School ended last week. I was ecstatic.
But I also had this bittersweet feeling. Five years of my life had passed in those baby-blue corridors, chasing after my friends as we played a convoluted version of the “Cheese Touch” (from Diary of A Wimpy Kid) or notoriously snacking on chocolates from the counselor’s office even though students weren’t allowed to eat in the hallways, or even complaining about every test, homework, or assignment just because we were dumb and didn’t realize that the best years of our lives were right now.
I even reminisced about events that at the time had been few of the most stressful points in my life, however, three years later, all the pain, anger, and frustration had washed away. I guess I was just nostalgic. This brings me to this week’s post: Nostalgia.
According to Alan R. Hirsch in his report, “Nostalgia: A Neuropsychiatric Understanding,” nostalgia is a yearning for an romanticized past — “a longing for a sanitized impression of the past, what in psychoanalysis is referred to as a screen memory — not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process all negative emotions filtered out.” Our senses are prone to biases, and those biases are amplified in our memories. As a result, we remember a distorted and warped version of the past rather than the actual succession of events.
Nostalgia, as an emotion, has a powerful purpose in our life. Up till the 17th century, nostalgia (or frequently recalling the past) was deemed as a disorder but studies soon found that the act of reminiscing actually counteracted feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. This was because as people spoke fondly and lovingly of the past, they also became more hopeful for the future. The past reminded people why life is worth living. In Clay Routledge of North Dakota State University words,
Nostalgia serves a crucial existential function. It brings to mind cherished experiences that assure us we are valued people who have meaningful lives.
Furthermore, nostalgia gives us a sense of being and individuality. Without our past, we would have no identity. So, recalling the past helps stay in touch with our roots. Maintaining that connection with your early days can also keep you grounded in the present.
According to The New York Times, “most people report experiencing nostalgia at least once a week, and nearly half experience it three or four times a week.” Moreover, nostalgia is a universal feeling and is tied to our ability to empathize. It’s only when we fondly remember our own youth are we able to realize what someone with a traumatizing childhood has endured.
What I find quite interesting is if our knowledge of nostalgia interferes with our ability to feel nostalgic. To clarify, the purpose of nostalgia is to remind me of a blissful past so that I become more optimistic about the future, but if I’m already aware of the purpose than does nostalgia really impact me? I don’t think so. Nostalgia is more elusive and expansive and expansive than the other emotions.
Your mind spends about 70% of its time replaying memories.
Since your mind literally spends so much time replaying the past, its effects are so profound that you can’t stop yourself from becoming hopeful for the future.
Hopefully, this post helped you understand the importance of the past and why it’s critical to delve into the past.
Here are some more videos if you’re interested: