… but then again, too few to mention …

FrankieWhen you get a text message at a quarter to midnight saying “Are you still awake?”, what are you going to do? That’s right. I rang back.

My friend has a complicated life. I’m used to being the soap opera around here, and it is rather odd to find myself the stable one while my friend ricochets from situation to situation like the ball in a pinball machine.

He has some choices to make and, for once in my life, I didn’t have advice to give.

I am great at giving advice.

No, really I am.

Sometimes it’s advice, sometimes it’s an opinion, sometimes it’s a suggestion, and one of the things that makes me a good person to ask for help is that I am always really clear on which it is. I’ll even give people advice that I really don’t want them to take, if what is good for them is painful for me. For some reason that’s the one set of advice I have a 10/10 take-up on. Oh well.

So I told him about a couple of ways that I make sure I end up with as few regrets as possible. Coward that I am, I don’t like the idea of regrets.

The first is to kick start some hindsight. Imagine yourself five, ten, fifteen, twenty years in the future, or at the far end of your career, or the far end of your life, and look back on the situation you are in. What would you wish you had done? What would you regret the least? A powerful question that. (Ha!) Use it wisely.

It’s an odd thing to do the first time you do it, but it is so powerful and so useful that it can end up becoming habitual. It helps you get some perspective on the thing and sort out the short-term gain or pain from the lasting consequences of your decision.

The second is to take time to notice that the decision you are making is the right one, given the circumstances you are in right now. This is something that good abortion and adoption counsellors do. They take the time to make sure that, whatever happens in the future, the woman knows now that the decision she has made (to terminate the pregnancy, to give the baby away or to go through with the whole thing) is the right one given the situation she is in and the information she has available.

This one makes it easier for you to forgive yourself for your own mistakes because you know you did the best you could at the time.

The third thing is to be aware when a decision really is not your call, and you are just a factor in someone else’s decision-making. Deluded fools that they are, they think the world revolves around them. Don’t they realise? You see, you can have all sorts of reactions to the consequences of another person’s decisions but unless you caused them to take that decision, regret cannot be one of them.

So there you are. Aphra’s guide to regret-free decision-making. Mind you, you may still make completely lousy choices. You may still lie awake staring at the ceiling and aching with pain. But at least you’ll have got there really really carefully.

Grandmama, Grandmama, here’s this lovely egg. Listen up while I teach you how to suck it.

6 responses to “… but then again, too few to mention …

  1. It is grand that we can have a friend at our beck and call whenever we are in need of advice.

    Advice, though, is not an easy thing, because sometimes the advisee does not inform properly the advisor and then if everything fails, it will the latter to be blamed.

    It is of the utmost importance that each and every detail be explained so the advice be as much accurate as possible. If anything, even a tiny particle of information is being held back, then the advice is doomed to failure.

  2. Never give anyone advice! They only blame you for it.

  3. My older sister used to ask me for advice, which I would dutifully give, and then she would systematically ignore. She invariably chose to do almost exactly the opposite of what I suggested, and it almost always turned out badly. Then she would ask for more advice on how to solve the resulting trainwreck. I finally told her in one letter I was not going to give her any more advice at all. It was about a year before she would speak to me again.

    I do love the suggestion of projecting your decision into the future. If only we could have the clarity to know how things will turn out.

  4. But I didn’t give him advice!

    I gave him a methodology for working his own solution out for himself, and that was my point really.

    Ah well.

    Jose, you are right about clarity. And so often when people do give advice it is muddied by projection, so that they base their advice on what would be good for them (the advisor) and not good for their advisee. (Cool word, that).

    Anticant – you are right of course. But on the other hand, if I never gave anyone advice, I could never look smug and say “I told you so” either!

    hmh, what a frustrating situation. Have you read Eric Bern’s “Games People Play”? II wonder if she saw you giving her advice as a sign you loved her, rrather than as guidance or a suggestion of what to do. Her not accepting your advice migh be a sign that she needed to know you love her, but was taking responsibility for her own choices, even if they turned out badly. Ach, what do I know? Families, eh!

    Thanks all for reading and commenting.


  5. Actually, what precipitated my bowing out of these sorts of exchanges was reading that particular book. I believe that I told her she ought to read it, and pointed out the two games that she was wanting me to play, “Ain’t it Awful” and “Poor Little Me” that I no longer wished to participate in. Maybe that’s why she got mad and wouldn’t talk to me. People don’t always appreciate being called on their habits of playing games. She still does, though.

  6. Ach, we all do. It is merely a matter of degree, and whether or not out games are positive ones or negative ones. Berne himself says that there are neutral and positive games out there, but that only the disfunctional ones get studied.

    It is still a book I always have two copies of though, one to keep and one to give away.


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