Regret based on flexible attitudes is the hallmark of mental health

Hearing these words, it is impossible not to realise the danger of the saying “No regrets”. Being able to feel regret – the right kind of regret, which can be understood, worked through and can lead to remorse and repair – is the strongest sign of a life meaningfully lived, of a healthy mind. “If you don’t feel regret,” Wrottesley explains, “and you’re without remorse, you will find yourself in the very difficult position of continuing to do something destructive without insight, causing damage to family and friends.” For her, “regret, though it’s very painful, can be a gift. It can be the doorway to a better way of living, of being with others.”

Dryden agrees: “People who say ‘I regret nothing’ are either saints or stupid, in my view. Regret based on flexible attitudes is the hallmark of mental health. It is a sign that you are engaged with life.” Without regret, we cannot learn from our mistakes, and we are destined to repeat them, as with Morgan’s banker. The panic attacks and regret that brought him to therapy, Morgan says, “were a message from his soul saying something was wrong. That was the healthiest part of him.” He is proof that, as Morgan says: “There is life after regret. One can recover.”

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