Rosy retrospection thinking

In our lives, we have positive experiences and negative experiences, and these could be from our past or from our present time. However, our brains have the tendency to assess these experiences differently, depending on if they happened in the past or are from the present.

When recalling experiences from the past, our brains tend to give more importance to memories of positive experiences while downplaying memories of negative experiences. On the other hand, when analysing experiences happening in the present, our brains tend to do the opposite: downplaying positive experiences while exaggerating negative experiences.

The consequence of this kind of thinking by our brains is that we may wrongly think that our experiences in the past were 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 wrongly thinking that the past was better than the present can make a person unnecessarily feel low and depressed. Psychologists call this kind of stupid thinking that one’s brain may do as “rosy retrospection” thinking

Below is a short example of rosy retrospection thinking.

A senior doctor was teaching medical students. He was telling them how great things were in the past when he was a medical 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 that the past was better than the present, he unnecessarily made himself and his students feel low.

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