When I talk about living other lifetimes vicariously through books and movies I don't mean to make light of the possibility of reincarnation. I believe in the reality of reincarnation. But I believe in it as part of the illusion or dream of living life.
In fact I believe that the dream of this reality, universe included, continues on and on via the same engine that keeps the wheel of reincarnation rolling on and on. That engine is our choices, the choices producing consequences. They do so in any one lifetime, and depending upon outcome in that lifetime, may then continue on into another lifetime and so on.
I've made some poor choices just in this one lifetime I'm living now, or dreaming I'm living, never mind past lifetimes. I don't believe in beating myself up with guilt. Guilt doesn't help and, in fact, can do great harm. I do believe in remorse, though, and in remorse motivating us to learn and grow and improve. That improvement nowadays for me involves action designed to help me wake up from dreaming I'm human into the realization I am spirit (and Spirit and so on.)
Regards my poor choices, I've said to myself that I was doing the best I knew at the time. But now I know better. The 'knowing better' is the point of the consequences to our choices. Yes, this reality, or the dream of it, functions on a cause and effect basis. But the value in the consequences, as well as the way to end karma, lies in waking up to the consequences.