The Trap of Hindsight Bias
Updated: Apr 19
Happy 2023 Fire Wives! My hope is that you all found some peace during the hectic holiday
season. For most of us, holidays are not Hallmark movies, and they may bring unrealistic expectations, anxiety, grief and chaos. If you were in the latter category, you made it to 2023! I was always rooting for you. 😄
A new year may bring new resolutions or a fresh start. Here is a sample of some New Year’s resolutions I have been reading online:
Stop comparing myself to others
Stop doubting myself
Stop saying “yes” to everything (oooh, this is a GOOD one!)
Do things you love more often
Let go of people or situations that drain you
If you change your mindset, you will change your life
Limit screen time
While this seems to be a great list, some of these items are easier said than done. Overthinking is a big one that I see daily in my practice. Many of my clients who overthink have “hindsight bias” that keeps them stuck in a particular thought pattern. If I had a dollar for every time I hear or have heard, “I would have, should have, could have,” I would be writing this blog from Bora Bora!
Hindsight bias can be categorized as a type of memory distortion. It’s the tendency to look back and see events that have already occurred as having been more predictable than was the case. It can make us believe that we knew something at the time, even if the evidence indicates we didn’t. If this leads us to think we made a bad decision, it can result in guilt and shame. Here are some examples: “I knew it all along!” Or “I must have realized….so why didn’t I?” Hindsight bias can lead people to blame themselves for events which were not predicted or predictable.
Life is a series of decisions and every decision we make can lead to multiple outcomes or different possibilities or scenarios. At the time we make a decision we can’t possibly know the outcome for certain. This would make us fortune tellers which is a cognitive distortion. Cognitive distortions are another entire blog that deserve full attention.
Maybe 2023 can also be the year of Radical Acceptance? Radical acceptance is accepting that reality is what it is; everything has a cause; and life can be worth living even if there’s pain, grief or loss. As Marsha Linehan, the founder of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT, states, “Pain +Non-Acceptance = Suffering.” I have many of clients memorize this statement since it’s powerful to remember in hard times. She also states that it’s easy to accept things you like and harder to accept things you hate, disapprove of, or that causes the individual a lot of pain. If we want things to change, such as all our resolutions for the new year(!), we must accept them first, then change them.
See what I meant earlier about how all of this sounds lovely, but putting it into practice may be difficult? I know all of you can do it by being kind to yourselves, having patience with yourselves and speaking gently to yourselves. I can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store for all of you and see you in a few weeks!