One of the most frequently used lines of false consolation that I hear is “you can’t change the past”. Usually this bit of indispensable wisdom is offered as a word of advice when someone is describing the impact of some negative event from their history, something that they wish had never happened and often something that continues to affect them to this day. Of course, this advice and apparent statement of the obvious is rarely helpful, which is not surprising if we look at the gist of this rejoinder. Let’s say you run breathless to the neighbour’s house, pounding on the door. They open the door and ask what’s going on. You tell them that there’s been a terrible accident and you need them to call an ambulance because you think your brother is dead. I don’t think anyone would feel justified or even attempt to rationalize a response such as, “Well, it’s in the past. You can’t change the past. You just have to let it go and get over it.” We would expect that person to offer help, to repair whatever damage had been done, within reason and their capability. Of course we wouldn’t expect them to take […]