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When Should You Stop Thinking About the Past?

thinking about the past

It may be impossible, as an adult, to recall what it was like to be a child. Looking back on it is all we have.

As I look back on my own childhood, I can’t help but ask some questions. I wonder if you might ask yourself the same from time to time. Let’s see!

What was I really thinking back then? I realize that I don’t honestly know, since it’s been so long and our memories aren’t that reliable, even in the short-term.

What good does it do to reflect on the past? I suppose it depends on your motivation for reflecting. We could reflect in order to heal. We might also reflect in order to justify ourselves in some way. Or we may reflect in order to ruminate and blame, justifying our sense of being a victim.

At what point should we stop thinking about the past?

Well, this is a question for the ages! As far as I know, there is no point at which we “should” stop thinking about the past. If it helps or if you enjoy it, by all means, continue reflecting. The real issue is something else, however, right?

When we become emotionally stuck in the past and don’t (or can’t) stop thinking about it, then we have an issue. What’s the proper frame of mind in this case? For me, it has to do with appreciating the lessons learned. When we understand and appreciate what we’ve learned from the past, we should let it go.

It’s possible that the real value of having a past, in general, is to be better equipped to handle whatever’s going on in the present. Therefore, when you’ve learned from the past, you’ve received the only benefit it has to offer. Given that the past has no further value to add to your life, you can safely let it go.

If this idea about turning your attention away from the past suits you, then you might go about exploring what you’ve learned from the elements of your past that still bother you.

Of course, that seems like trite, cliche advice. It’s probably still true:)

You might also enjoy:

10 Signs you are Emotionally Attached to a Negative Past

When Should You Stop Thinking About the Past?

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2020). When Should You Stop Thinking About the Past?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Feb 2020
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