How many times have you find yourself agonizing over the past, your actions or inactions?
If only I had done….If only I hadn’t done….If only I could just go back and change….If only I could go back and do…..?
I know that I regret my past at least twice a day!
Sometimes I’ll think back and say, I wish I had purchased that stock when it was low. Sometimes I’ll think, why did I try a new flavor of bubble tea when I knew the original would be a safe choice?
Going through the mental process of should have, would have, could have is mental torture. I am aware that I cannot go back in time and do things differently yet I still regret my past actions which causes me to lose confidence in myself and be more self deprecating than necessary.
Friedrich Nietzsche had a concept called Amor Fati which translates from Latin to the love of one’s fate. Amor Fati is an acceptance of everything that has happened in one’s life. A person of Amor Fati does not want to erase anything from one’s life or retouch the past.
Amor Fate…..That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.
– Friedrich Nietzche
Many of us, including myself do the exact opposite. We spend a great amount of time and energy thinking about the errors of our past, regretting the things that happened to us and wishing that things could have gone differently.
Why do we do this?
We tend to lament because we do not like the idea that our lives are fated. Fatalism would mean that we are not in control of our lives.
Nietzsche does not tell us to choose between fatalism on one hand and utilization of the will on the other. Instead, he encourages the decision to use one over the other when necessary.
We do many things to improve and affect the outcome of our lives by utilizing our will. We change careers, go back to school, move cities or even countries, take up a hobby, we try to find the right partner. Some of our endeavors go brilliantly right and some things go horribly wrong.
When things go wrong we begin to want to go back to our past and change things. This mental though process becomes so draining, depressing, soul zapping, it often keeps one awake at 3 am in the morning!
Nietzsche himself needed the wisdom of Amor Fati at midnight to calm his troubled spirit, regain sanity and to quiet his mind that kept self criticizing.
Nietzsche told himself that nothing that has happened in his life could have happened differently.
How could things not have been different?
Nietzsche argues that all the good and bad that has happened to us, everything that we are, everything that we have done, is all bound together in a web of consequences. This began at our birth and the things that go right and the things that go wrong are one.
If we cannot change something we must accept what has happened to us, in particular the bad things.
When we accept what has happened to us and come to the realization that some things are outside of our control we are left with only one option, that is to be happy with what has happened.
To be upset over something that you cannot control only causes you to suffer the consequences of negative emotions. Therefore you might as well be happy about it even it is bad and has caused you a severe loss or disadvantage and move forward.
Put your energy and emotions into actions that will have a real impact on your future.
Move from: I cannot believe THIS happened to me! THIS is the worst thing that could ever happen to me.
To: THIS happened and I feel pretty great about it. I’m happy this happened. If it happened then it was meant to happen. This moment will prepare me for the future and I am going to make the best of it!
The Ancient Stoics also had thoughts similar to Nietzche’s Amor Fati.
Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy. – Epictetus
Sure it seems unnatural to want what we never wanted to happen in the first place, but sometimes we just have to embrace what has happened to us with open arms for our own sanity.