone takes trickery in stride. If a subject does, however, then they aren't falling prey to regret and won't even approach the need for this rationale. As for others, though (our subjects), it's simple to understand that while every step was taken to execute a plan towards improvement (a generic term for the beneficial result of any particular aim) and that another's deviance or divergent intentions led to the incompletion of the goal. In this case, there is nothing to be done about the circumstances or the events that led up to them. While for most it's impossible to erase the sensation of regret through mere intellectual overtures, the attribution of disappointment can alleviate the stress of alteration of one's plans or expectations, and even when applied, import a renewed sense of dignity that in the interaction or transaction that one maintained throughout an upright sense of human dignity and staunch principle. In the case of our example, the consumer realizes that the goal towards good health and expectation of results in that line was honestly approached and seriously pursued. There is then no reason to change the expectations or individual pespective. One can simply view the falsified information and its supplier as negligible in regards to achievement of completion.

Conversely mistakes, more commonly and sometimes incorrectly identified, reflect back onto the subject for examination of the source of error. It is born from an action taken in direct opposition to expectations, sometimes knowingly and often not. It tends to be viewed as a dismissable aberration from intentions, or an excusable relinquishment of principles for what seems to be a harmless immediate pursuit. Revisiting the consumer and the advisor/seller again, we note that all is the same in regards to intentions and expectations, but this time the error is on the subject's behalf. This can range from an accidental misinterpretation of previous information, perhaps how to properly prepare or consume the food, to willful disobedience or ignorance, for example skipping prescribed consumption. Mistakes are more confusing territory, because they usually result from one's dishonesty, even to oneself, in the course of events and requires in its implementation an admission of prior inconsistency. In the postmodern age, though, it has become vogue to allow personal or public guilt to easily persuade one to take responsibility for a regret when it needn't be so. For example, in a form of Aristotilian regression (that is Aristotle, right?), one can say of the first situation that the consumer made the mistake by failing to realize the advice was bad, by not taking a second opinion or by becoming involved with the supplier of the advice to begin with. All of these considerations stem from misplaced and false sources of guilt. The benefit of correctly identifying a mistake, though, and also the method for identifying one, is thankfully simple. Old adages abound that one should learn from a mistake. If when applying this in the form of a statement, the action to learn from only involves the subject as both performer (subject) and, when present, recipient (object). If the consumer of our bad food can say, I should have prepared it properly, or, I should have adhered to the recommended regiment, Then it's a mistake and the initial action with the same expectations can be repeated, this time in the correct manner to achieve desired results. If our consumer is only left with, I shouldn't have listened, I shouldn't have trusted, I should have double checked, I should have avoided, Then it's a disappointment and while there is no lesson to be applied, the source of the regret can then be excised if the subject is still attempting to materialize the initial predictions.

A major problem here is that many regrets can be reasoned by most sound minds as belonging to either category, because is it not the fault of the subject for not initially perceiving the risks or inevitable shortcomings of results in the face of desired effects? Of course, the opposite is true as many subjects are prone to place false shortcomings and nonexistent responsibilities with others.

Rules need to be in place. A code of principles that can be taken on as assumptions. My individual rules, at least when dealing with people (where a wealth more of my regrets are born than from any other activity) follow here to be taken as no more than possible advice:

--Assume one's perception is functional.
--Assume others are providing the truth.
--Abandon notions of ulterior motives until such proof is extant.
--Take it upon oneself to examine and solve any gaps perceived between the whole of a situation and what one is told. Assume one's own conclusions to be true until and unless satisfactorily disproven and replaced with sufficient, conclusive, contradictory data.

In essence, what is generally considered honesty or truth could be employed for the sake of this discussion. Whether it is intelligent or in one's best interests to use and pursue honesty must be reserved for an entirely different (and perhaps contradictory) entry--truths change daily after all. I warn here that being completely honest in my intentions has never worked to my own advantage. At least using this simplified mode/unified code of human interaction allows me to understand what aberrations occurred to detatch the reality of a result from my predicitions and attempts. And in more emotionally quickened moments, who is to blame. This allows for at least a conscious artificial conclusion or closure so that I may proceed to my next ill-advised misadventure.

I for one, will never know what it's like to live without regrets. The fact that I have them now, even if I were to pretend that none before this year existed, and I will never be able to be a man unburdened from regret. The best I can hope to do is to rationalize all prior interaction according to the suggested rules above. "Was I honest?" "Did I act on good faith?" "Did I eliminate suspicion?" "Did I fill in any gaps as needed?"

So as this year, as dictated by our regretful and neglectful ancestry, draws to a clumsy and inaccurate close, take solace in your unresolved regrets and try to apply this notion to each open account. For example, I regret that no one will ever read this. It's not my mistake, as I've succeeded in sequencing the words properly in a common language. So, for me, as with most of my other regrets of this calendar year, it is one more disappointment.

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