“If only I had done X, this would have never happened.” Why would you think that? Wishful thinking, perhaps, because it allows you to imagine a simple reality where one action would have such clear consequences? We as humans seem to be magically drawn to counterfactual statements of the form ”If A would have been different, B would be different, too.“. We’re assuming a causal relationship between A and B. This allows us to imaginatively control the uncontrollable—the reality that didn’t happen.
The problem is, we never know what would have happened, because we didn’t try to really change A and only A. The name for these statements, counterfactuals, is perfectly on point. The statement is contra-to-fact, it contradicts reality—it’s false by definition.
For me, this is a rare case where being able to put a name on it made all the difference. Whenever I hear a counterfactual statement now, my mind raises a red flag and I know to critically examine the statement, because it’s probably false.