Regret is a feeling, described as sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair (Merriam-Webster, 2023). Regret can arise from wishing one made a different decision regarding gender care and some people could feel regret across the course of transition. Some people decide to detransition while others feel it best to remain in the gender they transitioned to. Someone who detransitions may regret an initial transition because it did not bring the happiness or ease in their body and mind they had anticipated. They may feel sorrow because of the unhappiness they experienced while transitioning or because they feel discomfort with their bodies due to the effects of hormones or surgeries. Not all regret implies someone thinks they should have made different decisions in the past; they may just wish things had played out differently or had access to more psychosocial supports at the time. It is also important to note that not all people who detransition experience regret. Some people feel the experience of transition enabled personal discovery and to clarify their identity and would not do anything differently.
A Cognitive Behavioral Approach
Because regret is a feeling, it relies on a number of different perspectives or perceptions. To feel regret, you need to first see a circumstance as beyond your control. There may be a number of other thoughts that support feelings of regret.
One way of managing feelings of regret is to identify these underlying thoughts and to subject them to more scrutiny. For instance, if you have the thought that you “should have known better,” you might ask yourself additional questions to challenge this thought, i.e. Why should you have known better? How could you have known better? Did you know that there was a better decision at the time? Do you know that another decision would have been genuinely better? Below are some suggestions about questions you can ask to challenge thoughts that support feelings of regret.
“I should have known better.”
Why should you have known better? How could you have known better? Did you know that there was a better decision at the time? Do you know that another decision would have been genuinely better?
“There is no way to fix this.”
Are there other ways to resolve the situation? What decisions can I make in the present to make myself happier? What “problem” am I trying to fix? Is it genuinely a problem, and who is it a problem for? Is this a problem for other people or for you personally?
“Why couldn’t I have decided differently?”
What were your thoughts and feelings when you made the decision? Could those thoughts and feelings have been different? Were there other factors influencing your decision, and could they have been different? Did you know the consequences of your decision before making it?
“My decision caused me so much harm.”
How much harm has my decision caused me and what kind (i.e. physical, emotional, spiritual)? Are my feelings of regret in proportion to the harm that was caused? What can I do in the present to heal from harm?