Do you miss the “good ol’ days”? Do you look around at our world and think about how much better things used to be? Well, you are not alone. Whenever this is brought up, I have a vision of a grandfather telling his posterity all about how things were long ago. I have never experienced it personally, but this hypothetical grandparent would say statements concerning the price of gas and food, where they would spend their summer days, or how they would walk through the snow to get to school.
This situation may be an exaggeration that works in movies or music, but there is some truth in it. Even if things weren’t that extreme in our childhood, don’t we all feel a sense of nostalgia for those days? Days in which we were carefree and happy? And it is very easy to look around and see a sense of sadness at the changes the world has made.
But, is feeling this way a bad thing? Well… perhaps.
This sense of nostalgia can lead to more negative outcomes. I have seen things online that criticize kids or millenials because of their lack of knowledge concerning a rotary phone or the use of “#” as a hashtag instead of a pound symbol. It can be easy for us to become angry or superior at others for not sharing knowledge about something. But isn’t that the way of everybody in every time? Just by the fact that we have children that are younger than us means they won’t ever know what we went through as kids. And could their attitude be similar to ours when we were teenagers and listening to music our parents didn’t approve of?
But if your nostalgia doesn’t evolve into criticism, it can usually slip into something possibly even more damaging, such as sadness, depression, or regret. (I have posted previously on two topics, depression and loss. You can read these and gain more insight).
It is easy to feel one of these negative emotions concerning your past. Or more specifically, through or concerning an event in your life journey. If something happened that made you unhappy with life, of course you will naturally look back to the time when you were happy. To a time before this event occurred. And this sense or this feeling could make life seem like it’s circling the drain, or getting worse with every day, as every day would of course take place after the event in question.
Unhappiness with life could easily make one question: “What would have happened if I made a different choice?” Maybe you were too shy to ask that girl out or you hurt someone’s feelings. Could that be the point where your life diverged into what it is now?
To start your healing, it can be useful to consider the inevitability of life in general. Even if you past holds pain, it is still the past. Looking at it logically can help because we know that we cannot go back and change it. Well, until someone invents a flying DeLorean. It’s almost like saying to yourself: “What’s done is done, but what can I do with it now?” Hopefully, looking at your past like this can inspire a fundamental change in behavior. Perhaps it will take the form of more courage to overcome shyness or a kinder demeanor to not hurt people anymore. In essence, try to learn from your past and change yourself for the present and future.
If there isn’t any trauma associated with the past, or at least no memory of such, perhaps the nostalgia is more about letting go. We may want to hold on to certain memories because of the good times they brought. For me and my nostalgia, I felt like I didn’t want to taint the memories of my childhood with thoughts that it wasn’t that great or that it wasn’t exactly as I remembered. The biggest thought choice that helped me was that these memories will never leave me. I was afraid that if I moved past the good times, it would be like it never happened. Silly, I know. But I think this is part of many peoples’ nostalgia. When I worked through it, I realized that they would always be a part of me, even if my perspective on the memory changed.
Regardless of the meaning, if you do experience nostalgia in any form, it could mean that there is some emotional work that you could do. That something is incomplete in your past and you need to add to it with a new perspective or healing.
And smile, you are always doing the best that you can in your situation.
- If you experience nostalgia, try to discover the reason why. Is it trauma in your past or a need to let go of the past?
- To help work through it, you can bring in another element that holds an emotional charge, such as music or other media.
- Perhaps there is an object that you could incorporate in your meditation or in letting go.