Have you ever had that wild thought of what it would be like to go back to some point in your past with your present day wisdom? I know I have had that fantasy from time to time.

Oftentimes this daydream relates to some choices we made where we would like to go back and make a different choice. The reality of course, is that we made the perfect choice originally so that we could experience the learning that path gave us. The wisdom we have now is a result of having made that choice.

Taking Our Country Back?

There’s an interesting phenomenon going on right now with a vocal minority within the United States. One of the chants of this group is that we need to “take our country back”. What do they mean by this?

On one hand, taking something back implies that someone else ended up with something that belonged to you. You see they have what you want and you want them to return it. I believe this is the connotation most of these people imply by the use of this phrase. Yet our country belongs to all of us, not just this group to whom the media gives so much attention. Our country does not exist for any minority to “take back”. I’m sure they see their statement as a type of rallying call to get like-minded people to join them so as to become the majority.

However when I hear them say “take our country back”, two concerns come to me. The first is the implication that somehow their country was “taken from them” and some sort of radical action is needed to get it back. It wasn’t taken from them. As always, our leadership is always a product of our electoral process. It was the majority of our country who voted in the current political leadership. As always, if we are displeased with our current leadership, we can always work forward towards the next election and vote in a change. Which brings me to my second concern, whenever we do vote in new leadership, let’s hope it is “taking us forward” rather than “taking us back”.

This phrase carries this double meaning — it can be seen as a desire to go backwards, to go back in time. It’s my opinion that many of the people who shout that they want to take our country back hold as part of their motivation a desire (perhaps even subconsciously) to return to an earlier time and era. Yet if we’re honest with ourselves, then we would admit that for most people this past was not that great a place as compared to today. These nostalgia seekers are wearing rose-colored glasses. Most people have many more rights and freedoms now than they did years ago.

So why the desire to return to the past? I believe it’s caused by today’s pace of life. Who among us doesn’t feel that the United States and the world are in the midst of massive evolutionary change occurring with great rapidity? Everywhere we look, we see change. All of us are impacted by it. And we all have a choice in how we respond to it.

The Past Was a Necessary Prerequisite for the Present

Just as we cannot go back in our personal lives to those choice points in order to choose differently, neither can the world. The events and experiences of our collective history were a necessary experience for humanity’s growth into our present day situation. The direction of our evolution is always forward, never backward. We can never go back to the past because we have learned, changed and grown in who we are.

It’s just like the old saying “you can never go home”. When you go back home, although home may appear to be the same (of course it’s changed too) — you are not the same. There is no way to re-create the experiences of our nostalgic memory given the intervening growth we have experienced.

We Can Regress

Even though we can never go back, we might want to retreat. Psychologists tell us that when humans are faced with overwhelming change, they frequently seek to regress back to a place where they felt more in control. There is a self test and I’m sure most of you have taken — one where you score how much change you had in your life in the past year (death, divorce, loss or change of job, celebrate holiday, family get-together, etc.). The more change equals a higher score, representing a higher possibility for stress. World events of the past few years probably qualify most of us to score high on the test.

Both Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as well as Clare Graves’ Spiral Dynamics model point to the fact that if we experience a crisis in our life, we can regress. In Maslow’s model, our motivations are driven by ensuring that our basic needs are met first before we moved into attempting to meet higher needs (such as self-actualization or self transcendence). If we are working on a higher needs but lose our meeting of lower needs, then we regress back to that lower level. In Graves’ model we evolve through a series of worldviews which structure how we look at life. His data indicated that even if we had transcended more basic worldviews such that we now saw life at a “higher level”, a crisis could cause our regression to an earlier way of perceiving life.

Is this what is happening now with those who want to “take our country back”? Has the stress of massive sea change caused some people to regress to lower-level needs or more basic worldviews? It is a possibility in some. What do you think?

Take Our Country Forward

As stated, we all are at choice in how to respond to the stress induced by 21st century levels of change. Are we going to regress into the past seeking an illusory sense of security from how we perceived life was “back in the day”? We can daydream about going to the past with current day wisdom, but we all know we can’t walk that path. Evolution is moving humanity forward continuously.

We must resist the temptation to seek safety by going backwards. Rather we must use the knowledge and wisdom with which our evolutionary path has gifted us and use it proactively for our highest choice as we move forward. Next time someone says to you we need to “take our country back”, tell them you’d rather take it forward.

Mark Gilbert


Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!