Saturday, June 15, 2013

Don't dwell on the past

When people say "don't dwell on the past", they typically mean "don't hate yourself for your past mistakes". But the advice is vague because it doesn't say what to think or do about those past mistakes. One should learn from those mistakes by improving whatever flawed methods he has that caused those mistakes. Once his methods are improved, and those mistakes are prevented going forward, then its time to move on -- he's a better person now. So at this point why should a person think about the past mistakes that he won't make again in the future? There is none. But some people continue to think about them. Why? Its because they are *ashamed* of their mistakes.

This raises lots of questions:

Are mistakes shameful?

What are mistakes? How does a person know when he made a mistake? How does a person judge whether or not something was in fact a mistake? How should a person deal with mistakes?

What is shame? Is it a feeling? If so, what causes it? Why does it happen? How does it happen? Does it happen to everyone? If not, what is the difference between the people that it happens to and the people that it doesn't happen to? Among the people that it doesn't happen to, did they learn to be this way or were they born with this attitude?

My answers to these questions say that mistakes are not shameful. One reason is that lots of mistakes cause suffering, and noticing mistakes is great because these times are opportunities for correcting the mistakes, which results in less suffering. A second reason is that the goal of shame is counter-productive to some really important goals like progress! -- the goal of shame is that the tribe is trying to make the individual conform to the tribes rules.

And this raises an important question: What are some common tactics that people use to try to make other people feel shame? What are some common ones that parents use, and teachers, and employers?


Mistakes aren’t inherently bad. It’s only the mistakes that go ignored that cause long-term harm. The mistakes that are examined and lead to progress aren't bad. Actually they led to something really really good.


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