Rosy Retrospection is not a Cognitive Bias
Past, Present, and Future — a Trilogy
The present is always permanent and that alone exists. Time as such is nothing other than the present. The past is an experience engraved in memory and the future is anticipation in your imagination. Living in the present without past regrets and future anticipation is what you are supposed to do. Not reacting on the basis of experience or anticipation but understanding more in any given situation is the ideal way of living. When you will create and live beautiful memories that can be relieved, perennial happiness will follow.
Unpleasant past hurts your wellbeing…
Behind all your actions are your habits and behavioral patterns. The culprit is cultural conditioning buried in your memory. The past directs how you think, feel, and act. If the past is full of unpleasant memories with unmet wishes and desires, it hurts your well being. The baggage of the past that you carry in the form of thoughts and opinions, becomes an obstacle, a mental groove that is hard to overcome.
You are so lost thinking about what you could have done, you miss out on what you can do!
Retrospection without remorse…
Reflecting on the past is a common behavioral trait. As a habit, you reflect on the experiences you have been through in the past. The problem with looking back at the past is that you end up being remorseful. You become preoccupied with what went wrong, what were your mistakes, and how things could have gone otherwise.
This unhealthy guilt-ridden behavior evokes unpleasant feelings, leaving you frustrated and helpless. Before you even realize, you find yourself on autopilot mode experiencing a spiral of negative emotions. If you sink deeper, it is hard to get out of this emotional quicksand. At last, you are left with regrets over past mistakes and you feel hopeless. You may, at times, take a step further and start blaming other people, choice, fate, and what not instead of looking at ways to improve.
Make peace with the past…
Your past is always there with you. You need to reflect on your past and learn your lesson to improve your present. The key is analyzing what you see or feel as objectively as possible. That’s the only purpose of retrospection.
Objectivity is seeing things as they are, without projecting past fears, mental models, and experiences on the current situation. It means responding mindfully and deliberately to present situations. It is fact-based, measurable and observable. Subjectivity, on the other hand, is based on personal opinions, perspectives, interpretations, emotions, and judgments, which is ill-suited for living in the present moment.
Pay attention to your past from time to time. Make peace with your past through simply understanding it better. It can be hard as your mind can become super anxious while accessing the painful experiences. Clearing the mental clutter takes an open mind. It takes the willingness to look at unresolved past from infinite angles, much over the 360 Degree view that modern management gurus suggest. But, once you are able to heal your psychological wounds, you will gain better control over yourself and the past will no longer haunt you.
Don’t be unnecessarily hard on yourself…
Look back at the past objectively and be gentle with yourself because the goal is not to judge or criticize yourself. The goal is to learn from the past and make substantial changes that can help you improve your present.
Self-compassion is the only way to bring about the needed change in behavior. It is absolutely necessary for you to address all the mental blockages that are hampering your growth. It enables you to approach past failures with reasoning, and not regret. As more and more individuals become self-compassionate and change their behavior for good, humanity will be better off.
When you indulge in retrospection with self-compassion, you also overcome your negative bias — a tendency to register negative stimuli more readily and intensively. Your past holds negativity as well as positivity, but you tend to delve more into bad things ignoring all the good ones. So much so that all your positive experiences are overshadowed by the disturbing, negative memories.
However, when you change the way you look back, good memories, which had been overshadowed by the dark clouds of painful memories come out and shine. This enables you to ruminate on all the positive things and feel good. Being a social animal, it is natural for a you to remain positive and spread positive thoughts. Therefore, looking back at the past for positivity should be the goal whenever you indulge in retrospection.