Why All the Focus on Changing the Past?

By Leca
@lecanis (16664)
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
January 6, 2008 6:02am CST
I've seen several discussions on here recently about things you would change in your past, things you would do differently, things you regret, etc etc. I suppose it's not an uncommon discussion topic. A lot of those "get to know you" quizzes include similar questions, and it is one of those quasi-philosophical questions I've heard discussed a lot among friends over the years. So I know it's not a new question, nor is overuse of it unique to mylot. My question, however, is WHY? Why do people focus so much more on "changing their past" (which as far as I know, we can't do) instead of making their present or future better? Bad things happen to us that aren't our fault. Trust me, I know. Me make mistakes. I know that one too. But what ever happened to learning from our past to make our future better, instead of sitting around regretting things?
17 people like this
37 responses
@skinnychick (6907)
• United States
6 Jan 08
Human nature- "I wish I had known then what I know now"- Common term that most have said once or twice. We all have made mistakes but the key is to learn from them move on and grow from it. This is easier said than done because it's pretty easy to play the blame game instead of looking at yourself which scares a lot of people. Sure I regret some stuff but I'm not sure that I actually would want to change it, I had a blast most of the time and I learned a lot about myself which has helped me to evolve as a person. I try not to dwell on the bad or hard times, they are over at least for now, so whatever comes along I can only hope that I learned enough in the past to get through whatever may come along. Cool post...
5 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
*nods* That's pretty much how I feel about it, skinnychick! Even in the present my life has a lot of problems, but I've learned to find the good things and hold onto them... so it's surprising to me that so many people can't do that! Thanks! :)
1 person likes this
• United States
7 Jan 08
It's hard to do for most- life and cynicism gets in the way..
3 people like this
• United States
6 Jan 08
For some people, discussing those things can take the desire to change it away. Maybe someone has a better point of view. People can come to terms with their life and their past. It's all about improving the quality of your life with a little help from others.
5 people like this
• United States
6 Jan 08
Also, the things they regret in the past may cause them not to achieve their dreams. Maybe they have failed at something and don't see a reason to try and do something for a second time. Many will not concentrate on their future because of this.
4 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Jan 08
*nods* I can see those reasons. I've replied to one discussion on the "what would you change?" topic recently, so I'm not saying it's an entirely bad thing. It just seems to be an obsession because there are so many of those discussions, not just on mylot, but everywhere.
3 people like this
@balasri (26553)
• India
6 Jan 08
Because They find comfort in dwelling in their past and happy carrying their crosses.It is in a way peeping in to the privacy too.Try to know some juicy past of others.And at the most it is the burden of the follies of their past.
4 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Jan 08
Ah yes, the comfort of wallowing in your pain. I can't say I never do it, but I choose to spend far more time looking to the future, personally. I forget sometimes that not everyone is as much an open book as me. :P
@balasri (26553)
• India
6 Jan 08
Each and every second is ticking into history. No use living in the past.Let our stride be towards a bright future.
1 person likes this
@sigma77 (5385)
• United States
6 Jan 08
Good points. It is much easier to wallow in the pain of the past than to step into the "now" and take a risk, which may or may not lead to more pain. But you can grow emotionally no other way.
1 person likes this
@DeenaD (2688)
• United States
6 Jan 08
Yes, I understand this. I have some serious regrets about choices I made in the past, particularly about my poor career choice, and I think about it just about every day. Therefore, discussions about regrets and being able to change the past always attract my attention.
3 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
I have some pretty serious things I could regret too, but I don't think about them everyday. For one thing, if I spent every day immersed in my horrific past, I'd be in an institution by now. For another thing, I have a future to work on! I might have messed some things up before, and there are a lot of things that could have gone better, but I have to work with what I have now and make things better from there! I hope you find a way to make your current situation better as well!
@Ravenladyj (22937)
• United States
6 Jan 08
Even the bad things from our past that ARE our fault have a positive side to them IMO....and though we can't change our past (and I for one would never want to really, which is something most dont understand considering I've been through so much trauma etc etc) I find that around this time of yr ppl tend to reflect considerably more than mid-year for example....Maybe thats why theres been such a big thing recently... I personally am all about not only learning from my past mistakes but ALSO growing from everything and anything in my past and acknowledging the fact that my past both good and bad has made me the woman/mother/friend I am today and damn it thats a GOOD THING LOL
3 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Jan 08
*nods* Yeah, that should have said "We make mistakes" up there, but somehow it become "Me". *giggles* I feel exactly the same way you do on not wanting to change my past. I get into that discussion a lot with others it seems, people saying "Don't you wish you could just change all that?" and my response is always no... because then I wouldn't be the person I am now. It is a very good thing, Ravenladyj, a very good thing! You're awesome! :P
1 person likes this
@raijin (10373)
• Philippines
6 Jan 08
I know for a fact that lots of people regret their past, including me. But I try to handle them by not dwelling from it, but for looking onwards. I don't know why they seem to worry too much of it, when we can do better from learning from it. Changing the past, is really impossible. I learn to live my life through this saying, like "live to day and fight tomorrow." Which makes me eager to live my life for my future, live from it and not the past. Charge them to experience, as some would say. Continue walking on the path we prefer to walk to, then make the best out from it.
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Jan 08
That's exactly what I'm saying here, raijin! It's not that it's wrong to have things in your past you regret (everyone does), but it's this unhealthy focusing on an impossible wish to change it that gets me!
3 people like this
@olaff123 (434)
• Namibia
6 Jan 08
Because complaining about yesterday is easier than working today. Most people want to get by in life with minimum effort, causing distress about the past. If you actually put in the effort today, you will be happy tomorrow about the yesterday you had.
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Jan 08
Exactly! I can't say I don't sometimes feel bad about my past (it was pretty horrific) but I'm too busy making my future better to focus on the past all the time!
1 person likes this
@bellaofchaos (11549)
• United States
7 Jan 08
Lecanis, I think it's partially human nature. They say hind sight is 20/20 and when you stop and look back you think hey if I didn't do this maybe this would have happened. Personally I think that everything happens for a reason and what you make of it and how you learn and grow with that situation is what makes and shapes us. I have at one point in my life when I was younger decided to look to the future and what I can do to achieve my goals and I made some very specific goals and I don't think about the past because there is nothing that is going to change so why sit and regret things. Move on for tomorrow because you never know what it may truly bring. Thanks for the discussion and have a nice night.
2 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
It sounds like you have a very good attitude here, bella! It might be human nature to have that perfect hindsight, but it takes a lot of courage to face the future instead! Good for you to have your goals and be facing the future!
• United States
7 Jan 08
Thank you. have a nice day and goals help so much.
2 people like this
@Darkwing (21588)
7 Jan 08
I quite agree with you Lecanis, my friend. We can't turn the clock back. What's done is done, as I said to a friend the other day, and however much we try, there's no way we can go back in time and alter our test results to a better one. We have to look to learn from the lessons we've completed, and look to the future, attempting to use our mistakes to make our future path a smoother and happier one. He he... basic training for the likes of you and I, methinks! Brightest Blessings, dear friend.
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
Basic training!!! I love that! :P Brightest blessings to you as well, and thanks for your input on this one! :)
@Darkwing (21588)
9 Jan 08
You're quite welcome, my friend. lol.
• United States
7 Jan 08
I think maybe it has a lot to do with a person's outlook on life. A lot of people choose to think of how their life might be easier or better if they could change certain things in their past, instead of looking at or figuring out how they can use everything in their past, even the bad things, to good. For example, as a child, I was abused by my parents. I also had so called friends that were not true friends, but just used me. Many people with a past like that would think about how their life would be better if they could go back and change it. I choose to use the experience and make it positive. For example, I know how not to treat my kids. I also know the difference between a good friend and a fair weather friend and how to be a good friend. There are many other bad things that have happened in my life, but because I went through them, I understand many things and I often know how to help people get through rough times because I understand. Hence, I use all experiences for positive, even the bad ones. I guess that is what it means when they say, 'life is what you make it.'...
2 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
*nods* Some of those same lessons are things I learned that way too... how not to treat my kids based on how my family treated me, how to both be a good friend and find good friends based off bad ones, etc. It sounds like you have a great attitude! :)
@rsa101 (16718)
• Quezon City, Philippines
7 Jan 08
Nice point of view. The past is past and we cannot change them. Mistakes from the past will always stay as is and must served as your guiding point not to repeat in in the future. What is important is the present and more important is the future. It is there that we could better ourselves more than dwelling in the past and hoping to change the past.
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
I like the way you put that in the last line. That is how we can better ourselves!
@aissha (2036)
• India
7 Jan 08
hmmmmm good one lecanis i think it may seem like changing the past thing but actually everyone says abt the learning the lesson thing .... and then moving on properly next time.... if something like that happen again.
2 people like this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
Yup! Maybe they really mean it that way and just don't say it.
1 person likes this
@eyewitness (1577)
• Netherlands
6 Jan 08
I think people like you said are talking about it because of regrets or just wondering why not took the other path. Sometimes it is because we were warned and didn't listen. It's always a what if. We learn from our mistakes and sometimes it happens for a reason. I agree with you we need to focus on the present and the future.And i can say it will cheer us up.
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
6 Jan 08
*nods* There are always going to be those "what ifs", no matter what decisions we make in our lives. The more we second-guess ourselves though, the more we detract from what you could be doing now. You're right, a better focus on present and future will definitely cheer us up! :)
@MsTickle (24994)
• Australia
10 Jan 08
Yes, it's over and past and we should move on bravely and face the now and walk bravely and hopefully into the future. If you're strong that is. If you haven't been squashed and physically and spiritually broken. Some of us remain pliant and weak and scared. I've been a coward all my life. I cannot change that - it is who I am. I don't know how to change and be any other way. I think people realise that if their attitude had been different then things would have been different /better so they try to change their outlook retrospectively in the hope that things will change in the present. It's possible to move into the future but things don't necessarily change much for many of us; we still bring out the worst in our bad choice of new partners. We end up alone of course, still scared of being alone and unloved, still confused about why people don't like us but finally accepting that even though we are relatively good people who are friendly and outgoing and loving and sincere we must have been here in the wrong time and place. Cos life for us here isn't a good fit. If only "hoping things will be better" actually made things better. LOL.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
11 Jan 08
Hi MsTickle. I'm sorry to hear that you feel you aren't that strong. I've been squashed and broken before too, and it can be hard to come back from that. I'll never be the person I could have been if I hadn't been abused and tainted and broken over the years... I know that. I've become someone I like and am proud of though... I'm sorry to hear that you haven't done so as well. I wish there were something I could do for you, really I do.
1 person likes this
@MsTickle (24994)
• Australia
17 Jan 08
I have so much admiration for you lecanis. While I've struggled in the crap that has been my life and keep sliding in and out of it, you've managed to climb on top and can see the future. I'm unable to change the past like everyone else but it remains with me. The message I always received from mistakes I made was that I was not ok. I still feel that way. I don't know how to change that. Don't get me wrong. I like me, I think I'm a good person and can see many other attributes...so, feeling like this, why do I feel like I'm still not ok? Many people talked about learning from their past to make their future better...I simply don't understand how you do that...what do you focus on? If some dwell and/or focus on the past, isn't dwelling or focusing on the future equally as futile? We don't know what the future holds. I find taking each day as it comes is the best way to be. The choice is to not think about discussions like this too much, to be cheerful, bright and happy and so on. That's just unrealistic though, imo. We all have worries and troubles that we need to deal with and get through, some are ongoing like our health and the health of loved ones. We might have some expenses or bills hanging over our heads that we have to deal with till they are paid. We might be alone and feeling lonely. We have to deal with the negativity in our lives but we can't actually make it go away. I'd love to be cheerful all the time but reality is something serious we have to deal with. My point being that while many focus on the past, some also only look to the future and others take every day as it comes. I think there is balance in the negative, positive and neutral because that's the way the world turns. Hugs dear one.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
17 Jan 08
*hugs* MsTickle, I wanted to respond to more of your comment, but your last few words just blew everything else out of my head. You're exactly right... it is that balance that matters. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not always positive, nor do I claim to be able to always be happy and never feel bad about things. I simply do my best, and keep that balance, and live.
1 person likes this
• United States
7 Jan 08
I couldn't agree with you more lecanis. As you know, the past sometimes creeps up on us and we just can't help feeling depressed about it but, for the most part, I always try to look to the future instead of dwelling on the past.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
*nods* Yup, sometimes it does creep up on us, and there's nothing we can do about that. But we can put our focus where it should be! :) I hope you're doing well, girl! :)
1 person likes this
• United States
7 Jan 08
I am doing well lecanis. Thanks for thinking of me. I hope you are doing well too.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
Pretty good right now! Still having some major health issues, but everything else is looking up at the moment! :)
1 person likes this
• United States
10 Jan 08
I think that most people Don't learn from the mistakes from the past. Or they let it dictate their future.So instead of looking toward the future and enjoying the present, they wallow in the past.And there are perfectionists that let mistakes eat them up inside so they revisit the past to see what they should have done. I am a perfectionist.I visit the mistakes from the past so I know what to do if that ever happens again.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
11 Jan 08
You're right, a lot of people don't learn. It must not be much fun being a perfectionist. I have to say, that's one thing I don't suffer from... I like my imperfect but amusing self just fine. :P
1 person likes this
• United States
13 Jan 08
I like to do things perfectly but I am a happy imperfect person too.
@arkaf61 (10882)
• Canada
8 Jan 08
I"m with you. Changing the past is not exactly something that occupies my mind or that I am particularly interested. Not that I am perfect. I did make many mistakes, some probably serious, but I don't think I would like to change anything, I learned a lot from all of them, and if I had not made them I would probably still doing some more because we usually only learn with our own experiences. I prefer to concentrate on the now, and hopefully do something that will make my tomorrow better. Going back to change something. Ok maybe I wouldn't have done those specific mistakes, but I would certainly make some other.
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
11 Jan 08
Very well said, arkaf! :) You have a point that if it weren't those same mistakes, it would just be other mistakes!
1 person likes this
@arkaf61 (10882)
• Canada
11 Jan 08
And even if we made no mistakes at all, that would end up being a mistake as well, for how could we have learned ? :)
1 person likes this
@sigma77 (5385)
• United States
6 Jan 08
Good subject and great questions. It really is useless to think about what we might have changed in the past. We can never go back. So why agonize over our past lives and mistakes? I stand right behind you in the mistake line but about all I can do is learn something from them. Trying to reconstruct the past keeps you from spending time in the prestent, which is the only time you have. The two things that the past can provide is a way to learn from mistakes and a way to think about past events that can lend to our joy. But regretting past mistakes and events is a waste of valuable resources. Meaning your thoughts are lost in the past and so are your emotions. Breaking free to come into the present gives you a chance to focus your thoughts and create helpful emotions. I agree with you, Lecanis.
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
7 Jan 08
I think you stated that very well, sigma! :) I think several of your comments over the time I've known you have really helped my own thinking on this issue, so thanks for the inspiration! :)
1 person likes this
@sigma77 (5385)
• United States
7 Jan 08
Thanks for your kindness, Lecanis. I am no expert, but you will come to see things different as you pass from moment to moment. Over time, you will grow and learn and understand more than at this time.
1 person likes this
@ahgong (10064)
• Singapore
29 Jan 08
Well, some people are just so hooked on the past, they could not get pass it to look at the present or the future for that matter. It is sad to see them wallowing in their self pity all the time. Blaming the sky, the land, the sea for everything that is what he or she is today. But never once in their life did they consider what they currently have and how they can better themselves for the future. Till the day they can do that, to let go of the past, they will forever be stuck in that limbo mode where they are passing each present day lamenting about the past. Sad, isn't it?
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
29 Jan 08
Very well said. It is very sad to see people stuck like this, and too busy assigning blame to move forward.
@pyewacket (44036)
• United States
17 Jan 08
I think it's a common trait in all of us to "dwell" on the past and realize the stupid mistakes we may have made...the wrong decisions, etc., etc, but you're right, it really doesn't do well to keep thinking about past mistakes or wrong decisions we've made..none of us can undo the past..even though some might like to..like if time travel were possible to go back at time where we knew we had made the wrong decision and go back and change it..but alas we can't can we. I've have my share of stupid decisions I've made and wish I had the power to go back in time and fix the "wrong"--but I recognize the mistakes, yet move on...I don't let it keep me stuck..If you saw my discussion about do psychologists really help us or keep us stuck in the past...then you have my feelings expressed right there...that's why I dumped my shrink as I got fed up with him insisting I keep talking about my past...how was that going to help me NOW?? I wanted to move on NOW, and not dwell so much or keep focusing on the past--it wasn't like I had a horrific past, not exactly ideal either but no traumatic experiences there..I mean there were just so many times I could talk about my weirdo mother without puking...LOL I just got plain BORED with it As for people who do constantly dwell on the past many times I think there's a bit of the woe-is me poor me victim thing..my mom was a classic at that..NOT that her earlier life was that bad, in fact it was downright cushy..in other words she was a pampered brat when she was a kid and growing up...but she lived in the past comparing her life then with her last years of her life which weren't so cushy or pampered and she had really no one to blame but herself for her later years of life--but she DIDN'T want to move on and try to better her life...she preferred being stuck..For some people it's just so much easier to dwell on the past, stay stuck, not learn from mistakes, instead of moving on
1 person likes this
@lecanis (16664)
• Murfreesboro, Tennessee
17 Jan 08
You have a good point about the shrink issue. I'm lucky enough to have a therapist that lets me talk about the past or the present as I choose, and follows my lead. Of course, in my case there is the really traumatic stuff in the past that has to be dealt with, but even though my present life is better, it sometimes has to be dealt with more because, well, it's the present. :P You're right, I think for a lot of people it is just easier to stay stuck. How sad for them!