The Benefits of Nostalgia
July 9, 2013 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Home Sweet Home "'I told him I did live my life forward, but sometimes I couldn’t help thinking about the past, and it was rewarding,' he says. 'Nostalgia made me feel that my life had roots and continuity. It made me feel good about myself and my relationships. It provided a texture to my life and gave me strength to move forward.' The colleague remained skeptical, but ultimately Dr. Sedikides prevailed. That lunch in 1999 inspired him to pioneer a field that today includes dozens of researchers around the world using tools developed at his social-psychology laboratory, including a questionnaire called the Southampton Nostalgia Scale. After a decade of study, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be — it’s looking a lot better."
posted by bookman117 (13 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
One of my former colleagues was really interested in nostalgia. She called it "memory without pain."This is really interesting.

I rate very, very high on the nostalgia scale. That's a little intriguing because I'm a very future-oriented, what-is-there-to-look-forward-to-next kind of person. But I do think nostalgically several times a week. It's usually triggered by light or weather, sometimes by architecture and seasonal plants or smells and things. Rarely by visuals, though sometimes.

The jukebox is an awesome part of this.
posted by Miko at 7:38 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Sometimes I think nostalgia is the most intense emotion I feel. I get really sad thinking about the fact that I'll never get to experience the old Riverview Park here in Chicago, or the Chicago World's Fair. Hyper-nostalgic books, movies, and TV shows do it for me too, like Drop City, Dazed and Confused, Empire Records, the Wonder Years, and even cheesy miniseries like The 60s and 70s.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 7:50 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I once felt sad in the middle of a game of Go that I would never play this particular game again. It was odd... nostalgia for the present. (Mono no aware!)
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:01 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Having grown up in a punk scene, and now living among many of the some folks in our 40s, I've started to think of nostalgia as a kind of living death. Whatever the benefits, they aren't worth the costs.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:07 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

I must be one of those avoidant people mentioned at the end. I don't often feel nostalgia, and I don't try to feel it. The most intense memories from my youth are unhappy. I don't want to dwell on bad feelings. Unhappy memories may give my life meaning, but I doubt that meaning will clean the mud off that I wallowed in.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:42 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nostalgia is such a lovely, bittersweet feeling. Recalling a faded scent, the trace smell of smoke on your clothes from a campfire days prior, weighing a fine memory in your hand like a smoothed stone. I don't often feel like a legitimate adult, like a wise animal, but nostalgia brings a kind of noble peace with the life I've lived. It's a feeling that I cherish and enjoy. The same way I cherish the very end of autumn.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:24 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

Wow, I just got real poetical on y'all. Nostalgia strikes again!
posted by nathancaswell at 9:25 PM on July 9, 2013

Having grown up in a punk scene, and now living among many of the some folks in our 40s, I've started to think of nostalgia as a kind of living death. Whatever the benefits, they aren't worth the costs.

Which is odd, since lots of the punk-influenced music I listen to looks back to the 50s, and I look back to the punk days. When I was 13 I was nostalgic about when I was 10. When I was 15 I was nostalgic about being 13. But I'm changing - it was preventing me from focusing on life.

So don't sing me your songs about the good times
Those days are gone and you should've just let 'em go
And god help the man who says "If you'd have known me when"
Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts

posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:46 PM on July 9, 2013

I suffer from a sort-of anti-nostalgia. It seems my brain can only dredge-up the negative events and feelings of my past. The effect is that I consciously reject and run-away from my past.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:56 AM on July 10, 2013

Miko’s friend’s definition of nostalgia is probably many people’s, which is interesting, given the word’s original coinage to describe a type of pain: something akin to the impossible homesickness of exile. There is doubtless a happy medium to be enjoyed between, on one hand, a bittersweetness that’s bitterer than sweet, and, on the other, nostalgia as an anodyne vapour pumped out into the ether in vast quantities in the form of golden oldies, sitcom reruns and the like: gaslit blandishments for us all to remember consuming certain things in a particular way.

Does Buddhism discourage nostalgia, I wonder, given that it seems, on the surface of it, a variety of attachment?

The notion of ‘anticipatory nostalgia’ mentioned in the article is curious too. I don’t know what seems off-putting to me about deliberately planning to augment ones ‘nostalgic repository,’ when I can’t summon any argument against it.

The therapeutic use of nostalgia Dr. Sedikides recommends has long been informally prescribed to the bereaved (‘at least you still have all those lovely memories,’) but at times of loss I have found it a cold comfort: as the song goes, ‘you can’t put your arms around a memory.’
posted by misteraitch at 5:58 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

What your habits of thought make you feel is less important, to me, than what they lead you to do. When voters and city council members are driven by nostalgia, things rarely turn out well.

(I am, of course using a layman's definition of nostalgia. But, after looking at the Southampton Scale, I'm less worried that I'm missing some deeper meaning.)
posted by eotvos at 8:09 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Miko: "She called it "memory without pain.""

I find nostalgia extremely depressing. I wish I could enjoy it, but it just makes me really sad.
posted by Bugbread at 2:10 AM on July 11, 2013

Yeah, it turned out there were problems with her definition from the scholarly perspective, but when she would interview people to draw out nostalgic sentiment, they would draw on mostly warm, happy, peaceful memories. People whose childhoods, for instance, featured a lot of parental fighting or insecurity were still capable of nostalgia about summer nights on the porch or whatever - they could remember that part of their life without visiting the painful parts, so nostalgia allowed them access to their past, in a way, without always having to feel the pain involved in confronting it wholly.
posted by Miko at 6:39 AM on July 11, 2013

« Older “Not many antagonize Goldman just for the hell of...   |   Listicles all the way down Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments