Secret Regrets: What Do You Regret Doing -- or Not Doing -- Most in Life?
In that study, women 'fessed up to regretting crimes of the heart: Whether it was more a case of not chasing the "one who got away", or staying in an affair that was going nowhere, science can't tell us, but one man can.
Kevin Hansen is the author of "Secret Regrets," both a book and the super-popular website of the same name where thousands of humans have spilled their guts -- and regrets. In the past, Kevin has rounded up many of these confessions: The top secret regrets of women in their 20s, which are different from what women in their 30 feel remorse for, and different still from what men secretly wish they had (or hadn't) done.
Today Kevin took his secret regrets to the Dr. Phil show to spend an entire hour talking with America about the stuff that captivates us all: how we can live a life that's regret-free.
MyDaily: Kevin, what in your life prompted you to study other people's secret regrets in the first place?
Kevin Hansen: Actually it was more of a curiosity factor. I noticed a bunch of websites that opened up and people were confessing secrets, but there weren't any about regrets. I also started other sites at the same time, like "What's the biggest fear of your life?", "the most embarrassing moment of your life," and the funniest thing that's ever happened to you.
The one about regrets really hit a nerve. I started getting a lot of traffic early on, and once I saw that people were having an outlet to tell things that they couldn't tell their closest friend -- and then the comments that were left from other people giving encouragement and support "I've been through this too, and if i can make it through, you can too" -- when I saw that people were helping people through their lives, I saw that I couldn't abandon the project. It had so much potential to help other people.
All told, how many secret regrets have you been privy to now?
At last count, it's over 15,000. Fifteen-thousand have actually logged on and entered a regret on the site. There were several hundred in the book that I hand-picked: The best of, the most shocking, the ones you read twice, and the most common ones.
After sifting through that many, have there been regrets you've read that have brought you near tears -- or stuck with you over time?
The ones that are hardest to read are the ones where people have a regret where they don't have an opportunity to make it right, like if someone has passed away. But also people who've had pretty tragic things in their life. If they didn't say something, try to right a wrong, or the abuse situations...
Those are hardest to read, but the most helpful part is where people come forward and help them heal –- people are finding support. The original posters post their regrets, and some feedback will be posted, and the original poster will come back and say, "Thank you very much. You've really given me perspective on this."
One in particular was a woman who'd had an affair, and she told her husband about it, and he said he forgave her, but she never forgave herself. And four or five years later, she still carries this regret. Well, she posted on the site, and people said, "You know, he said he forgave you. Maybe you should talk to him again, so you can move past that."
She had him go to the website and read her regret, and his response was, "I cannot believe you're still beating yourself up over something that I let go of years ago." It was a real turning point in their marriage -- they were really able to move forward. And that was incredible.
Has anyone you've heard of undone a regret from the past?
Yes. The site has changed lives and saved lives. We've had people who were on the brink of suicide, and they'd post on the site, and the entire Secret Regret community would sweep in and way, "We don't even know you, but we love you, and here's a number you can call if you need help."
There was a girl who almost committed suicide a couple of years ago –- she was only sixteen years old, and after the response from posting, she actually told her best friend, and her mom, and they went to the doctor, and it gives me goosebumps talking about it.
One of the most shocking was a woman who posted this:
I regret not shooting you instead of divorcing you, and letting you use MY kids as pawns in YOUR custody battle. If I'd shot him, I could have proven abuse, and even if I did jail time, it wouldn't have been as long as the custody fight was that our kids were dragged through -- and that was engineered by the woman you were cheating with and then married. Now that the kids are grown, my revenge is that you are still married to her, and you are miserable every day of your life! Female, age 53
Then we get some funny ones: "I regret that I still want to be with you after you ditched me to smoke pot and watch 'Jersey Shore'".
For the most part, the regrets are touching and heartfelt, and then you get a couple that just make you smile.
We know we're talking broad brushstrokes, but recent research showed that women regret different things than men do: We regret affairs of the heart, they regret mistakes at the office. How have you seen what we regret differ by gender?
On the women's side, I would agree with their studies. A lot of the regrets are about romantic relationships -- you married the wrong person or you let the right one get away. On the men's side [in the studies] their regrets focused more on career.
On my site, the men's regrets actually mirror the women's regrets. They have a lot of relationship regrets as well. It's very touching. You don't see that with guys a lot –- you see how it's affecting them, and you get these really heartfelt stories from guys about relationships that have gone bad, or how they wish they could treat somebody right when they've wronged them in the past.
What would you say is the most commonly lamented secret regret?
The most common is relationships, and within that subcategory it's thinking that they've let the wrong person get away. I get so many people who say, "because of Facebook and other technologies, I'm back in touch with my high-school sweetheart...", and once somebody says that, the community steps in and says, "Whoa, you're not the same person, he's not the same person, this happened 20 years ago," and the people will say, "Thank you, you stopped me from cheating on my husband or wife." There are always those little what-ifs in our mind, maybe I should have ended up with that first person or that second person.
Can you tell us a way in which confessing a secret regret has changed a life?
There was a woman who -- I think I have her regret right here -- she says:
I regret I can't stop my addiction. I regret all the times I've tried, and failed. but most of all I regret pushing everyone away who ever cared about me because my addiction controls me. I need to stop. Why can't I? Looking back on my life for the past several years, it is obvious what it has done to me, and the people around me. I am truly sorry for all those I have destroyed. But most of all, I am the one destroyed and I don't know how to be free of this pain. I regret being born because I have brought nothing but pain to my friends and family. I'm sorry I am still here. Female, age 37
But the more amazing thing was the outpouring of support she got from the community. As a result, she got help. Then she came back and posted this:
How surprised I was to log on today to SecretRegrets and see my regret posted for the world to see. It brought me back to that terrible night when I wrote this, on the verge of ending my life. The day after I wrote this, I checked into an intensive outpatient treatment program, and am now clean and sober. Thank you for those that reached out with sound advice. I still have a long way to go, but most of all, I am in the process of finally forgiving myself and I am not suffering anymore. I hope my loved ones can forgive me too someday. Further, I hope that I can forgive those who hurt me so terribly that I fell into such a deep depression, feeling no other way to escape but to just numb the pain and check out for a while. Thanks again Secret Regrets, it feels good to put this experience into words and share my story. I hope that others with addiction and/or depression will read this and get the help they need as well. There is no need to hurt that badly.
So, if you wanted to live a regret-free life, what advice would you give humanity?
The act of confessing that regret, and just putting it out there for millions of people to see, is very freeing. It's that act of saying, I want to put this behind me. Maybe I don't need this to dictate the rest of my life. I've coined the phrase: regret it, forget it, and move on.
I think the biggest step is to take that first step and identify and admit what it is. What is that one thing in your life that you would change that is holding you back? It's being brutally honest with yourself: I need to either put it behind me, or go back and change it, and this is the one issue that I need to deal with.
And from there, start talking to other people. But I can guarantee you that if you think you're the only person who's been through something like this, once you open up to the community, and they start talking to you, there are people who can help you.
I'm not a doctor, I'm not a therapist, and neither are the people on the site. It's real people helping real people get through their problems. You'll see that they've made it through the same thing, and you can, too.
Carrie Sloan is the editor-in-chief of MyDaily. She invites you to share your biggest regret in the comments, and you could have other MyDaily readers help you through!
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