If you're a fan of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, you'll probably remember Vivien Leigh declaring, "If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill ... as God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again!" Yikes.

It's good to want to avoid pain, but killing might be a slight overreaction to the problem. And when we go overboard in response to various troubles, we often end up in an even bigger mess.

Survivors of the Great Depression, who were or saw others wiped out by the stock market's crash, often vowed to never invest in stocks. But imagine that you and your family lived through those years, but remained invested in stocks. Between 1926 and 2008, stocks averaged a 9.6% return, according to Ibbotson. That's enough to turn a $1,000 investment into $1.8 million before taxes. If you'd been in bonds that whole time, you'd have averaged only 5.5%, and ended up with $80,700.

Furthermore, if you've sworn off dividend payers after watching JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Pfizer slash their payouts recently, think again. Unlike the big banks, most companies will try their utmost to avoid messing with their dividend. The following companies have strong long-term track records of hiking their payouts:

Company

CAPS rating (out of 5)

Recent Yield

5-Year Dividend Growth Rate

Lowe's (NYSE:LOW)

***

1.6%

44.8%

Walgreen (NYSE:WAG)

****

1.8%

20.0%

Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO)

***

1.7%

9.7%

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD)

****

3.6%

32.1%

AFLAC (NYSE:AFL)

****

3.0%

24.7%

Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR)

*****

3.6%

9.6%

Data: Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool CAPS.

Be less Scarlett and more Rhett
Ask yourself whether you've overreacted to a disastrous investment or event. Don't write off stocks just because of 2008's 37% drop, for example. Years like the last one happen, but they're rare. And such calamities often leave tempting bargains behind.

In short, when stock disaster strikes, don't make some dramatic vow that could leave your portfolio looking like Atlanta, post-Yankees. Instead, take a cue from Rhett Butler's famous quote: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Tomorrow is another day:

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of McDonald's. AFLAC is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Lowe's and Pfizer are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Try any of our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.