Ah, the advantages of hindsight. Looking back in time and regretting the decisions that were made, the options that were chosen, and the events that occurred is very easy trap to fall in. Fruitless, but easy. In fact, spending a lot of time trying to rewrite the past, excuse events or bemoaning their occurrence is, from a family history and genealogical perspective, often counter-productive. The past is gone and not likely to be wished away. The past impacts our current actions, options and choices. If past actions are not well understood they risk being repeated, and often are.
Rather, it is my opinion that the following is much more productive:
- Attempt to understand the details of events (what really happened?). This often means listening to or reading about events from perspectives that may run counter to your own view of them or perspective.
- Place events in an appropriate time and context. Recognize that any one event is rarely disconnected from a regional, cultural, or historical context.
- Events occur as a reaction to related events that preceded them. Learn about them. Event B is generally a reaction to event A; understand why B would have happened?
- People almost always act in what is termed ‘enlightened self-interest’. Try to understand why things occurred and made sense to most of those involved. This is not to say that they need make sense to you; in fact, they do not always make sense.
- Try to remove yourself emotionally from events of the past. The lower your emotional involvement, the more likely you are to get a clear picture of an event. This is not to say that you need to be an abstracted automaton but rather you need to establish observational objectivity.
If you are able to achieve some number of the above objectives, you will find that events which once seemed crazy or incomprehensible possibly look more rational or are, at least, more explainable. This is not say that you will approve of the choices or events that occurred but rather you might begin to understand the whys and wherefores of them. Most importantly, you may begin to understand what ‘really happened’ to your family.