What “succession” can teach us about regret

Spoiler alert: This article reveals key plot points from the April 9, 2023 episode of Succession.

Our professional lives are complex and demanding, and strong emotions often affect how we face these challenges. A strong emotion – regret – is on display in this week’s episode of Succession, titled “Connor’s Wedding”. The episode brings up some insights we can all use to deal with regret and use it as a potential force for good.

Aboard their brother’s wedding yacht, Kendall, Roman and Shiv Roy receive the devastating news that their father, Logan, is dying – or, more likely, has already died – on a flight to Europe . As a flight attendant administers chest compressions, Shiv’s ex-husband, Tom, holds the phone to Logan’s ear, so the kids can talk to their father. Their expressions express regret – the realization, perhaps, that they’ve missed previous opportunities to express their love for Logan, despite the betrayal and dissatisfaction on both sides.

Research suggests that the type of regret the Roy siblings seem to feel derived from the self-blame that comes from acknowledging our current reality might have been better had we made different choices. Looking back and wishing we had done things differently is a common human experience. We most often regret having made bad choices in our relationships, careers and studies. Looking back years later, we could blame ourselves for not accepting an exciting job offer or for not pursuing a somewhat risky dream or for not telling others how we really feel about them. . We tend to regret the things we doesn’t do more than the things we did TO DO, research find. In particular, we regret not preventing a negative outcome, such as not expressing love to someone who has since passed away.

Many researchers have proposed that the purpose of regret is to prompt us to identify our mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future. By recognizing where we went wrong, we can take steps toward personal growth and improvement. Indeed, people who express regret about the past are more likely to consider ways to improve in the future. This discovery led researchers to conclude that embracing and fully living our regrets may be the key to overcoming them.

Throughout the episode, there are moments that show us how we can react to regret in a way that lessens its intensity and allows us to focus on other aspects of our lives.

Find closure.

When Tom calls the Roy siblings, he tells them that their father is “very, very sick” and describes the situation as “very, very bad”. Although Logan is probably already deceased, Tom creates an opportunity for the kids to try to wrap things up by offering to hold the phone to their father’s ear, so they can share a few last words. Kendall, Roman and Shiv each struggle to tell their father they love him – and decide whether to forgive him for his betrayals. “I can’t forgive you,” Kendall said, “but it’s okay and I love you.”

Closing is the process of resolving unfinished business or achieving a sense of finality or acceptance of a situation or event. When people feel they have reached closure, they are more likely to feel a sense of purpose and less regret for the past.

Although regret can be a powerful motivator for corrective action, it is more effective in the short term, before we believe we have lost the opportunity to resolve a situation. The scene in which the siblings come to terms with their father’s death is a dramatic reminder to express our true feelings rather than let important moments slip away. Will regret cause Logan’s children to take a different approach to their intimate relationships and the way they work? It will be interesting to see if their regret has any lasting effects.

Take some distance.

Logan’s eldest son, Connor, is informed of his father’s death after the fact. When he finally hears the news, Connor’s first response is, “He never even liked me.”

With these words, Connor engages in what psychologists call motivated reasoning — a cognitive process in which people use their preexisting beliefs to interpret information in a way that supports those beliefs.

If we use it to ignore or downplay evidence that contradicts our beliefs, this process sometimes leads to biased thinking, faulty decision-making, or inaccurate judgments. But, in some cases, reasoned reasoning can be helpful because it gives people a sense of direction and purpose. For example, if a person is motivated by a particular goal, such as succeeding in their career or having a positive impact on society, they may use motivated reasoning to convince themselves that their actions are the right ones to achieve that goal. It can help them stay focused, motivated, and persistent in pursuing their goals. Connor probably wanted to have a happy marriage (his goal that day), without being distracted by the incredibly sad news of his father’s passing.

In the same way, reasoned reasoning can also help us draw more positive conclusions about negative situations and create some distance from the pain these situations create. It does this in part by encouraging optimism and resilience. For example, research found that people who were encouraged to engage in positive thinking following a stressful event showed greater resilience and reported fewer negative emotions over time than those who did not. encouraged to engage in positive thinking. By looking at a negative situation and reframing in a way that makes us feel better, as Connor did when reacting to his father’s death, we can reduce the intensity of regret we feel.

Motivated reasoning can also steer us away from negative and traumatic events. This distance can allow us to appreciate the full meaning of what is happening, research find. And it also helps us deal with any feelings of regret we might feel.

Embrace the compartmentalization.

The news of their father’s death is understandably devastating for the children. But Waystar Royco executives are quick to remind them that they have to make big decisions for the company, such as how to reveal Logan’s death to the world. The news will influence market and board decisions regarding the company’s leadership going forward. At a time when Roys are feeling confused and deeply sad, they need clarity.

Kendall, in particular, shows some ability to engage in compartmentalization when he tells his brother and sister what needs to be done to keep their business options open for the future. His mixed emotions about his father — and his own cruelty — likely play a role in his ability to compartmentalize. “What we do today will always be what we did the day our father died,” he said. “So, you know, let’s cry and whatever, but let’s not do anything that restricts our future freedom of movement.”

Compartmentalization, or the act of separating different aspects of our lives into distinct mental compartments, allows us to manage stress and maintain a sense of control over our lives. It is also a defense mechanism that we use, in which conflicting thoughts and emotions are consciously or unconsciously separated or isolated from each other in our mind.

Compartmentalization can reduce regret by helping us avoid dwelling on negative experiences or decisions we may have made in one area of ​​our lives. For example, if someone makes a bad decision at work that results in negative consequences, they may be able to compartmentalize that experience and not let it affect their personal life or other aspects of their job.

When we are able to compartmentalize our thoughts and emotions, we are better able to solve complex problems and think creatively. And by separating different areas of our lives, like work and family, we can avoid being overwhelmed by the demands of one particular area. It can help us stay focused and productive without neglecting our personal lives.

Compartmentalization can also help us set and achieve goals. By breaking larger goals down into smaller, more manageable tasks, we can better focus our efforts and make progress toward our goals. Additionally, compartmentalization can help keep us motivated and engaged by giving us a sense of accomplishment and progress as we go through each task. While the compartmentalization is not the answer to all problemsit can be a valuable tool for maintaining balance and success in our professional and personal lives.

By adopting these strategies for dealing with regret, we can turn a negative emotion into a powerful engine for growth and change. As the Roy family navigates the aftermath of Logan’s death, we’ll see if regret shapes any of their future decisions. Will they let him consume them or channel him into something positive? It’s a tantalizing question that has us looking forward to future episodes.

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