The Psychology of why People Dwell on the Past

The past. It is so much easier to look back at what is comfortable instead of facing the unknown. Why dwell on the past when there is so much to look forward to in the future? So much to enjoy now? Could it be that one of the reasons why people dwell on the past is that the past is comfortable, known, familiar.

Focusing on the past is like driving while looking in the rear view mirror; you see where you’ve been, but you lose track of where you are going.

When people focus on the past, it prevents them from taking responsibility for the future (or what’s ahead of them). The present or future may be painful or frightening or challenging and although the past may be great and fantastic, it has already occurred.

Whether it be a lack of belief in oneself or one’s abilities, the past is no place to dwell. Life in the past is over, said and done. It is just that, passed. So what is the psychology of why people dwell on the past? Because dwelling on the past is easier. No work needs to be done to dwell in the past. There’s is nothing to prove, no obstacles to overcome, no mountains to climb. It’s the past and the grass is greener. Why, well no other lawns have been mowed or even looked upon.

Old stories of past glories reign supreme in the past, as do old friendships and a time and era when responsibility was at a minimum. What kind of life would be lived if a future was planned for and a present was lived in. The future is not known and the present may be unpleasant. So do we face it head on. No, no we don’t; we retreat back into the past. Oh the past and the memory of times that once were.

Psychologically, it’s just easier to live in the past. As we plan for the future, we must pack up and move into the present. The present with it’s unpleasantness (and pleasantries) is not as gruesome as we may imagine. We just need to allow ourselves to experience the present one step at a time.

Just as we spring clean our homes, our minds need a mental spring cleaning as well. Our minds need to be able to let go of old attitudes that are no longer working for us, to get rid of unpleasant thoughts and to let go of the past. We (and our minds) need to be able to let go and move forward.

Our minds are brilliant and fascinating. It functions in ways that we will never know or even fathom. Our minds also give us what we put into. If you want to continue to dwell in the past, the mind will continue to create that for you. It is only when you decide to let go of the past and move forward that your mind will produce that outcome. You will only leave the past behind when you are psychologically ready to let go and move forward.