Regret and Shame: Harnessing Their Power in Your Journey
Regret and Shame: Harnessing Their Power in Your Journey

Regret and Shame: Harnessing Their Power in Your Journey

Harnessing Their Power in Your Journey


June 6, 2023

Alcohol and Health
Regret and Shame: Harnessing Their Power in Your Journey
Reframe Content Team
Alcohol and Health
9 min read
Author image
Reframe Content Team
June 6, 2023
9 min read

As Carl Jung succinctly put it, “Shame is a soul-eating emotion.” But while shame — as well as its cousin, regret — are often shrouded in negativity, these universal feelings do serve a purpose. Recent scientific studies suggest they play pivotal roles in shaping our decision-making processes and future actions. Instead of shying away from them, what if we could understand them, accept them, and even use them to fuel positive change? Let’s decipher these twin emotional states and explore the transformative power they can hold.

Shining a Light on Regret

Regret is primarily associated with our past actions or inactions. It's the pang we feel when we look back and wish we had done things differently.

Recent research has shown that both regret, while initially uncomfortable, can be a powerful catalyst for change. It can provide an emotional kick that propels us to alter behaviors that aren't serving us. The fact that regret can be harnessed to aid in behavior modification makes it particularly valuable when trying to let go of a persistent habit.

Author Daniel Pink explores this idea in his bestselling book, The Power of Regret. He uses an enormous data set from a survey that included 16,000 people in 105 countries to identify basic types of regret, which he then reframes as four core values. As a result, regret becomes a useful way to pinpoint what’s important in someone’s life, like a spotlight illuminating areas that need attention.

Uncovering Shame

Shame, on the other hand, is more about self-perception. It's how we feel when we believe we have failed or disappointed others — or ourselves — in some fundamental way. Shame often involves a sense of exposure, a feeling that our shortcomings have been laid bare for others to see.

While at first glance shame might seem similar to guilt — another self-conscious emotion — there are some key differences between the two. Guilt typically relates to specific actions that we perceive as wrong or harmful. Shame, on the other hand, tends to be more pervasive, relating to the self as a whole. For example, guilt might lead someone to think, "I did something bad," whereas shame might make them think, "I am bad."

In psychological research, shame is often associated with a host of negative outcomes, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and problematic behaviors. It can lead to avoidance or withdrawal, and at its extreme, it can result in feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing.

When managed well, however, shame can work as a social barometer, alerting us to actions that deviate from our personal or societal values. Feeling shame about excessive drinking, rather than being a negative emotion, could be an essential part of understanding the need to change.

One critical thing to remember when navigating shame is the power of self-compassion. Research has demonstrated that individuals practicing self-compassion tend to be more resilient to shame, leading to healthier coping mechanisms.

Staying Positive

This brings us to a key point: while regret and shame can be powerful motivators, they need to be balanced with positive emotions. The field of positive psychology has amassed a wealth of evidence demonstrating the importance of positive emotions for maintaining behavior change. Emotions like joy, gratitude, and hope can provide the stamina and resilience needed to persist with the changes you want to make, especially when the going gets tough.

The core principle of positive psychology is to focus on building what's good in life, rather than just fixing what's bad. The field has provided valuable insights, particularly in therapy, coaching, education, and organizational development.

When it comes to dealing with shame and regret, it’s all about having a “glass-half-full” perspective and looking at these emotions as evidence that while we might not be exactly where we want to be yet, we are on our way. It also means striking the balance between denial and despair: while we don’t want to stay in these emotions for too long, we also want to acknowledge them as a sign that something needs to change.

Striking the Balance

So how can you strike this balance? Here's a three-step approach.

  1. Reflect: Spend some time acknowledging your feelings of regret and shame. Understand that these emotions can be your allies, not enemies. They are signals from your mind, helping you understand areas in your life where you might want to make changes.
  2. Reframe: Once you've acknowledged these feelings, work on reframing them. Instead of letting them drag you down, use them to fuel your commitment to change. And remember the importance of self-compassion in this step.
  3. Rejoice: Finally, don't forget to celebrate your wins. Each time you make a choice that aligns with your goals, allow yourself to feel joy, pride, and hope. These positive emotions will further reinforce your commitment to change.

Embarking on the journey of change can be challenging, and feelings of regret and shame are natural. Remember, these feelings are not indictments but tools for growth. By understanding, accepting, and leveraging them, you're on your way to a healthier, happier you. Here's to harnessing the power of regret and shame on your path!

Taking the Next Step With Reframe

If you are ready to harness the power of regret and shame to make positive changes in your life and habits, the Reframe app is here to help! By using the tools and skills in this #1-rated app, you can re-examine the role of alcohol in your life and embark on a journey of change and growth based on the latest science.

Our app will give you access to daily readings to help you expand your toolbox when it comes to dealing with feelings of regret and shame in a positive and healthier way. In addition to getting a set of daily tasks to complete, you will receive journal prompts and other activities — guided meditations, motivational quotes, drink tracking – to guide and inspire you on your journey. You will also have access to a community of caring and compassionate people from around the world who are ready to help you and share their stories on our 24/7 Forum chat. If you wish, you can have access to licensed coaches for one-on-one counseling sessions and daily check-in calls via Zoom, as well.

The Reframe in-app Toolkit contains a collection of resources that will provide you with additional information about the way alcohol affects your body and mind. We’ve got tons of resources, such as meditations and craving timers, that can help you wherever you are in your path.

Finally, the Reframe app is free for 7 days — so you can try it today risk-free! We’re confident that we can help you make meaningful changes in your life in a positive way and would love to be a part of your journey. Can’t wait to see you in the app!

Reframe has helped over 2 millions people to build healthier drinking habits globally
Take The Quiz
Table of Contents
Relevant Articles
Ready to meet the BEST version of yourself?
Start Your Custom Plan
App Store Reviews
App Download
Drinks Eliminated / Year