Rosy retrospection

In our lives, we all have positive experiences and negative experiences, and these could be from our present time or from our past. However, our minds may remember these experiences differently, depending on if they are from the present or they are from the past. Our minds can tend to remember experiences from the past as being more positive than they actually were, and this can make us wrongly think that the world was a much better place in the past than it is in the present. While this may be mostly harmless, at times thinking that the past was better than the present (when in reality it was not) can make a person unnecessarily feel low and depressed. Psychologists have named this way of thinking, where one’s mind wrongly remembers the past as being more positive than it really was, as “rosy retrospection” thinking.

Below is a short example of rosy retrospection thinking.

A senior doctor was talking to medical students. He was telling them how great things were in the past when he was a student. He told them how spacious the hospitals were, how everything was well organised and even how nice the food was in the hospital restaurant. The senior doctor was implying that life in the past was better than life in the present and was making himself and his students feel sad.

However, in reality, medical student life in the past was not that great. The senior doctor completely forgot the negative experiences in his past, such as working exhausting shifts with no rest, the non-availability of medicines for many diseases, the difficulty of getting blood tests done etc. By wrongly portraying the past as being better than the present, he unnecessarily made himself and his students feel low.

When thinking about the past, do check to see if your mind is doing rosy retrospection thinking, where it is downplaying past negative experiences and exaggerating past positive experiences. Always try to have a balanced view of both the past and the present.