Jan 1, International Herald Tribune

The ideal New Year’s Eve party would come with a psychological voucher, redeemable the next day for a post-mortem session with friends. A chance to relish the night’s humiliations, take bets on who went home with whom, and nominate the guest most in need of therapy, present company included.

An opportunity, that is, to forestall the traditional morning-after descent into self-examination, that lonely echo chamber of what should and could be.

Ghosts roam around down there, after all, and they are the worst kind — alternate versions of oneself. The one who did not quit graduate school, for instance. The one who made the marriage work. Or stuck with singing, playwriting or painting and made a career of it.

Lost possible selves, some psychologists call them. Others are more blunt: the person you could have been.

Over the past decade and a half, psychologists have studied how regrets — large and small, recent and distant — affect people’s mental well-being.

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Graphic Illustration by Geraldine Georges