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  1. #1
    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    Default What's the Appeal of Nostalgia?

    Why do our minds like playing in the past and reliving situations?

    Do we relive good situations to make us feel good?

    Do we relive bad situations to tease us?

    Does this serve some function like bettering us?

    Does it affirm our identity as being separate and unique, with unique experiences?

    Is there some totally different appeal that nostalgia has on it's own, regardless of whether it's "good" or "bad" things we're remembering?

    Trying to figure this out as I watch my mind drift all over the place. All ideas welcome!

  2. #2
    The Black Knight Domino's Avatar
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    Why do our minds like playing in the past and reliving situations?

    I won't get technical with it, as far as functions go, because I don't see this question as being about type so much as it's about the human element.

    In many ways, I replay/relive without consent. My brain does it to me, throws itself forward and backward, like oscillating electrical current. Even when I don't want to think about something that's happened, even 20, 25 years ago (I have a very long memory) it's just as real to me as it was then and I suffer through it all over again. I get cut up. I think this contributes to my stormy nature. I simply never know what my mind is going to make a connection to and how intense it's going to be. I feel a memory coming on, overshadowing me, and I can't stop it. Fe and Se don't do me any favors when I'm trying to protect myself.

    I relive things, voluntarily and involuntarily, to keep the "departed" vivid and alive. It's important to me that no one "die" so I send to the Shrine (called my memory) and have their names/faces carved into it. I learn new things every time one of the enshrined resurfaces.



    Do we relive good situations to make us feel good?


    Yes. To reconnect me to a time when I was safe. Or loved. Or finding some element of illumination.



    Do we relive bad situations to tease us?



    When voluntary, I do it to dissect, pull the moment apart. I replay the incident forensically until I've gleaned every last bit of information from it.


    Does this serve some function like bettering us?


    It can. Otherwise it's simply self-flagellation or indulgence.


    Does it affirm our identity as being separate and unique, with unique experiences?


    Seeing as no one can ever be in my mind/body, all perceptions are unique to its host. I sometimes see Ns pursuing S obsessively because it's something they will NEVER fully understand, and denied experience turns into its own pursuit. No one will ever occupy my space. It's all unique. For all of us.



    Is there some totally different appeal that nostalgia has on it's own, regardless of whether it's "good" or "bad" things we're remembering?

    In NC, we have tons of little crossroads, out of the way places. As a kid, we'd go on long trips to see family, and I'd stare out the window, see so many things pass by. Empty houses made me sad, wondering who died, who built it, who lived there, who would never be known. We'd pass rusted out derelict service stations, falling-down tobacco barns, overgrown RR tracks. Nostalgia in NC is pathological. We're like Ireland, where death isn't the end. Nostalgia keeps me from coming completely unmoored in the cosmic ether (something that panics me).

    My grandfather was a bomber mechanic/gunnery sergeant in WW2. Many many years ago, before he died, my uncle took him to a small airport where a B-17 had flown in. My grandfather was ELATED (not a very demonstrative guy, generally). Just the sight of the plane almost brought tears to his eyes. He climbed up in the plane, recognized everything. One of the crewman asked him what to do about some problem they were having with something on-board, and my grandfather began reeling out specs and settings that the crew would have had no access to. The guy was amazed and totally jazzed to have his problem solved, and I know it made my grandfather's day to be able to still be useful.

    Nostalgia teaches us to be kind to the future using lessons sent forward from the past. I think it shows us that we're not as obsolete as we think we are.
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  3. #3
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    Why do our minds like playing in the past and reliving situations?

    I think some of it is tied to our own mortality. As I get older, I become more cognizant of time, and of the fleeting nature of our existance. This also gives me more appreciation for my life, and possibilities. This appreciation makes me enjoy going back in memory lane, and I can be *incredibly* nostalgic.

    I just...can't quite describe it...but it's almost like a way to detach myself from 'me' -- by going back, I can sort of look at and 'relive' past events, from a detached perspective. It's not that I don't recall the exact feelings/perceptions from back then, because that's part of the nostalgia, but, well, it's history. So I'm sometimes like: 'Wow. That was me, then. Look at what I was doing. Look at who I was.' It's almost more real -- because the present is, well, a snapshot in time, which is instantaneously then the past, and I can 'look' at all of it through a wider lens when I'm going back into nostalgia.

    Do we relive good situations to make us feel good?

    Sure! I know I sometimes do. I don't 'judge' it though as a bad thing -- as a weakness, or whatever. Now, I don't feel I live in my past, because I am always looking ahead as well, but I really enjoy reliving happy events of my past. It can bring me pleasure, and I don't think that's a bad thing. Could it be a coping mechanism? Sure. But I think much of our existance could be coping mechanisms, if you really want to get down to the grit of it. I'd rather not analyze it that way though. If one of my desires is to live a happy, fulfilling life, remain optimistic, and remain enthusiastic and hopeful about my life, then reliving those happy moments can also add some important perspectives -- that I have in fact had a rich life thus far, and there's nothing stopping me from trying to keep reaching for that, except for myself.

    Do we relive bad situations to tease us?

    I think we relive bad situations/torture ourselves until we have fully worked through them, learned from them, forgiven ourselves or others, and as long as the bad situations continue to have a hold on us. So I wouldn't say we relive them to 'tease us', but rather we relive them until we are able to integrate them, tie all the loose ends in our mind, heal ourselves, let go, and move ahead. Because once they stop having a negative effect on our own sense of self and psychae, they no longer have that negative connotation. Doesn't mean the situation itself wouldn't still be objectively sucky and all of that, but one can eventually get emotionally beyond it, in the sense of looking ahead and ones mind not getting sucked back into reliving the situation.

    Does this serve some function like bettering us?

    Hmm.. I wouldn't put it in those words. I think it can add perspective, it can show us the larger context of our lives, and life in general, and also all of in theory should be learning from our experiences, and moving forward with more insight as time goes on. Maybe that's 'bettering us'?? I don't think any of us are actively trying to 'better ourselves' by being nostalgic, though -- it would be a potential effect of it, though. I could also see nostalgia being detrimental in some cases, though - like someone being stuck in the past and unable to let things go. But I think that's a separate issue, and it ties to my previous paragraph. The human mind is an interesting thing. Sometimes it can take a helluva long time for an individual to fully 'work through' things and be able to look to the future (and this isn't a judgement - from personal experience, with some 'issues', it's been a Process for me that covers many years) -- and I think in some cases people are never able to look ahead.

    Does it affirm our identity as being separate and unique, with unique experiences?

    Sure. It kind of ties to what I was saying at the start.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member placebo's Avatar
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    Why do our minds like playing in the past and reliving situations?

    We are humans. We have memory and we have imagination and of course we're going to use it. Our past and our memory and all that we have experienced has built up what we feel are our identities. I suppose that we continue to play in the past because it's a reminder of a part of who we are or have been and that's important to us, I guess.

    Do we relive good situations to make us feel good? Do we relive bad situations to tease us?

    I don't know if it's to make us feel good or to feel bad, but I know that sometimes when a person feels particularly bad or good they're thoughts and memories might tend to that direction.

    I mean, the thing about memory is that it's really easily malleable and it's not the same as the feeling you had when you first experienced it, probably not. Good situations can make us feel good, but how long do they stay 'good'? Memories of bad situations can make us feel hurt or teased, but being able to look back, we have the ability to change how we feel about that situation. I dunno. I think perhaps though memories can affect how we feel when we think of them, we have the power to look at them differently?

    Does this serve some function like bettering us?

    I don't know if it makes us better or not. It just seems like something we have and naturally do as humans, so I guess that would mean it is good for us.

    Does it affirm our identity as being separate and unique, with unique experiences?

    I would say so, something like that. I mean, the fact that we can remember our own personal experiences means that the experience and perceptions are ours alone and we live life alone and we are unique in that aspect, but I don't know if people consciously realise this when we remember the past, etc.

    Is there some totally different appeal that nostalgia has on it's own, regardless of whether it's "good" or "bad" things we're remembering?

    When I come to think of it, nostalgia, specifically, seems like a way of rejecting our current reality. We long for something in the past that we now think is better than our current existence. There's an appeal to it as it's like daydreaming, and when I feel nostalgic, there's this great feeling in me, that cherishes and remembers and longs for an old time or feeling, but I know its not something I can linger in.

  5. #5
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

  6. #6
    The Destroyer Colors's Avatar
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    I'm not sure I'd group "reliving the past" and reviewing memories strictly as the same concept of nostalgia. From my exposure to the word, I'd say nostalgia is more of a cursory glance with an "those days were great" sort of attitude to the past. In this I'd say the purpose of the nostalgia is to view positively the past- without really uncovering it in any sense- a sort of eulogy/summary via cheesy montage. (Also the point of this sort of nostalgia seems to promote is some group feeling- no matter how small/exclusive the group.)

    Talking about reliving the past on the broader scale: Obviously, we need memories for something. How could be benefit from our experiences- learn and grow without them? In that sense, I can see how reliving/reviewing the past helps remind us of where we've been and the trajectory that we hope to take- lets us see "Oh yeah. That's why now I'm ABC and I'm working towards XYZ." In a strange way by reconnecting to that past you can get a sort of reality check. (This is how I find myself using it.)

    Of course, people relive the past for other reasons too- for example to rationalize or change the "meanings" by casting their history and present into different contexts. Retelling the story, so to speak. I'd put some nostalgia into the category- for example, looking fondly upon the past because of some anxiety about change in the present. Retelling the story of you life doesn't have to be bad though- it might include forgiving yourself or someone else for a mistake, etc.

    (Will now read previous posts and ruminate more.)

  7. #7
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid View Post
    Why do our minds like playing in the past and reliving situations?
    To give us a sense of context, remind of us past events, a reference for comparison with the current situation, and allow us to learn new things from past information because of things we know now that we didn't know then.
    Do we relive good situations to make us feel good?
    Sometimes, but sometings it's simply because we perceived something that reminded us of it.
    Do we relive bad situations to tease us?
    Sometimes, but it can also be in order to warn us of something bad that could happen again, or simply because something reminded us of it.
    Does this serve some function like bettering us?
    Sometimes, and yet it can also just be random.
    Does it affirm our identity as being separate and unique, with unique experiences?
    It helps tremendously, but it isn't the only thing that makes us unique.
    Is there some totally different appeal that nostalgia has on it's own, regardless of whether it's "good" or "bad" things we're remembering?
    Definitely. Things that we're familiar with are just... more comfortable some how (unless we've had very bad experiences with them). New things just seem so indifferent to you at first.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid View Post
    Why do our minds like playing in the past and reliving situations?

    Do we relive good situations to make us feel good?

    Do we relive bad situations to tease us?

    Does this serve some function like bettering us?

    Does it affirm our identity as being separate and unique, with unique experiences?

    Is there some totally different appeal that nostalgia has on it's own, regardless of whether it's "good" or "bad" things we're remembering?

    Trying to figure this out as I watch my mind drift all over the place. All ideas welcome!
    I see nostalgia as a reflection (a mirror) of my present state of mind.

    For example, if I'm conflicted about one particular issue in my current life but don't really want to think about it, then in my nostalgia or daydreaming I may find myself remembering and working through an old conflict in the past that's similar.

    OTOH, if I'm kind of overwhelmed at work but not really conflicted over any one thing, then I may reminisce about old peaceful times and use them as sort of a getaway--a place to go to get away from current strife.

    Also, there have been periods in my current life where I'm basically stuck in a place or situation--I'm bored, biding my time, not stressed but also not particularly happy either. At such times, I may spend a lot of time in nostalgia, both good and bad. There I think I'm just working through old conflicts that have been put on hold but left unresolved. (I subscribe to the Freudian view that our unconscious is loaded up with old forgotten conflicts just waiting for a trigger to pop out in a dream or emotion or nostalgia.) At these times, the same rules apply as in my 2nd and 3rd paragraphs; it's just that the "triggers" for the nostalgia may be entirely petty--little events during the day, a song on the radio, a bit of landscape seen out a car window in passing.

    Anyway, that sums up my view of nostalgia. Nostalgia really springs from the current state of my mind, and the subject of the nostalgia usually has some connection to what's going on in my life in the present. So if I find myself reminiscing about something, I'll often stop for a second and ask myself how the nostalgia might be connected to what's going on in my life. In that sense, sometimes a bit of nostalgia might provide some illumination. For example, in my nostalgia I might be reminiscing about an old feud I had with a family member and getting worked up about it. So I stop and ask why that particular memory has come up at this moment. I inventory possible present-day conflicts that might be similar. And very likely I find something similar going on in my current life, but maybe I've been trying to avoid thinking about it.

    In that sense, nostalgia can be beneficial and provide some personal insight--for example, it might show me that I'm more stressed about something than I thought. Or nostalgia may provide some guidance as to how to handle a situation--for example, based on the power of the nostalgia I may decide it's time to face a current conflict head-on rather than attempt to ignore it; or vice-versa--I may decide I'm getting too irritated and worked up about a petty conflict and I should just drop it and move on.

    My interpretation of nostalgia is kind of Freudian, in that the material of the nostalgia often appears to be driven by what's happening in one's unconscious. In that sense, nostalgia is like (the Freudian view of) dreams, but much more accessible and easily interpreted than dreams.

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