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When the Past is Inconvenient (Also, Philosocom's Subcategory on the Past)

Updated: 2 days ago

Broken old 3d glasses on a beach at sunset

(Subcategory Directory:

Synopsis by Mr. Tomasio Rubinshtein (The Article's Author):

Acknowledging the influence of subjectivity and employing certain cognitive strategies, allow us to begin to untangling the truth from the distortions of the past. This allows us to gain a deeper understanding of our experiences, fostering personal growth and a more nuanced appreciation for the world around us.
Embracing the different experiences of human subjectivity empowers us to see the world through our unique lens, while remaining open to the possibility of broader truths. It's through this exploration that we can truly arrive at a more authentic and meaningful understanding of ourselves.

The Past: A Concept Lost In Understanding

The biblical proverb of Isaiah 43:18-19, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past" rings true. However, I'd like to critcize that overlooks a crucial aspect: the past's relevance isn't fixed, and that the past is often worth dwelling on, in our journey towards self-knowledge and towards intersubjective understanding.

Our understanding of the past is dynamic as it is personal. It's shaping us while being susceptible to our interpretations, which may either minimize certain events, or blow them out of proportions. As such a simple visit to the doctor can be difficult for the socially-anxious, but a granted notion for the calmer mind.

This subjectivity creates a dilemma not everyone sees: How do we discern the past's true value when emotions and biases cloud our judgment?

The ease with which we discard or cling to the past highlights this challenge, as our perception of the past depends on the emotional value we attribute to it. To assume that others hold the same, or even similar value to certain past events, would be a mistake in human understanding. That's because different people perceive reality differently, and with the delusion of knowledge, they may only prevent themselves from containing the different understanding of others.

Therefore, the value we attribute to events, worth often hinges on personal perception, making universal conclusions elusive, and ourselves, lonelier than we might come to realize. To ease the suffering of loneliness, bridging the gap between perceptions, through peace exchange of ideas, is crucial for the overall reduction of the pain, associated with being misunderstood.

Overlooking or undervaluing past events can distort our self-worth and hinder self-discovery. Furthermore, doing so can hinder us from appreciating others, and understanding them better.

  • The negativity bias can make us underestimate our the true value of our talents, disregarding our accomplishments while holding our past misfortunes, like traumas, in higher regard.

  • Reflecting on our past with the strawman's fallacy in our way of thinking, can disregard certain people who could become unnecessary problems in our future. Think of a defeat at the hands of a competitor. Underestimate their value, and you might be defeated once more.

A pivotal event, if disregarded, hinders our understanding of ourselves in relation to it. A minor event, if highly regarded, can distract us from more important matters, which may require our thinking for the sake of our future and of our ambitions. Therefore, failing to grasp the true value of a past experience, in relations to our plans, can lead to self-deception, by a potentially distorted past.

While all subjective perception can be regarded as equal, and therefore worthy of its redemption, a more critical sight of the past can lead us to make better decisions. Decisions, that we might not regret choosing. As such, our subjective perception, regardless of its legitimacy, deserves to be criticized purely from a functional standpoint.

This is why introspection regarding the past is crucial:

  • It allows us to move beyond the mere events and delve into our current perception of them.

  • We should be able to compare different perceptions in order to extend our current perception. Doing so can put things into clearer proportions, and serve as a counter-act against our confirmation bias.

This critical process can start from two questions:

  • What can I do to better understand what I went through?


  • How can I view the past in a way that would cause me far less impractical suffering, far less burden?

By acknowledging the interplay between subjectivity and external reality, we can navigate this complexity in a more mature way. Understanding the present lens through which we view the past empowers us to study its true value, fostering a more in-depth and authentic understanding of ourselves, of others, and of reality in general.  

Insights From A Distant December's Dissonance

December 2013 feels like a lifetime ago, yet the memory remains vivid. Memory can be a dissonance like that. My first encounter with Ms. Chen – a seemingly trivial exchange that, for me, marked a turning point towards solitude. It was a life-altering moment, a subtle shift in my personality, and the beginning of my most depressive years.

For Ms. Chen, it was just another Thursday. The way she affected me was never intentional, nor malicious. To quote her from a distant memory:

I am just a simple girl.

This clash of perspectives, and the inability nor interest to bridge between them, can be a source of great suffering for emotional minds. And yet, to expect such a bridge to happen, while being the solution for one's suffering, isn't always the possible one. Thus, love hurts, especially when it is unexamined.

My initial, foolish reaction was to dismiss her perspective. Retrospectively, it is difficult to compel another person to understand you, when you refuse to understand them. Perhaps looking both ways would've been the rational step, than to cling to the significance I felt with her. An "inner culture" between people, where perceptions are shared and examined, should've been the better strategy, than simply trying to make the other person understand you. In this case, me.

This made me realize, either way – Ms. Chen's dismissive attitude doesn't erase the impact she had on me. But instead of canceling each others' perception, we should be able to foster a greater synthesis between them... As I presented previously in the article.

For both perspectives hold some truth, and do not have to contradict one another, like one's emotions may inaccurately tell one. My subjectivity, fueled by real experiences, shaped my perception. And so did her nonchalance to our entire former friendship. Both perspectives reflect on the reality of the situation, like puzzle pieaces, rather than like armies fighting against each other in an open field.

Must a fleeting encounter for one, not be a turning point for another? Why should experiences be aligned, when they can be studied and tolerated for being different? Why can't both, different worlds, be bridged in greater harmony, like they should for the sake for better communication?

And the only reason I keep dwelling on such past, is because I don't want others to suffer like I did with her. I seek to reduce the suffering of those who are dear to me. I wish them to feel accepted and understood, and less agonized by feelings of alienation, common and natural in our contemporary age. That is, in my eyes, the moral thing to do: To use the griefs of our past to work towards a greater rectification of this flawed reality.

This personal lens through which we view the past is crucial, for its application in present and future can bring a smile to otherwise agonized people. The more we train our mentality, in acknowledging that our experiences color how we interpret it, the more we can understand that others do the same.

The encounter with Ms. Chen, insignificant to her, became a catalyst in my journey, turning me into an article baron that seek to fuel your thoughts. The unique value the past holds for each of us, is personal, but deserves to be shared with those whom we can trust. For those who truly care for our wellbeing, and seek to improve it.

To prevent unnecessary conflicts with others, and therefore reduce stress, we should seek to study others and see how we can relate to them. That is regardless of our diversity.

The Warped Mirror of Memory

Our past shapes who we are, even our shared origins. However, how much can we really trust our memories? Notions like the nostalgia bias can make past events seem more or less important than they actually were to us at the time we experienced them. This can make it tough to figure out who we really are, because our identity is built on things that can be hard to measure in the absence of critical thinking.

Unlike money, which has a set value, the value of a past event is constantly changing. A big deal at the time might become insignificant later, just a small moment can turn into a cherished memory. Our perception is that fluid, and often, so our sense of self. This can be seen in Ms. Panama Dusa's article on Philosocom. And I quote: 

If identity is an imaginary construct, and names are arbitrary words, then your name can be Hitler or Snoopy and it wouldn't matter. But names do matter. They should matter. Names are important because we are important. When people tell you that you don't matter then it feels like your name shouldn't matter either.

So how do we figure out who we are, if our past is a blurry mess?  The answer is to accept that our memories aren't perfect. The key is to be aware of this and try to see the past for what it really was.

The important thing is to understand how the past has affected us, even if our memories aren't 100% accurate, and see how we can grow. By doing this, we can build a stronger sense of who we are, which in turn can contribute to demonstrating what we believe we can do.

Do not forget yourself in the bigger picture you're examining. Not doing so, can be compared to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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