And if life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car. And objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are (Meatloaf)


« Objects in the rearview mirror always appear closer than they are. It is an optical illusion. And, as Meatloaf suggests, a similar illusion occurs when looking at a human life. The incidents of the past appear closer than they are when you feel distressed and horrified by your personal history.

What are the issues associated with looking in the rearview mirror of life? Life must be directed by looking backward to get some idea how we should operate in the present and future. Life is guided forward by looking backward. But looking back has dangers that need to be understood, and we need to remember that the perception of the past distorts the reality of the present — just as objects in the rearview mirror appear closer than they are.

As a psychotherapist with 26 years of hands-on experience, I know you must look in the rearview mirror of life to heal. It is absolutely true that some digging into the past is essential for emotional healing. The issue is how much digging and exploration is essential. And once you’re begun uncovering old secrets, how do you stop the endless obsessing over the past?

Why look backwards, and how far backwards do you need to look? Unless you have learned from the past, you are bound to repeat the same mistakes. That is the human way. Unconscious behavior repeats itself over and over again, until we have integrated the lessons of the past and we no longer need to repeat them. This is the case for looking in the rearview mirror of life.

But having learned from the past, when do we cease looking backward? I suspect once you have become obsessed with the past you have gone too far. If the objective is emotional healing, and the behavior of searching through the past has become obsessional, then I would assume looking backward has gone way too far.

In reality there is no past or future, there is only the present. Now is the present. The past is gone, and the future is undefined. There is nothing about the future that is real in the present. Yet we can become obsessed with the future and the past and miss the present moment. This is the great truth offered by Eastern religion. Western religion focuses upon the future — heaven and hell — while Eastern philosophy teaches the value of living in the present moment, the “now.”

Such concepts may be hard to grasp, but the consequences are large. Fear is simply a reaction to the past or the future. In present time nothing exists that needs to be feared. Yet we all live with fears. And all fears come from looking in the rearview mirror, where objects appear closer than they are. Fear is a clear distortion of reality, and it can only be healed by living in the present moment, which means giving up looking in the rearview mirror.

The important message to gain from this discussion is that while the past and the future may be intriguing, they are largely irrelevant. Present time is the only moment that exists — and once you have gained that wisdom, you are capable of producing happiness for yourself. Without this understanding you are looking at life through the distortion of the rearview mirror. And you are driving your car forward while being distracted by the past. »