When things are bad, we seek shelter wherever we can. Too often our mind seeks refuge in dangerous places. Sometimes this is in self-destructive behaviours like excessive drinking or substance abuse of any sort. Then there are times our mind sprints to our past as it is often a place of comfort and security and it acts as a form of escapism when you find yourself overwhelmed by life.
Burying yourself into your past gives you short-term relief; it takes you to a place where things seemed perfect. Maybe it’s your perfect childhood, a day out with your family or a surprise birthday party. Maybe it was the best date you’ve ever had or else, just a crazy adventure. It is an enriching escape route because the past is a constant; it is rigid and inflexible because whatever you do in the future, your past is set. In comparison, your present and your future are of a fluid composition; it may seem bleak, scary and unknown.
As a species that pursues rationality, we like the knowledge that is dipped in certainty. So even if I hate maths (which I absolutely do) I love the reliability of it. 1+1 is 2 and this is unnegotiable. You cannot claim that the answer is biased. It’s an absolute whereas an answer to ‘who should win the presidential election’ is both relative and negotiable. The past is your absolute, your memories are a certainty to you and that’s all that matters at that point in time.
The problem with sinking into your nostalgia habitually is the fact that it has the same effect as substance abuse and overindulgence in anything at all. It does not actually aid you in the right here right now; it will most likely worsen the situation. Too often, I find the past may as well fall under the category of a hallucinogen because over-indulgence and the misuse of it is damaging but cunningly masked. It’s something that is legit as long as you don’t refer to it in excess. Revelling in a place and time that is no longer as relevant as your present is problematic because you are running away from the urgency of the now because running is much preferable to confrontation.
Much like beer goggles, there are nostalgia goggles where you fail to see the full reality of your past memories and forged to keep grasp onto those ‘perfect’ moments. You think of them so much so that you forget that there were inadequacies. So, of course, nothing will ever measure up to your past because you have managed to idealise your memories. This gives rise to a vicious cycle; your present becomes all the more unbearable as you equate your idealised past to your present and start believing that your romanticised recollections are the norm or ought to be. What you may fail to grasp is that the situation was never perfect; it was your emotional response to it that was. If you were to be aware of that simple fact, that your attitude decides everything, it would make you want to zoom back into the present to adjust yourself emotionally.
It’s perfectly perfect to remember and enjoy but not as a form of escapism on a constant and regular basis-this is when it becomes harmful. By all means, grab a good Ben & Jerry’s and watch a tear-jerking movie with a friend, but after that, get back to sorting your situation out. If you cannot change the situation, attempt to change your attitude towards it. We all know that you can never be too well adjusted. At the end of the day when we are faced with issues and life-crises, our initial response is to run but a much better way of handling is to confront i.e. fight or flight. If you cannot change the situation which is rarely the case, change your response to it which ultimately means you are in charge of how you feel 24/7.
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