Looking Back While Moving Forward

Life is like a car ride—but what does this have to do with psychiatry?

I chose the title, “Looking Back While Moving Forward,” over “Moving Forward While Looking Back” because I believe that we can, and should, always move forward regardless of what might be holding us back. Going through life is like a car ride. It is a journey that requires both skills and directions. Driving without the necessary skills or while ignoring safety rules and protocols can have serious consequences. But what does this metaphor have to do with psychiatry?

Many of us never embark on our journey to start with—we procrastinate, fear the unknown, take wrong detours, drive recklessly, or keep looking in the back mirror while driving and end up crashing our cars. It is important that we look at the past to inform the current moment and prepare for the future. However, continuing to live in yesterday can steal the joy of today and make us look with apprehension and anxiety, rather than anticipation and excitement, at what tomorrow may bring.

None of us should stop our car in the middle of a busy road or make a U-turn when we accidentally miss a highway exit, but that is exactly what we seem to do every day: take unnecessary and costly risks. Before you start your car, I advise you to make sure that your tank is full of gas, and that you prepare for the journey and know exactly where you are going. There is nothing wrong with riding spontaneously at times; what matters is making safe and healthy choices. Get in the driver’s seat, buckle your belt, and enjoy the scenery, but watch out for dangerous road conditions.

With the end of the year 2021 fast approaching, I invite you to look back with pride at how hard you have worked despite the global pandemic, and then to move forward with enthusiasm toward a better 2022, holding dear your loved ones and what matters most. Make sure to also take care of yourself. We do sacred work; we are wounded healers. Make sure that you console your soul.

Dr Reda is a practicing psychiatrist, Providence Healthcare System, Portland, Oregon.