And I’ll warn you ahead of time, it’s probably not going to come out all polished and I’m just going to hope it makes sense because it is that new to me. It is something that comes from a manuscript chapter that a friend of mine — she’s writing her very first book! – shared with me. And it made such an impression, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, especially in terms of Highly Sensitive Persons.
One of the things we talk about a lot with HSPs is that we are highly reflective, we have this gift of being able to reflect deeply on things. And it’s a double edged sword, right, like on the one hand, we can reflect deeply. On the other hand, if we’re not careful, we get stuck in rumination. And I completely identify with that.
It’s something that even now, like, even at this stage of my life, I still find myself struggling with. Not as much, but I’ll get victory in one area, gain victory in one area, and then it’ll crop up in another area. So like I said, I had the privilege of reading a manuscript chapter for a book that’s being written by a friend who is a Highly Sensitive Person. And so here’s this amazing new insight that I want to share with you:
She shared some research on the difference between regret and recrimination.
Now, I have long been aware that one of the things I really really struggle with is regret. I look back at the past and I am not the kind of person who says “Oh, I have no regrets. I live my life so I have no regrets.” I have so many regrets, it’s not even funny. Like “If only I had known,” or “If I tried harder…” or you name it, I have regrets. For myself and for choices other people made. And so of course to see this regret versus recrimination and the scientific journal article she quoted said that the researchers find that recrimination is actually worse than regret.
And I’m like “What? There’s something worse than regret?” Okay, and so recrimination is – this is my definition okay, this is my understanding of what I read – is getting stuck wishing that others had known what you know now, so they could have done things differently in the past so that you would have a different outcome right now. So that’s not just regret, but that’s actual recrimination. Getting stuck, wishing others had known what you know now, so they could have done things differently in the past and you would have a different outcome now.
And you know, I find myself going through that when I look back – I wish my mom had known that I was a Highly Sensitive Person. I wish certain teachers had known that I was a Highly Sensitive Person. I wish certain friends had known and understood. You know, I wish we had known all of this so much earlier in our marriage, we’ve been married almost 31 years and my goodness, it explains so much. And so I get very stuck in the wishing, the desperate desire to take what I know now, and infuse it into the past so we can change the past and bring things up to date the way they should be.
Then there’s – and this is again, my interpretation, this is me processing in front of you what I’m learning, okay, this is not something that’s polished — there’s regret and self-recrimination. Okay, so what I told you about just a moment ago was recrimination. This is regret versus self-recrimination. And the way I am understanding this is getting stuck wishing you had known way back then what you’ve only recently known, only recently learned, so you could have done things differently in the past, so you and others would have a different outcome now.
Regret versus self-recrimination, is getting stuck wishing you had known way back then what you’ve only recently learned. So you could have done things differently in the past and you and others would have a different outcome now. Oh my goodness. I deal with that in my parenting. And I deal with that in my marriage as well, wishing that I again, I could take this information back into the past.
the root word
And one of the things that I realized as I look at this word recrimination, or self-recrimination, either way; if you break apart that word recrimination, what’s the root word? The root word is criminal. It’s literally like we are going through and we are re-criminalizing the other people, or we are re-criminalizing ourselves. And I was talking to my husband about this as we were taking a walk and he says, it’s kind of like, you’ve been let out of jail, but you keep putting yourself back in, or other people have gone free, you know, they receive grace, and then I keep putting them back in in jail. I was like, whoa.
So here’s the quote from the article. “Given the operation of hindsight, recrimination may be particularly intense because, after the fact, people will almost always be able to find clues that they believe should have been evident beforehand about which decision would provide the best outcome.”
And basically, what this is saying is once we know something, suddenly all the evidence for it becomes super duper obvious, and then we forget that it wasn’t obvious back then, you know, like, I look back at my childhood in my teen years, my 20s. And it is so incredibly obvious that I was a Highly Sensitive Person. It is so easy for me to think “Well, why did nobody else figure this out? Why did I have to figure this out when I was 45?”
And I also do the same thing with my kids. I look back and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness, it was so obvious Jonathan was an HSP and had this constellation. So obvious Annemarie was an HSP and had this constellation. Why didn’t I see it when they were babies? Why didn’t they see it when they were toddlers? Why didn’t they see it when they were preschoolers, in elementary, in junior high, in high school, and going off to college.”
And the fact is that the belief that we should have known is called counter-factual thinking. And it really boils down to: we do the best we can, with the information we have at the time. And that it is part of accepting grace and extending grace to others. And that gets us out of this habit of ruminating and getting caught in this recrimination or self-recrimination. Like I think it’s okay, actually, to look back at something and feel regret. To recognize “That was sad” or “That was a missed opportunity” or “That was hurtful.”
But for me at least, I get caught in the rumination.
And getting at that specific name of recrimination or self-recrimination is … I’m already finding it very helpful to pray-cess it in those terms and then to ask as I’m pray-cessing, “Hey, Lord, am I doing this? Am I putting myself back in jail? Am I putting somebody else in jail that You’ve already set free?”
So those who are believers in Christ Jesus can no longer be condemned.
The standards of the Spirit, who gives life through Christ Jesus, have set you free from the standards of sin and death.
A. What aspect(s) of this video/transcript resonate with you most?
B. What questions arise for you?
A. Invite the Holy Spirit to convict you when you engage in recrimination, self-recrimination, and/or counter-factual thinking.
B. As you are convicted:
- receive God’s grace for yourself
- extend God’s grace to others.
Research cited: “The Role of Affect in Decision Making,” George Loewenstein and Jennifer S. Lerner, Handbook of Affected Sciences, R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, and H. H. Goldsmith, Oxford University Press, 2003, https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/RoleofEffectEmotion.pdf