When we want to move forward, sometimes that’s the very best time to look backwards.

“It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived
forwards.”~ Søren Kierkegaard


Focusing exclusively on the past isn’t helpful, but neither is ignoring it.

Just as a rear-view mirror helps us navigate driving forwards, looking at our past can help us navigate our future.



The more honest we are with ourselves about how people and events have influenced us, the more we can reduce unhealthy reactive behavior.

We make daily decisions based on subconscious perceptions, emotions, and beliefs.  Sometimes this is helpful and healthy. The problem, though, arises when our past influences us in negative ways.

If we don’t address the unhealthy aspects of our past, we will likely continue to recreate the same problem in a subconscious effort to remedy it.  We wonder why we’re mysteriously attracted to emotionally absent boy/girlfriends, superficial friends, dysfunctional workplaces, and judgmental churches.

It’s much easier to conclude it’s our lot in life instead of looking to the past for answers and acknowledging we may be actually contributing to our own destruction.

One of my main go-to survival instincts has been to run.  I attended 3 colleges in two years because I had to escape my problems.  Oddly enough, it was uncanny how the same problems surfaced at each campus.  I had no idea my past was actually my problem, and of course it was following me.  Grades were never the issue, it was always relationships.

My anger, distrust, and need for control continued to damage relationships until I finally faced where it was coming from.

Looking in my rear-view mirror I can see now that I was attracted to the very dysfunction I wanted to escape.

I chose boyfriends who drank so I could rescue them and I chose friends who needed me more than I needed them so I wouldn’t have to experience dependency.  Since I couldn’t stop the drinking as a child, maybe I could stop it now.  And being dependent on alcoholics was a disaster, so I sure didn’t want to put myself in that position ever again.

Trouble is, it’s impossible for me to rescue anyone from themselves; and healthy relationships are a two-way street.  So, instead, I’ve had to learn to let go of trying to control other people’s behavior, and that dependency on safe people is a good thing.

It hasn’t been easy learning to recognize where my choices have factored in relational problems.

The good news, though, is how liberating it is. 

Owning my part frees me up to make better choices and let others take responsibility for their part.  As I continue enjoying the fruits of my labor, it’s getting easier to keep learning about myself and implementing change.

How about you?  Has understanding your life backwards helped you live life forwards?