Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

Have you ever remembered a fantastic childhood holiday, where the place you visited was this wonderful world full of joy and wonder?

Then, as an adult, revisited the same place with hope in your heart only to be disappointed as it is nothing like you remember?

On one hand, time changes places, especially in the UK where many traditional seaside towns have suffered from the rise in overseas holidays, but, on the other hand, you have changed too. That child, who could see wonder in the simplest things, has grown with many more life experiences that has lifted the lid on those things we once found fascinating.

However, if you have never revisited that place, your memory of that holiday remains intact despite the fact the reality is now far different.

It is this latter that can cause us problems in our present life.

antique black call classic
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Not that it is an individual thing. We live in a society that seems to glorify an imagined past. It seems, for example, that every generation has a problem with “the youth of today”. When you take a look back through the last 60 years or so, the 50’s saw the older people complaining about the youth culture of rock & roll because “it wasn’t like that in my day”. Yet, today, those who grew up in the rock and roll generation complain about current youth culture “because it wasn’t like that in my day”, forgetting they were demonised by older people in their day!

Back on an individual level we can, sometimes, get stuck in past beliefs and actions that no longer really work for us today.

We believe we can’t do something because back in the past we failed at doing it, we don’t do something because back in the past we had a bad experience doing the same thing etc.

But that was in the past and things are different now – you are a different person now because, over the years, you have gained much more knowledge and experience of life.

Our past can hold us back yet, very often, what we remember is not quite the reality or what happened. We synthesise memories, if we have a good memory it is usually because we only focus on the good aspects of what happened, similarly bad memories zoom in only on those aspects which were bad.

If we go back to our fantastic childhood holiday, can you remember the specifics of the whole week (or however long it lasted)? You can probably recall the sense of enjoyment but could you remember all the dull parts that inevitably happen in a week? Maybe you remember the sights and sounds of the amusement arcade but can you recall that you were only in there because it was raining outside?

We do the same with bad past experiences, over time the memory becomes a single specific event that impacts on how we act today. We delete many of the other things that happened at the time because they were less memorable yet they still may have been involved in the cause of the event, or may, if we recalled them, make the actual event seem less bad than we now remember it!

“I can’t because in the past…” is not something we actually say to ourselves. We simply just don’t do it. Most of the time this is not a problem but, occasionally, we may find that our reluctance to do something, because of an event in the past, can impact on our lives today. We may have trouble with relationships as a result of past relationship experiences, we may have self confidence issues when we have had past failures, we may feel guilty when we cannot do what other people want us to do something as we had an issue when we did that thing once before or we may feel constrained by life because, once, we were held back from being our true self.

It becomes more problematic as we get older as, obviously, we have a lot more memories and because those older ones are a lot more distant making them more synthesised and less attached to reality.

Where we find ourselves reluctant or unable to do something, we should take the time to ask ourselves why. Was it because of a past event?

If so, then we need to ask ourselves, how reliable is that memory? Then move a little deeper, what were the circumstances that created that memory? Are the circumstances the same now? How much more do I know now than I did then?

Also ask yourself, what is different from then to now? Firstly, of course, you are different from that time but also the world is different, we can more readily find out more information, we can find out how others have overcome their reluctance to do something. Knowledge and technology have advanced so much that whatever happened in the past the world is a different place now.

If we want to lead a better life today, we need to recognise that the past can hold us back sometimes. We should never let go of the past because it is that which makes us who we are today but we should acknowledge that was then and we live in the now.

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