The Humbug of Hindsight

Why do we relive the past in our minds over and over again. It’s over, there is nothing we can do about it, no do-over, lifetime pushes us forward, so why are we trying to go backwards… into a funhouse mirror.

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InHindsight

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Is it really just so we can get the last word in a disagreement. Win the conversation games with a zinging repartee, a cutting comeback which cuts the other person off – bet they’ll love that and won’t leave the interaction the least bit annoyed, stewing and wishing they could have a do-over of their own…

Hmmmm… perhaps the first time was actually an eleventh time, a do-over doing it over and over again and we don’t know it because it wasn’t instigated by us. Or maybe it was instigated by us and we forgot about it. The constant repetition with little variation caused our mindsight to zone out. The latter would mean that we may have been caught in this loop for a while trying to make things just right. Perfection. Controlled exactly as we want it to be (and not how others want it because their want conflicted with ours).

We want to be the hero of the day. Not the observer of someone else as hero. We want to be at the centre of the moment’s world.

But.

What makes us think that things are going to work out any better for us this time around our globe of self.

Hindsight? Really, you’re listening to Hindsight? And from where exactly does Hindsight get its information. Memory, perhaps? Because Memory is so incredibly accurate, never makes a mistake, never misses nor changes details, never over-emphasises, exaggerates, blows things out of proportion like a Princess with a Pea, never gets stuck in a rut and keeps digging until the pile of earth which has accumulated creates a landslide and buries itself.

The Emperor of Hindsight likes its New Clothes.

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The Mountain Goats “The Mess Inside” 10-13-08 (Live)

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And if this is a scenario which keeps happening again and again, surely at some point Hindsight will discuss matters with Foresight, thus giving Foresight the chance to have a say in matters. Foresight will focus on what you have gained rather than what you have lost.

Your conversational opponent has dissed you yet again, so typical of them, of course, like they always do, leaving you wanting retroactive revenge. And hindsight is sitting on your shoulder like a devil of a chip pretending to be an angelic counsellor whose chip is a billowing cloud of smoke, whispering in your ear lots of bittersweet nothings which plant themselves in the labyrinth of your brain and grow into beautiful ‘shrooms that release their psychotropic spores into your system taking your mind on a tantalising trip.

What makes you think that this time around you’ll get things just right. And just right for who, for you… what about the other person or people involved.

Are you the only one who is turn-back-time-for-a-do-over enabled.

If you do manage to relive the moment, everything is going to go exactly as planned. You’re going to have the last word, save the day, be applauded and praised for your perfect timing, your ability to control others, and everyone will love you for it.

Or maybe that’s not why you’re doing it. What you truly want to achieve is to shut Hindsight up. Or perhaps just once have it praise you instead of berating you, shaming you, nagging you, critiquing your every moment, movement and word.

You should have said this, you should have done that, you failed once again, you messed up, which is typical of you, of course, and on and on and on it goes not just in words but in images too until it physically hurts and you cry out in pain, ejaculate a jumbled mumble randomly in the street and get to watch the inquiring eyes of others look at you as though you’re insane.

Now Hindsight can demean you not only for what you should have said and done, but also for what you shouldn’t have said and done.

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demon lovers

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But you don’t think any of this is connected to Hindsight, because you call it The Inner Critic, which The Inner Critic appreciates (although it will never tell you this) because it makes it sound frightfully important as though you’d knighted and entitled it – Lord Humourless Hunchback or Lady Huffish Hoax-Hell – to pick on you, slice pieces off you, be a thorn in your side, paw, and derriere.

And why didn’t you say what you wanted to say or do what you wanted to do at the time, was it really because you didn’t think to do it or perhaps because Foresight knew what would happen if you did, Instinct warned you not to, Fear stayed your hand or mouth, Experience reminded you of what happens when you smart-mouth another or interfere in what is none of your business.

Or maybe Empathy played a part in all of this, informing you of what it is like to be the other, how they are viewing you, the world from their perspective, life according to them. And Empathy stirred Sympathy (yet kept it away from becoming Pity who loves to elevate itself and then cry crocodile tears of look at how caring I am) and you couldn’t bring yourself to do or say it, you let live because you live and feel and know that if someone had done to you what Hindsight considered to do to them… it would not have ended in a happily ever after of a perfectly controlled scenario which is a win/win for you viewed from the safe distance of never being able to find that out.

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what we see(k)

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And what about Spontaneity, is it really such a bad influence, living in the moment as it is, doing and saying the whatevers of the now. Were you truly as frozen in stupidity as Hindsight tells you that you were in all its arrogant glory and the luxury of its throne of imperious judgment. Never there when you need it, always there when things are over, pointing out your faults and flaws, your crimes and sins, and the sins and crimes of others like a pedantic policeman who would like you to live in a police state with it as dictator extraordinaire, making you regret your every word and move as though being yourself is a permanent mistake made with an indelible marker. Kill yourself now… No, wait, Hindsight thinks you’ve made a mistake, rewind and be as unkind with yourself and others as possible, then rewind again because you were too unkind. Try again, practice will not make you perfect but you’d better try and try and try anyway (except others keep messing up your perfect attempts to be perfectly controlled).

Once you regret, you will regret the regret which made you regret, and regret not regretting what you shoulda, woulda, coulda… your esprit de l’escalier will become Escher-esque. That clean slate will never be clean enough, oh why, oh why is it always a smudgy mess (perhaps that is because slate naturally has many tiny ridges in it). Your fingers will be raw and they’ll bleed all over it.

Instead of always looking back in anger at the colours which bled over the line, wanting to erase them, wish them into nevermore, perhaps new lines can be drawn, an image expanded, a colourful canvas spreading onto the wall upon which it hangs, enlivening and enriching the world around you with life which keeps on living.

Tell Hindsight and its Bah Humbug elitist clan of usual suspects lining up to rain on the parade of the present with their songs of the past, to shove Hurt Pride, Perfection and Control back in Pandora’s box. Put it in its place and set yourself free.

Embrace the chaos… all it wants is a hug for Xmas.

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The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York (Official Video)

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10 thoughts on “The Humbug of Hindsight

    1. I have a certain love of typos… perhaps it is something to do with dyslexia, or maybe it is connected to an enjoyment of Freudian slips, but typos can at times be very insightful. At other times they are just what happens with fingers on a keyboard when they type quickly.

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  1. Ursula,

    Thank you for another of your unique pieces. Your writings are rich in thoughts and emotions. When you wrote of revenge~vengreance, I got my copy of a book I have read and reread: Homeopathic Psychology: Personality Profiles of the Major Constitutional Types, by Dr. Philip Bailey, M.D. In his description of Ignatia, he writes, “Ignatia is not a very common type (I see about 50 Natrums for every Ignatia), but once the homeopath gets a feeling for the type it is unmistakable. The most obvious characteristic of Ignatia is emotional intensity. All emotions – anger, sadness, joy love, fear, lust, are felt by the Ignatia individual with a degree of intensity not seen in any other type (the vast majority of Ignatias are female).

    Bailey continues, “The well-balanced Ignatia is sensitive, passionate and refined. She feels deeply the beauty of the Earth, the depth of her love, and the thrill of achievement. Her intellect is usually sharp, but is not her dominant mode of experiencing herself and her environment. This is more emotional, intuitive and passionate. The healthy Ignatia girl is very open to the wonder of life, and is more keenly perceptive than most. She is a deep person, who appreciates beauty, and thinks profoundly.

    “Ignatia can be said to be the most powerful of the feminine types. Healthy Ignatias have a natural authority which comes from an unusual degree of self-possession, coupled with a very sharp intellect. They are usually ‘free-thinkers,’ who are attracted to the most profound and also the most progressive of ideas, and often they will pursue these academically and professionally. In my own practice I have come across three Ignatia women who all worked for radio, and all were involved or wished to be involved in making programs which ‘raised the consciousness’ of the listener.”

    Emotional trauma: Bailey writes, “The majority of Ignatias do experience some form of emotional trauma during their early years. Ignatia is so sensitive that even relatively ‘normal’ family conditions that appear to be harmless can generate insecurity…It is a curious phenomenon that those individuals born Ignatias seem to attract circumstances in their life which produce a lasting sense of abandonment…Once the Ignatia child has been deeply hurt, she will never fully trust again. A wall begins to form around the injured heart, a kind of callus which becomes thicker and more rigid with every new trauma that life brings. At first this defensive wall is expressed as anger and indignation, which wells up whenever the Ignatia individual feels that she has been rejected, let down or neglected. The normally affectionate Ignatia can become an Ice Queen at such times, saying as much with her tight lips and steely silence as she does at other times with bitter curses. Shakespeare probably had Ignatia in mind when he coined the phrase ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ The outraged Ignatia may resort to acts of vengeance, but more often, the offending individual is simply cut off from her heart, and never spoken to again.”

    Grace, joy, loving-kindness, and reverent thanks-being,

    Steven

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    1. Thank you very much 🙂

      That’s very interesting, I didn’t realise Homeopathy had done personality/constitutional types in such an in depth manner. I only explored it from a superficial angle a long time ago and then gave up because it confused me and other things.

      The Ignatia sounds lovely and I would love to meet one. Are you an Ignatia? These types are unisex, right?

      I can relate to some aspects of the Ignatia, but I’m not one. Although this sort of thing depends very much on which interpretation of it is read. I read multiple versions and there were similarities but also some rather big differences, which made it a bit confusing. I do have a tendency to be able to relate to all types on some level which is why some typology systems confuse me and I end up giving up with a shrug. I suppose I should go to a professional Homeopath if I want an accurate diagnosis. I did a Homeopathic constitution test online and the results came up fairly accurate for an online test. It was a long test with many distractions – certain questions were funny, like if beans and peas disagreed, which had me chuckling as I imagined beans having a fight with peas). I am split equally between Sepia and Phosphorus. Sepia describes my physical constitution rather well and Phosphorus describes my mental constitution rather well. There was a very amusing description of a Phosphorus child which I totally connected with, it said:

      “Phosphorous children are very bright and talkative, and the parents will often feel that they need to “tie a kite string” to their toe, to keep them from floating off into the ether. Mitten pairs attached by a string were probably invented for Phosphorous children, whose entire winter wardrobe can usually be found in the school’s lost-and-found at the end of the year.”

      That’s pretty accurate, my mother was always grumbling about how often I lost anything which wasn’t welded onto me. And I did have mittens which were attached to my coat by string, which worked well unless I took off my coat and lost the coat or fiddled with the clip which attached the mittens. And my father used to tell me a story about a little girl who had to have rocks in her coat pockets or she’d float away. I related to that little girl in the story. I was often called a ‘Johnny-Head-in-the-Air.

      This is really interesting, thank you very much for sharing. 🙂

      So, what type are you?

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      1. Ursula,

        Namaste. Grace be. I chose to quote Bailey’s description of Ignatia for two reasons: one, because many of the comments to your writings seem to come from women, and Ignatia is one of two constitutional types which seem to be almost exclusive to women (Sepia is the other); two, because your essay included revenge (one of the qualities sometimes associated with Ignatia).

        Here are brief excerpts from Bailey’s description of Sepia officinalis. (He describes five Sepia sun-types: The Wise Woman; The Dancer; The Courtesan; The Shrew; The Drudge – apathy and acopia).

        Keynote: the independent woman (Sepia is a predominantly female type like Ignatia.)
        “Sepia’s natural independence sets her apart from other women. She seeks to be herself, unfettered by the expectations of others, especially those of men.
        “Sepia is naturally independent. She is not running away from anything. She is just being herself, and refusing to let other people mould her personality to their own ends…her independence results from her celebration of her own uniqueness, and the sense of power she receives from her own connection with her body and the Earth.
        “Sepia embodies feminine wisdom, or intuition. She generally has a sharp intellect, but is not interested in mechanical or dry intellectual knowledge, which she leaves to men, and to more masculinised women. Instead, she focuses on knowledge which is directly about life itself.
        “The dancer: Every homeopath knows that Sepia women love to dance, and feel better in general for vigorous exercise. These isolated details tell us something more general about Sepia as a type, namely, that she is usually ‘well connected’ to her body. Unlike the majority of people in modern times, healthy Sepia women are still aware of the energy inside their body, its natural flow, and the discomfort that results when it is blocked… It is because she can feel the pleasure of her physical energy that Sepia is often attracted to dance, and also to yoga, Tai Chi and other physical activities which involve the experience of physical harmony. Through these activities she maintains contact with her life-force, whereas when she ceases to be physically active, she begins to feel deadened inside.”

        Yesterday I discovered that Bailey’s book is available as a PDF:
        http://www.sevko.org/files/BAILEY_Philip_M._Homeopathic_Psychology.pdf

        One homeopath typed me as Mercurius.

        Steven

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        1. One of my all time favourite books is about revenge – The Count of Monte Cristo – however the revenge part is not the most important aspect of the story, even though it weaves it all together. The ending (which I won’t spoil) sums up my view of things such as revenge. My post was more about not being tempted by revenge than giving in to it, as tempting as it may be sometimes in one of its many forms (like the popular view of karma), something like revenge will take more away from you than it does from anyone else. That’s how I see the concept, it’s one of those that suits fantasy better than reality. In reality the best revenge is living well in the here and now and not focusing so much on the there and then other than learning from it in a life enhancing manner (if possible).

          I’ve been perusing the Bailey pdf of Mercurius. I think you’ve got one of the best constitutions as it is so flexible, and flexibility is essential in life. The ability to adapt.

          It’s a fascinating subject when viewed from this angle. Thank you so much for sharing it 🙂

          I definitely think Sepia suits my physicality, I always feel better when my body is actively involved. Any chronic pains I have dissolve with action and return with inaction, except for one which is kind of funny as it occurs when I sleep and is basically the body moving when it should be still. But that’s the quirks of life and the universe!

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          1. Loved the Count of Monte C. Will reread ending while thinking about your essay.
            Also, my best friend-partner-wife is Sepia. We both laughed with delight when I read The Dancer to her. Even when she is sleeping, her feet continue moving, dancing while “sleeping.”

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