What Regret Wants Us to Know (And Do Now)

Lu Hanessian
5 min readMay 28, 2021

How facing regret now can help us settle an old score — with ourselves.

Lu Hanessian

Photo by Alberico Bartoccini on Unsplash

Depending on the day, I may or may not have a boatload of regret.

And then depending on the day, I might have no regrets at all. I used to think regret was a useless concept. What was the point? I thought. If I couldn’t go back and change anything, what good would it serve me now to wish I’d done something differently? I’ve learned better.

Regret, n., a “pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone,” (1500's); “weeping” (Old English), “groaning” (Old Norse).

Looking back, I harbored some deep, achey regrets for too many of my younger years — let’s see…berating myself for not calling the Broadway producer back who said he wanted to listen to my original musical (“send me your cassette, if I love it, I’ll produce it; if I don’t, I’ll tell you!”); not investing more money in my early twenties; not speaking up with conviction to a powerful TV boss who I feared (and who, twenty years later meteorically crashed down in a shocking, very public disgrace); not doing my PhD before I got into television 25 years ago…

And, my biggest regret of all…not seeing my beloved grandmother one more time before she passed.

Regret is often loaded with not’s. Roads not taken. Opportunities not pursued. Love not safeguarded. The more not’s, it seems, the more knots. This tangle of feelings and repetitive thoughts can become its own brand of regret. Dense, disillusioned, disconnected.

Regret can also get wrapped in cloaks of guilt and shame for actions we did take. The decisions we made in haste, on impulse, in fear, in spite of doubt. Because of our doubt. The choices we made with bravado or ignorance, fantasy thinking or low risk tolerance. The things we did without insight — or foresight. And maybe that’s a clue to understanding hindsight…and the regretful pain we assign to it.

How can we lighten the heavy heart of regret?

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Lu Hanessian

Adjunct Professor, Journalist, Former NBC Network Anchor/Discovery Health Channel Host, Host & Exec Producer of “The Foreseeable Now” podcast.