Health

Why you should write down your secrets to move on from the past

In the past five years, more than 25,000 people have posted to Kevin Hansen's blog, Secret Regrets. They've shared their thoughts on opportunities lost, abusive relationships and addiction issues.

Writing in a journal

Masterfile

In the past five years, more than 25,000 people have posted to Kevin Hansen’s blog, Secret Regrets. They’ve shared their thoughts on opportunities lost, abusive relationships and addiction issues. Hansen has just published a second collection of content from the website: Secret Regrets Volume 2: Moving Past Your Past. Here, he explains why sharing your deepest darkest secrets with strangers can be cathartic.

Q: What kinds of things do people most regret?
A:
The most common regrets have to do with relationships — either giving up on one too soon, or staying too long. Overall, people regret giving in to a fear of the unknown. Men regret relationships as often as women, but women are more likely to post regrets. Men regret letting one love of life get away. A lot of people are also struggling with some kind of addiction — food, alcohol, drugs, eating disorders — and they regret the inability to break free. And a lot of people can’t find a way to get past depression.

Q: Have any particular regrets really struck a chord for you?
A:
I always remember the ones where people are hurting a lot — where they’re really depressed or suicidal. We’ve had numerous examples of people who were thinking of ending their lives, but because of the support they got from the Secret Regrets community, they’ve changed their mind. One of the most memorable regrets is in the intro to my new book: One woman confessed that she couldn’t get her drug addiction under control. She was a mom and she felt that she was letting her family down. Later, she wrote back and said that writing down her regrets helped put things in perspective. She’s now clean, and that’s been incredibly rewarding to see.

Q: Do you think that sharing these regrets, even anonymously, unburdens someone?
A:
We all wish that we had a second chance to do things differently, but I think writing things down and being able to see it helps you to see possible solutions more clearly. I call it “healing through revealing.”

Q: Has this work changed your perspective on life at all?
A:
It really has. Looking back at everything everyone has confessed has really shown me that you never know what’s going on in someone’s life. Just because they’re not talking about something, doesn’t mean it’s not there. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and treat people with a little more grace because you never know what someone’s struggling with.

Q: What do you think others can learn, what are the broader life lessons to be taken from Secret Regrets?
A:
The biggest thing is that no matter what you personally are going through, there is hope. People think they’re the only person going through that particular situation, and then they read that someone else is struggling with the same thing. Someone else has gone through it, and they’ve come out the other side. We can really learn from other people and move forward.

What’s your biggest regret? Share it anonymously below.