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Why Nostalgia is Misleading?

It's just like watching a well-edited film through my rose-colored glasses.


Do you find yourself daydreaming about your past? Or do you wish you could go back in time and relive your life? We can be sentimental about people, incidents, places, and things, or even about a previous version of ourselves.


Why Nostalgia is Misleading?

The term "nostalgia" is derived from two Greek words: nostos, which means "return home," and algos, which means "pain." Nostalgia, initially defined by ancient Greek philosophers as "psychological suffering caused by an unrelenting yearning to return to one's homeland" and thought to be a mental disorder until the mid-20th century, is not always as harmless as we would like to believe. Nostalgia is distinct from homesickness, in which we wish to be in a different existing space than the one we currently occupy. It's also not the same as fantasy, in which we seek to replace reality. With nostalgia, we are reminded that we are in the present moment. We're just looking back in time through rose-colored glasses.


Nostalgia is a sort of false prophet. During university, I frequently realized that the moment would soon be a memory and began to miss it. I tried to savor as much as possible, gradually learning from my mistakes and stopping the good times from passing me by without properly soaking them in.


It's nice to look back with fondness. However, dwelling on the past can leave you dissatisfied with the present if you're not careful. You run the risk of becoming addicted to your nostalgic supply. It feeds us powerful visions: memories of a glorious past experience—something we long to relive, like a first visit to a beloved location or a first viewing of a classic film.


But we will never be able to reclaim it. That is where nostalgia's deceptive power comes into play. It can evoke deep and meaningful emotions in us, but this is different from delivering an experience.


Especially around the holidays, when our playful memories conjure up images of laughter echoing in the background and happy people all around us making memories with the ones we care about. A seemingly insignificant sight or smell, or even an ordinary drive down a tree-lined road on a random Tuesday, can jog memories of a better time or a happier version of ourselves.


Why do we continue to believe in the romance of the past?


I believe that similar to the overuse of salt or pepper, overindulgence in nostalgia may cause the present moment to be colored only by negative feelings in favor of glorifying a particular time in the past.


Some scientists regard nostalgia as an emotional response rather than a recall of memories because it is a natural bias to remember the good without any of the pain or hurt that may have also been a part of the event. In some ways, nostalgia tricks the brain into producing so we can "relive" the best version of our memories. Most of our nostalgic experiences tend to be idealized versions of how we want things to be rather than actual events. Psychoanalysts refer to this as a screen memory, a mosaic of positive and powerful emotions sewed together with all negative emotions filtered out.



It is the human brain's frailty that makes nostalgia such a powerful but also problematic emotion. A memory can be wonderful until it isn't. But when nostalgia becomes a social enterprise—when our history is sold to us in an idealized form—we end up in a fake present, where the hard lessons of the past are ignored in favor of a rosy vision of it.


There's no harm in taking that trip back in time if you know you'll benefit mentally from it. However, before you start lamenting how life was so much simpler, easier, better, or happier back then, remember that what you remember is likely far better than what actually occurred. Just as we would do our best to avoid physically or emotionally harming our loved ones during a fit of rage, we must do our best to avoid hurting ourselves through misleadingly decorated versions of past memories.

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