Dear Charlotte, 

Lately, I keep fixating over things from the past. I thought I was over certain things but I find myself obsessing over issues from so long ago. I can’t figure out why I’m doing this and how I can stop! 

Dear Looking Back,

Beware of creeping nostalgia and ruminations that reopen old wounds. Trapped and stuck, many of us are second guessing the big choices we’ve made, looking back as far as we can see, and fixating over our decisions. I’m seeing this so often at the moment— a kind of intense self-rebuke for any past choices that now feel suboptimal. If only we’d married someone better, richer, smarter, more beautiful, taken that trip when we could, gone on that adventure, pursued a different career, lived somewhere better, enjoyed our youth more fully. 

This kind of painful nostalgia and second-guessing comes with feeling so unfree now, with so few choices available to us presently. So we are tilted backwards, blaming ourselves for where we went wrong so we can make sense of why our lives aren’t exactly as we imagine they could be. I think it’s our way of wrestling with how much control we have over our destinies, to what extent we design our lives. Accepting the past is harder than we might assume. 


Do you have a question for Charlotte? Send it to [email protected] with Dear Therapist in the subject line

Further reading

Why can't I stop thinking about someone I barely dated?

How therapy is helping me heal from past abuse

What we regret most, and why

Psychotherapy gave me hope