A central theme in the mind of most addicts is regret. In the personal inventory-taking of the 4th step in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous the participant is encouraged to conduct a searching inventory of his past. There is emphasis put on recording the good along with the bad but most people are focused on the mistakes they made and resentments they hold. I regretted for years not going to college right out of high school, thinking somehow it would have made a difference in my station in life.
Pivotal events in the life of the individual when viewed through the lens of disappointment can produce a crushing sense of regret. It is the companion of “Why Me,” the lament of “if only.” The supposition is that there was a mistake made in the past that if it could be done over would change everything. DEFINITION: to feel sad, repentant or sorrowful over something that has happened or been done, esp. a loss or missed opportunity.
Is there any usefulness in rumination over previous choices? Is the idea of regret itself related to accountability? Are the protective effects of regret short circuited during active addiction? Let’s look a little closer. We start with gambling.
In 2007, Dr. Gregory Berns and his colleagues at Emory University in Georgia studied 38 volunteer subjects by putting them into a scanner and giving them three buttons to push. They were shown a screen with three doors and asked to choose door number one, two or three by pressing the corresponding button. Randomly assigned doors had either a smiley face or a frowning face behind each door. If the frowning face was chosen, a painful electric shock was given to the top of the subject’s right foot.
As the test progressed, the likelihood of selecting a frowning face increased. They hypothesized that if the chances of getting shocked were low and avoided by choosing a smiley-face door the rejoicing would be lower and the regret higher if they were zapped in a low-probability test. Their prediction was accurate and they also found the results were flipped (more rejoicing, less regret) for getting zapped in the tests where 2/3 of the doors had shocks behind them.
They were able to map the neural correlates of regret to the medial orbitofrontal cortex, left superior frontal cortex, right angular gyrus, and left thalamus, all areas involved in judgment and decision-making. These same areas are implicated in the neural correlates of addiction.
In other words, when we think something bad is going to happen and then it does not we are hardwired to rejoice disproportionately. We are extra happy. Similarly, if we get hurt by a choice made when our estimation of possible pain is low we have far more regret. This makes sense but ignores the issue of probability before the choice is made.
Taking drug use as an example, if I fear rejection on the dance floor as I consider asking a beautiful woman to dance and then have a drink of alcohol to “steady my nerves” I have lowered my fear of rejection (anticipatory regret) and when she says yes (having only to do with being asked and wanting to dance with me, not with my drinking) I have flipped the equation and now I am rejoicing.
You can be too.
By Jason Giles M.D.
Article Source: ezinearticles.com