Don’t Look Back

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If you spend a lot of time reflecting on the past, contemplate this: Despite the much-touted benefits of hindsight, recent studies indicate the side effects can be more severe than previously thought.

Looking back has long been a favored American tradition. However, its popularity is a conundrum. Medical experts are unable to explain why so much contemplation of the past results in so little knowledge of how to stop repeating it.

What they do know is that hindsight often leads to regret, which causes more retrospection and more regret, in a cycle that can drain joy from the present. This side effect is known in medical circles as “ifonly-itis,” and is estimated to plague several hundred million Americans.

Fortunately, ifonly-itis tends to respond to therapy, so if you’re afflicted, help is available.

Those who experience the most virulent side effect of hindsight, “whydidntyou-osis,” are less fortunate. Whydidntyou-osis causes uncontrollable finger pointing and smug self-satisfaction, and is incurable. Though it’s typically confined to television and print journalists, there have been unconfirmed reports of outbreaks in people who consume a lot of news.

Researchers are studying various methods of treatment for these side effects and others, and drug companies expect to begin clinical trials on an experimental medication early next year.

Until then, those already afflicted can try self-treatment. Instead of chewing over the past, ifonly-itis sufferers should focus on living in the present. If you’re exhibiting symptoms of whydidntyou-osis, turning off the television and other news sources may help.

At the moment, no one knows exactly how much hindsight humans can withstand. Most experts simply advise avoiding excessive retrospection. But to be even safer, you can follow guidelines soon to be released by the US Department of Somewhere Back There. They recommend never looking back, just in case something is gaining on you.

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