113: What is Nostalgia? – Misremembering the Past (Sort Of)


We explore nostalgia. From it’s roots as a medical diagnosis, to a feeling of being homesick, to it’s present, positively associated longing for simpler times, we take a look at what nostalgia really is, and if it’s useful or not. We explore how nostalgia is not an actual memory, but a sanitized version of the past, with positive feelings attached to it. Our brains trick us into thinking that things were better at some other time, although much of what that time was actually like is missing from our felt memory sensation during nostalgic recall. We talk about whether nostalgia can be used for positive growth in the present or not. At it’s root, we find that nostalgia often refers to a time of ease and comfort – namely a time before we were adults and had adult responsibilities or a clearer perception of the world. It makes sense, everything felt better when we didn’t have bills, kids of our own, or any burdens hanging over our heads. Finally, we examine the dangers of nostalgia for the person in recovery, and what to do about it when we feel overwhelmed by a longing to go back to using a substance that we have made a choice to get away from. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com,  or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or find us on our website at www.recoverysortof.com.

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Transcript:

recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature

welcome back it’s recovery sort of i’m jason a guy who longs for times of old hi i’m jenny i’m a person in long-term sobriety billy’s not here this week he’s at another convention he’s a convention going dude uh which is weird because we talked about conventions on an episode and he doesn’t even like him that much yeah we’re surprised he was at another one this weekend yeah that’s like three in like two months wow or something i don’t know maybe i’m making that up maybe it’s only two in like three months either way there’s more than i’m going to right there’s a yeah i didn’t i tell you what though my facebook feed is just convention people like that’s all i saw this morning oh wow i saw a few posts but oh my god i’ve never been to a convention i feel like i’m lacking well now you need to go now you need that experience didn’t you listen to the episode it says go to a convention have that experience for yourself yeah would you go to an aaa convention or an a convention um i’d probably go to like a buddhist recovery convention given the choice they do so refuge has one and recovery dharma has one just one an annual one they each have their own um just one though yeah why what is oh i guess does aanna have them like multiple times i mean there’s a a world convention that’s every two or three years or something but then did you i thought you listened to me i did i did i don’t have my notes in front of me areas and the regions all have them like in maryland there is probably i don’t know six conventions a year that seems excessive it may be but everybody goes i mean everybody loves it yeah no matter how much i say it’s not good it doesn’t matter i don’t know i mean is this judgy but it’s like there’s other things to do like you know besides conventions well i think it’s the the nostalgia oh nice segue right like they’re like oh remember when i first got here and got in recovery and i went to this convention and it was so energetic and enthusiastic and then you run into all these people you’ve known that remind you of old times when you used to you know just got here and all that good stuff you used to just get here yeah used to just got here yeah that sounded right to me forgive me for my words today i had the good old covet booster on friday and it’s yeah all right so nostalgia we’re going to talk about nostalgia because you know i when when the topic of nostalgia is brought up i think of all those times early on in recovery and and not so early on in recovery when i glorify uh the times when i used to use like and i don’t know necessarily that that specifically is nostalgia but that’s kind of how i thought of it like this longing for this past time that was better than what it is today um why did you want to talk about this well that’s what i thought of too like you know thinking back to the you know the good old days drinking in high school with your friends and it was fun and everybody was uh you know like good to each other and we’re always having adventures and nothing bad happened and like so that kind of nostalgia you know and like so then you know 20 years later you’re you’re in your 30s you know you’re not paying your bills and you look like [ _ ] and you know you always have a hangover but you’re like oh but you know we used to party and it was great yeah somehow in nostalgia that’s what i i thought of was like that 30 year old version of like being homeless and stuff doesn’t exist it’s just like i only remember that one sunny day when i had enough money for drugs and i didn’t worry about any of the other parts i wasn’t sick i wasn’t ill nobody burnt me like it was that one beautiful day yeah yeah so um you know when i was in rehab too they brought up like you know it took me going to rehab to realize this but you’re never gonna get those days back like they’re they that was then it’s never gonna happen again and um uh you know as an alcoholic we started drinking in high school and i think a lot of the alcoholics i met in aaa we all started like 13 14 15. and yeah you don’t have bills responsibilities and the world hasn’t um kind of [ _ ] on you yet like i mean it was it was starting to [ _ ] on you whatever parental stuff was happening but then when you’re on your own in your 20s and then you’re really on your own in your 30s and you’re thinking back to those days when you were a kid you know whether you were drinking or not you know it’s it’s never going to be that way again and you know if nobody teaches you that it doesn’t last forever here i am in rehab like a 30 how long was i 37 year old kid like yeah those days are gone jenny yeah you know i always think about that like so i guess maybe it’s not nostalgia maybe it’s more like euphoric recall that tends to happen to people like me where we just remember the good times of a certain situation but you know you saying that right now makes me think of like this idea that we always they say we chase that first high right like that first hit and i even that in my version of nostalgia it’s like even if i was always trying to get that original that original high even that wasn’t good like it’s it’s a faulty memory of that first time yeah the first time i i did some kind of opiate i i think i smoked a newport i drank a cherry coke and then i threw up a couple times in a trash can like but i’m like glorifying this experience like oh those were the good days back when i just took a couple tie locks on a friday night like what was so good about that i sat in a room and puked that sounds like the first time i tried marijuana yeah you puked on marijuana i did oh my yeah i should have known then but drinking was really my thing and actually it was all happy it was all like the early drinking days it was all you know what it was like to start drinking you know was it though you know it’s all like flirting with guys and laughing and you know doing silly things and i think that’s the nostalgia that we’re going to get into today right that’s like this overarching feeling that we’ve connected with it even though i don’t know that that’s exactly what was going on right it’s almost true you could see the meme of like this is what it felt like versus this is what happened it might have been like sloshy jenny tripping all over herself most definitely might have been pretty pretty not so attractive as you think it was yeah i wish we could just and maybe that’s where the world’s going to where we have all these you know videos and big brother watching maybe we’ll be able to look back and watch for real what happened to be like oh maybe that wasn’t what i thought it was do you use this in your work the the saying feelings more than facts no okay i heard that in i don’t know i think maybe like a parenting book or like you know but feelings more the facts and so nostalgia you know hanging on to the feelings more so than the fact is the suggestion that we should have feelings no i i think it’s the lesson is is the human brain hangs on to feelings more so than facts so when it comes i think i read it in the parenting context you know it was like um your kid doesn’t need to go to disney world to have the time of their life it’s the feeling you know um if you can you know the the fact that you’re not a disney world doesn’t mean they won’t have the feeling of the time of their life yeah does that make sense i guess in that context i kind of do believe in it like you it’s not your kid’s not going to remember whether you let them go bowling on friday night or not or whether you took them to chuck e cheese on saturday or not like what they’re going to remember as they go into adulthood is did they feel loved and valued and hurt okay that’s more what they’re going to latch on to it’s not really the little decisions of whether they can go somewhere or whether you punish them like none of that’s really going to linger yeah unless you punish them like with abuse because that’s they they will remember that yeah remember that and that’s not a good feeling that doesn’t feel like loved or cared about or or heard or validated yeah so i was thinking about that expression feelings for the facts in the nostalgia context you know you’re going to remember you want to hang on to the feelings maybe the facts you know you’re not going to have jenny speaking elvish drunk in a field you know like i’m not gonna remember that fact i remember oh so funny you know you spoke elvis that’s what they used to say boy i had some great friends right but no that was one of the jokes like oh jenny’s speaking elvis she must be wasted ah okay i feel like that’s the the facts and feelings thing is something i’ve heard like i i want to say a a old-timer say facts over feelings right like you just gotta live in the facts over the feelings and who cares if you feel like drinking the fact is you can’t [ _ ] like some of them hardcore guys used to say some [ _ ] like that like i don’t think i’m gonna go with their advice i remember somebody saying like what’s the problem i’ve been living in my feelings and you know judging myself by my intentions even though all my actions sucked and now i gotta live in the facts and judge myself by my actions and it doesn’t matter what my intentions are because nobody sees them anyway and it’s just interesting i mean to some extent it’s not that it’s terrible information but the delivery is definitely yeah for me because like your feelings are very valid they mean well they’re doing the best they can uh yeah yeah they are so anyway nostalgia uh defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past typically for a period or place with happy personal associations and that’s interesting that it says typically for a period or place with happy personal associations because when you think of like nostalgia for the early days of using why was that such a happy personal association and i would argue that it’s because i don’t technically believe so much in this idea of the disease of addiction i believe in addiction or drug use as a cure for the problem we’re having or a coping mechanism or a defense mechanism and it has a happy personal association that we long for because it was relieving from that original problem right whatever that original thing was anxiety depression uh some unquantify unquantifiable like misery or displeasure with life this dis ease with life that we felt internally well when we used we were free of that and it felt good like i didn’t need a whole lot of descriptive words it was like oh this feels nice right this is this is serenity that i’ve always been searching for and so yeah it’s going to have a happy personal association and if i get in recovery and don’t ever address those ways that i felt before i used that i was trying to alleviate i’m gonna feel them again and that time when i had the relief is gonna seem like a better time no matter what the consequences were what was suggested to me in recovery to um think about the person i was before i started drinking so you have to go back in the little timeline you just had go back even further what was i into as a kid so you know like basically having nostalgia for the person i was before drinking and before the stuff happened to me that made me want to drink to excess so go back to like little kid jenny you know who was like you know into like art and you know movies and you know and little adventures in the woods and stuff you know like what lit my fire as a kid so having like nostalgia for that helps me in recovery to bring me back to the person i am at the core so that’s kind of hard though for a lot of people do you think it’s hard i think so for a lot of people because going back there is stuff they’ve kind of like blocked off or or you know locked away inside of them because it was associated with some [ _ ] that they couldn’t tolerate like that’s the kind of like that trauma idea that we separate from that early experience because of how awful it felt yeah well i think i think the suggestion is to go back to before the [ _ ] happened you know before you know your father abandoned you before um you know you felt rejected by society and stuff so and and i’m not saying that’s a terrible idea i just don’t know that without some sort of helpful professional that that’s the thing right because if that was four and then things got bad or we remember how things turn bad at seven i think we just kind of block all that out i don’t know that we can go pull out certain pieces of it without opening up the box of all of it well i guess you know i guess some people can some people can’t i’m not even saying i’m doing it perfectly but um but yeah i mean always a professional hand would would be nice so another another thought was the simplest definition of nostalgia is people’s reflection on their cherished memories which doesn’t sound that much different from the first one simplest definition i don’t know anyway uh so interestingly nostalgia comes from a medical disease which is where it originally was yeah so in its earliest days uh it was seen primarily as homesickness which was a diagnosable medical condition um it was coined by a swiss medical student johannes hofer in his 19th i’m sorry 19 1688 dissertation and he was describing the anxieties of soldiers that were fighting away from home so he combined the greek word for homecoming nostos with the word for pain algos so yeah nostalgia comes from these soldiers that were wanting to go home and didn’t want to fight anymore they were thinking about these times of being at home when it was pleasurable and happy that’s fascinating yeah because back then there wasn’t like phones you couldn’t travel quickly yeah um so i didn’t have a post office so in this does wow if that’s the original definition like in this day and age are we going to have nostalgia anymore i mean is that going away i don’t know there’s more to it sorry yeah it was very simple well it’s i i don’t think like those people might have been coming from really shitty home lives but it was just the idea that like oh that seemed better than this and and i think so this is kind of my argument about nostalgia it’s not so much that anything from the past was all that great it’s that we are trying to find a way to keep existing in a life that doesn’t feel worth existing in presently so it’s not so much that any of my past is so wonderful it’s just that now feels really really bad and so i’m looking for any reason to continue like the body wants to stay alive right it wants to keep thriving so it’s giving me these past pleasurable experiences that say oh it used to be good it can be again just keep just keep trying so i i think it has less to do with the past being great and more to do with the present being [ _ ] okay so it’s like nostalgia like a drug you’re taking it to survive yes okay yeah nostalgia is a drug but you think that’s a bad thing it’s not like a i mean i guess it’s good that it keeps people alive but i feel like for people who it’s a tool that doesn’t kill you this is as a saving grace uh that leads us to maybe go back to them because that’s frequently where we found the relief right you wouldn’t want to romanticize old drug memories but i feel like that’s what we’re going to do because that’s the experience we had where it felt better well can we go back further but you know like before the drugs and you’re saying that’s not possible i don’t think it is because i think we use the drugs because there was no ability to feel better i feel like our experience felt overall on the whole like a two on a scale of one to ten and we were like this is just not survivable and so we’re like i gotta feel better what does it take and then drugs were like an eight or a nine or a ten or eleven yeah and then it’s like oh yeah this is good this is the best it’s ever been for sure we need more of this hmm well i think it worked for me i mean at least when i took the suggestion in rehab to go back to the person i was before all the stuff started happening and i you know i think our addiction stories are different you know like so you know it helped going back there but maybe i’m in denial about some stuff i don’t know yeah that’s outside the scope of this show but um i i see nostalgia as a tool though like i see it as like a just um when you’re feeling like crap like tap into that warm fuzzy feeling and maybe get through the day like i’m not saying live there i’m just saying it’s okay to think about you know christmas in 1985 if it makes you feel better all right now back to the present let’s go 1985 i might have got that nintendo entertainment system i definitely did not get the nintendo entertainment system in 1985 but some people did i think i got a pink 10 speed pink and gray and it was awesome in 1985 because i was in fifth grade so no idea i might have got like the the he-man skeletor castle of doom or whatever the hell it was called but it had a little snake coming out the top and you could i got a he-man toothbrush one time and i still remember the little like saying that it said when you press the button that’s right i still have it no i don’t no hi i’m he-man i’m strong as can be there’s a whole i’m not gonna do it all anyway so three components of nostalgia according to you know so-called experts there’s a social component nostalgic memories typically involve family members close friends or romantic partners there is a personal meaning the memories might seem trivial to someone else but because of the personal context they’re meaningful and they occurred fairly far in the past so we don’t have nostalgia for things that just happened recently and then in a 2016 study using fmri imaging to monitor participants brain activity when they were exposed to nostalgia-inducing stimuli when nostalgia is triggered participants brains showed activity in two powerful neural networks the areas of the brain associated with memory and with the reward system so it does reward you and that’s part of what goes on yeah yeah this nostalgia rewards you when you think of it but i say this is where the and maybe this is the difference right like you self-proclaimed to be less depressive and more anxiety right so maybe for you nostalgia’s like a nice little break from the anxiety it’s a trip down the past right i hate to sound all fluffy when i say that because anxiety can be really tough too right but like for a depressive person more such as myself i can remember times and this hasn’t really happened recently as i’ve gotten some healing but i do remember times of depression where the thought was like oh man remember them high school days or just after high school days when life was so good and this was happening it was so wonderful it’ll never be that good again why am i keep doing this so that’s like it it’s and and i think that’s part of depression is this belief that it can never you’ll never be happy again and so like nostalgia for that just feels like the best days of your life are gone and that’s kind of as if you weren’t already depressed that’s depressing yeah that’s true i’m thinking about like i thought about you know with the show coming up what you know what would the buddha think about this you know and i wish i had i would i wish i had more touch with a teacher to ask but i think the buddha would not green light nostalgia i think he’s very like why don’t you just deal with the present you know like i think you’re asking for suffering by going into the past i think some buddhist teacher out there please comment on social media and let me know but at the same time though the buddha also was not keen on acting because it’s lies you know and acting is a healthy healing tool modern day you know we talked about this um outside the show once so i think the buddha would approve in healing trauma you know if nostalgia helped you know does nostalgia help heal trauma well you brought up a good point so you know you’re you’re the more depressed type and a more anxious type which i don’t think i realized until you mentioned that but yeah i guess it depends on the individual so you know i think it would work in my case to have like a little break from the day but i see how it doesn’t work in someone like you i have also never found the ability to use nostalgia as a little break like to me nostalgia is like i get sucked right into this all-consuming wistful memory of a pleasurable experience and i’m like oh i’m being sucked away and carried over here to this place that felt great like and that’s a big escape from where i obviously like to me i don’t participate in nostalgia when i’m happy now i don’t need to right i’m already here i’m already like yeah this is so nice right here and it’s those times when i’m not feeling that internal like safety and comfort that i’m like i gotta get the [ _ ] out of my body and go somewhere else how about the past that sounds nice so i i don’t know i just i guess for me nostalgia doesn’t seem it seems like a disappearance from from good things or from bad things here so another another thing i came across uh alan r hirsch says because he’s got a book called nostalgia a neuropsychiatric understanding he said nostalgia is not an emotional state but rather a longing for a sanitized impression of the past and i found that interesting i like my sanitized impressions it says rather than seeing the past for what it truly was we recall it as a conglomeration of various memories filtering negative ones out to integrate the positive ones which creates nostalgia so it’s like you were saying it’s not true nostalgia is ambiguous and is often a flood of feelings that diverts us temporarily from the present and immerses us in the past so i i don’t know to me like i read stuff like that and i’m like how could that be positive and yet i’ve shared with you interestingly when i looked up like oh i was like oh nostalgia is terrible for people who have substance use as trees right i’ll just look up the bad parts of nostalgia and everything that came up talked about positive [ _ ] it was like oh we can use nostalgia to do this and that and i’m like i don’t believe it because read that nothing about that sounds positive to me it doesn’t right that’s the angle so i i read something too and it i liked how this author put it sorry i don’t have her name handy but it was she said nostalgia helps link you with your past to give you like an idea of your trajectory in life so like here’s where i was here’s where i’m at and here’s where i’m going so it’s kind of like an anchor for your storyline and um i thought that was a healthy and interesting way to look at it but if you think about it as not true that’s you know the selective memory right but you know you’re free to write your story anytime right yeah but we’re recreating so and this is what i pictured when you just said that about writing my story into the future using nostalgia what i’m thinking is i remember this okay christmas is coming up right oh there’s this christmas tradition i used to do in my family that always felt good or at least i’m picturing that it always felt good with my family i’m not remembering that like my father calls an argument christmas morning and like ruined the christmas opening present experience by yelling and being miserable and giving us the silent treatment or nothing i’m not remembering that i’m just remembering like this sanitized impression of like oh yeah it was so fun we had rolls and we buttered them and we ate breakfast and we opened the stockings right so now whenever my life doesn’t look like that currently when i can’t recreate this perfect memory i have which isn’t real now i’m bitter oh you [ _ ] kids are ruining christmas because you’re not doing it perfectly like i used to have when i was little with all these holy [ _ ] you just turned into your dad right right because i’m trying to create something now or in the future that didn’t really ever exist because life isn’t perfect that’s a great example i’m sorry it’s a sad example but that’s a that’s a perfect example it’s not totally accurate it might have been a little emphasized maybe it sounds similar to my christmases yeah but i’m just saying like we we’re trying to create something that never could have been possible because we’re humans and we have emotions and nothing was ever like this hallmark movie experience that i’m picturing it to be yeah but i’m trying to recreate this hallmark movie experience thinking it was real and now i’m just getting bitter at everybody around me for not being the right people to create that with ah yeah so now i’m divorced and i don’t see my kids because the [ __ ] in my family can’t be what i thought my family was which was definitely not what i thought my family was i don’t know yeah i think christmas coming up is how nostalgia came up for me too because thinking back to um christmases when i was drunk like a you know like the best ones well i mean oh my god so if i i used to i worked in an office too before i had kids and um just the the amount of liquor i’d bring home for just me and my husband like it was like so much that’s terrible anyway so i’m glad i’m not living that way anymore like you have like christmas like like alcohol poisoning you know like terrible um the only thing i remember about christmas is that it was hard to cup it’s hard to what it’s hard to buy drugs sorry oh okay like nobody wanted to be out selling on christmas hey drug dealers have families too they want rough you know i was like why is it so hard to cop today so i’d be like oh it’s christmas i’m like ah all the liquor stores are getting new clients on christmas eve

uh but um anyway i was i guess i was thinking look at the holidays coming up and how grateful i am you know to be like wow i’m present i don’t have to you know be hungover or sick you know for the holidays and then um you know all the things i can do for christmas one of the things was um christmas cards you’re talking about your christmas and like oh man i loved getting mail and you know and to get mail you got to send mail and i used to do no lie when i first got sober i did like 400 christmas cards oh my god i spent so much money because i was like i was like i like burst onto the sober scene like i love my life you know i was just like i’m going to tell everybody in the whole everybody i’ve ever met merry christmas you know and i would do so many christmas cards and then merry christmas i’m sober pretty much if they had a card that said that and so then i taped it down over the years but literally like anybody and we’re all on facebook like everybody knows what we look like everybody knows merry christmas and so i tapered it down and then it was like you know family and close friends and stuff and some of these friends i haven’t seen for years some of these friends i’m only in touch with because we send christmas cards and um so i think before it was a christmas before covet i didn’t do them because i’m busy i got two kids i know i have a lot going on and i ended up not doing them and i felt so guilty um and like that anyway to tie it in with nostalgia like i was trying to capture that magic christmas tradition and um and what are traditions but people pleasing dead folks but um i was trying to capture that tradition for the nostalgia i’m like there’s it’s not happening it’s it’s work it’s hard to keep all these addresses updated and you gotta have the right picture oh my god the pressure i had put on myself to have the right picture and the right layout and the expense you know when money’s already tight but i was trying to recapture that nostalgia and um was it yeah it wasn’t happening so i don’t think i’m doing christmas cards this year either i bought some cards because i got to do at least teacher gifts and stuff but what if you just took a picture on your phone and sent a christmas email to like 200 recipients um yeah i suppose that’s an option i don’t know if that’s really my style but the trees really i would think you would not want to cut down trees and stuff oh no no not really my style like the email i just think people would open it and be like yeah you know like i think the the exciting part about a christmas card is you get it and you hang it up because it’s like art and you hang it like on strings or like in a on a tree or you know however you display your car people do that i do that so i’m still getting christmas cards and i i feel guilty because if you don’t send them you know like you’re supposed to you know you got to play you got to play to win right right yeah so you send me you send christmas cards and you get them back and this will be my third christmas not doing him because covered christmas i was just i don’t know i was just a little like i don’t know depressed i just wasn’t that into it you know i did one of these before somebody sent me a letter and they were like if you write this letter to seven people and buy them all a book it’s a lot like that you’ll get seven letters back or 49 letters or something crazy that’s not christmas cards well if there’s a christmas tree on it sure

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so uh another person goes on to say the comfort of childhood and zero responsibility oh yeah and i think that’s where a lot of our nostalgia comes from right it’s not so much that these times were better it’s that they were better for us right because we were kids we didn’t have bills and life and we didn’t know nothing about politics or oppression or any of that stuff right it was just like oh hey i go to school and i do this crappy homework and that’s all my life yeah let’s go watch some cartoons and eat cereal let’s play video games let’s go outside and play ball like that’s what felt good uh so it says it’s snuggling down into the abyss of better days and easy living which found i found it interesting because like there’s a pamphlet in narcotics anonymous literature that says it’s not so much that we want to return to drug use we want to return to a time of ease and comfort and i have always bought into that line because it’s really for me i see that in my life in recovery like i don’t have to go use i just want this life where i don’t have any responsibilities right i want to not have to get out of my recliner on any given day to go do anything for anyone and just do what the hell i want to do whether that’s play video games all day whether let’s go take a hike so it’s this return to a time of like someone making all my dinners and lunches and not having to prepare meals and not having to pay bills and not having to work and i think that’s a lot of what nostalgia is like if we think about nostalgia most people are thinking about times when they didn’t have to do anything whether that’s kid times or substance use times yeah i think about like nostalgia like there’s like clubs that like have nostalgia for um like old toys like star wars action figures but then what’s that like civil war reenactment isn’t that like nostalgia for a time they didn’t even live in you know like do they think that was better is it or do they just enjoy the idea of what’s nostalgia what’s obsession do you think that’s obsession i just thought that was people who were like oh man this was really interesting to experience living in another time they spend a lot of time but why do it for a war why not just like practice living in medieval times or something just go cook over a fire yeah huh i mean they commit a lot of time like outfits and practices how do you choose which side you’re going to be on i wonder is that like uh-huh does that have to do with how you feel i think it’d be fun to be a bad guy you know really yeah because i’m a you know you want to do something you’re not normally doing huh you know like here’s my chance to be a bad guy um sure well which war are we talking about i thought we’re talking about civil war civil war yeah wasn’t there like the bad guys that you know wanted to keep slavery happening ah actually i don’t want to be that that’s what i was wondering no i think i want to be a bad guy like like gas stone and beating the beast like he was bad you know like that bad guy but i don’t i mean i don’t i it’s interesting are there bad people in wars yeah i don’t know but that doesn’t really fit in with nostalgia too much i think that’s our nostalgia version is that one side was good and one side was bad i don’t think it’s that simple i think there was people that just were told we’re gonna change your whole way of life and tell you how to live and they were like oh no you can’t tell me how to live i’m going to change my lifestyle i’m not saying that slavery was right or that i’m you know proponent of the south in the civil war but just i don’t think it was just as simple as like oh you’re a racist so you’re bad there’s more there are more factors yeah there’s a lot more to it than that um you remember fleeting feelings emotions and moments of glee but do you do not remember the seconds of sadness and hurt before it and you don’t remember the pain and anguish of the hours after you only remember what your biased mind has chosen to recall and that’s what i think is interesting about nostalgia it’ll take these few select moments of joy and it will make them stretch into feeling like the entire timeline even though like this explains like there was pain and sadness then and there was pain and sadness right afterwards like why is it so weird that our brains don’t remember that that’s they do but i guess it’s just selective recall you know yeah it’s just like i can’t describe it any better than the words people have already said this sanitized impression right this euphoric recall this this idea that like everything was good i was still just as frustrated not getting the toy i wanted on christmas or or you know with my parents not getting along in those moments but i don’t remember that as easily as i do oh well we went on this vacation not you know the couple of days on that vacation where they were arguing and things seemed weird and i felt like i had to choose a side to get along or like i don’t remember all that i just remember we were in ocean city that’s great they say an aaa uh play the tape through do they say that and and they so you can have selective recall but play the tape through what comes after you know you take that drink they say play the tape all the way to the end is what they say but i feel like that’s even selling it short because it’s throughout the whole tape that that stuff existed and yeah our brains our bodies or whatever just can’t bring it up well no doubt like if i when you know the first drink would probably be awesome it’s the next eight that would be [ _ ] awful so uh going back to her and i die right going back to hershey says however as it turns out nostalgia isn’t about remembering memories at all nostalgia does not relate to a specific memory but rather an emotional state we put an emotional state within an era or a specific frame and choose to idealize that specific time we deduce that because we remember the feeling of happiness at the park our childhood must have been better than right now and so that’s you know going back to it’s just these pieces of memory uh the desire to escape into the imagined idealized world of a prior era even one you weren’t alive for represents a different and independent type of nostalgia called historical nostalgia so maybe that is what those civil war people do historical nostalgia is often concurrent with a deep dissatisfaction with the present and a preference for the way things were long ago unlike personal nostalgia someone who experiences historical nostalgia might have a more cynical perspective of the world one colored by pain trauma regret or adverse childhood experiences so yeah you people are like we need to go back to the good old days and like do we really because you need to look back at the good old days what was the good old days like was this yeah the 1950s before like people who were who had disabilities even had rights like is this the 1910s when all children worked in like coal mines and factories yeah what part of these good old days are you missing you know sanitized version of what it used to be like and that’s but you know what knowing that i think that helps me i don’t want to say have more tolerance but have more understanding of people who have different views than me it’s not just that they want this one thing or another thing it’s that they’re really believing that some past time was better and not looking at the actual reality of what that past time truly was yeah and when that little the last tidbit you were there they have an adverse childhood experience i’m like oh now i feel bad for you you know like i’m saying i’m thinking about a certain modern day population that it’s always looking back you know like things are better like better for who you like just you white male yeah sure you know i’m sure it was great for you you know but was it even better for them is really the question i get what you’re saying yeah and sure i’m sure there’s some of that but i’m like i don’t think we’re seeing the big picture of like we have progressed and things have changed for the better maybe not in all areas maybe you don’t agree with the way we’ve changed in all directions right but there’s been a whole lot of changes since whatever time in the past you’re thinking was better that you would not want to live in that time if we sent you like if we really could send you back to that time because you’re like yeah [ _ ] you just 20 20s yeah you would probably be severely disappointed in what you saw yeah your experience would not be what you think it was exactly so here’s a piece nonetheless from a treatment perspective reports suggest that personal nostalgia can be used therapeutically to help individuals move beyond trauma in the aftermath of violence exile or loss at the same time someone who has endured trauma without proper treatment could become sub subsumed by a malignant form of nostalgia that leads to a perpetual learning yearning to return to the past that’s what i think i used to have is this idea that i was constantly like oh i gotta find a way to get back or recreate this younger jason experience because that was good and now is not so it’s interesting i guess that’s saying that like used properly with healing nostalgia can be good okay but when you just aren’t healing and haven’t grown or don’t even know that there’s wounds and you’re just you know focused on this past experience of being good and how now isn’t that’s not going to help you yeah i was foolishly thinking like oh you know you could just it’s it’s good you know i was thinking like i think i said earlier like using nostalgia as a tool but if you’re stuck there so certain people need more you can’t just it’s like it’s own separate illness like it’s a is that the right way to say it yeah yeah so doctor story cheba says engaging in nostalgia is an emotional regulation strategy studies have found that we reach for it when we are experiencing negative affect and especially loneliness social exclusion and feelings of meaninglessness but she goes on to say that she thinks emotional regulation strategies are like spices that we use to flavor our food and if you use the right amount at the right time you get a perfectly balanced dish but if you have too much salt vinegar or habanero however the meal becomes inedible and sometimes even harmful so reflecting on the past with the goal of fortifying social bonds increasing positive self-regard and bolstering one’s sense of meaning in life can undoubtedly offer significant benefits for well-being however when taken to an extreme nostalgia can also on the other hand lead to unhelpful behaviors and negative consequences and on a different hand prevent us from utilizing more helpful coping strategies wow that’s a great example and now i’m hungry

and she finishes up that the difference between helpful and harmful nostalgia is the difference between incorporating the positive emotions of reminiscing into the present versus renouncing the present for the sake of for the sake of reinstating and perpetually reliving some moment in the past and i think that’s maybe where we were talking about the differences right like i tend to think of the present as untolerable intolerable and i just wanna nope i’m not gonna do it we’re never gonna do the present anymore we’re only gonna be in this past euphoric place or we’re going to somehow try to figure out a way to recreate it but really well for me it wasn’t recreating it was just this is miserable i wish i could be there and i can’t it’s very easy or worse yeah but yeah so if you can you know not over salt your nostalgia you’re you’re okay that’s funny though because if i if i make something at home food wise even if it’s bad i still eat it so even if it’s too salty or whatever i’ll still eat it is that nostalgia for a time when someone was a martyr in your life ah maybe i’ll think about that one

i still think i still think nostalgia is a good thing but i i guess yeah it’s like any tool if it’s if it’s not wielded wisely it could harm so well i mean now that we’re 40 minutes in maybe we should talk about how this works with substance abuse yeah i think we talked about substance abuse a little bit yeah well we can we can rehash it some so people may be more likely to reminisce about the past when they’re overwhelmed by the present or scared of the future which sounds a lot like narcotics anonymous idea of the triangle of self-obsession right we we’re uh scared resentment anger and fear we resent the past we’re scared of the future so we’re angry in the present um so focusing on the present through practicing mindfulness may help people remember what they have going on in their lives now that is a positive setting goals can also help people think more about what they want to be in the future coping with nostalgia may also involve making new memories in old places or with old trusted friends that don’t involve drug or alcohol use another thing that may help is adopting an adventurous attitude trying something new every day can help a person enjoy the present that’s interesting about the creating new memories in old places i remember that was a thing like we always talk about avoiding old people places and things and i got this job in recovery early on that i had to drive past a place that i used to cop on the way home every day and like for a long time i would make phone calls when i drove past it some days it didn’t bother me some days it was like oh man i feel like i want to go over there and buy something so let me call my mom let me call my buddy let me just talk about anything else besides you know here to distract myself but over time that created a new like memory link in my brain so now when i drive through that area yeah i still think sometimes i used to cop over there but also think oh hey this is the way i used to drive to work when i worked at that job i had early in recovery so it’s like a new nostalgia for that area i i think about that with my hometown too so when i go through my hometown like sometimes i’m like oh oh memories and then also not i’ll be like irritable you know like and if i’m being mindful and i think that’s the key to this this whole thing is that you know nostalgia mindful nostalgia is the solution but yeah if i’m going through you know my old hometown and um you know i just have to remember like all right well that was old me you know like i’m not a bad person i am not you know like that is not how i behave today here’s the curve i slept on when i fell over drunk yeah i puked there i puked there i picked there okay there’s that back parking lot that i had sex in so that’s interesting that you say mindful nostalgia because to me that’s like an oxymoron oh because you’re not you’re either getting carried away or not uh right because mindfulness is about being here which means i wouldn’t need to be there you could frame it with mindfulness and be like all right for the next five minutes i’m going on this journey can you do that can you i do that yeah i think so somebody needs to instruct me i like you know i just set aside time to daydream you know let my let my mind give my mind a break that doesn’t sound mindful i’m not saying it’s bad well it’s structured structured okay structured nostalgia yes that’s what we need

uh people working towards successful recovery from addiction can also remind themselves of the more negative consequences of substance use this sounds like playing the tape all the way through to the end making a list of physical health symptoms mental side effects or embarrassing behavior may help someone remember that time spent drinking or using drugs wasn’t as good as they remember so this is about almost tamping down nostalgia right like let’s not just think of that good stuff let’s actually remember the whole story like oh remember that time you pulled your boobs out in the bar because you were drunk and that was embarrassing or that’s not my story

maybe it was mine maybe i pulled my boobs out in the bar um but yeah this idea of like actually getting a more realistic version of the memory instead of just this sanitized feeling version uh but doesn’t that open the shame gates is that is that where you’re going with that like i don’t know does it i i think it’s more of just remembering like like i guess i’m picturing somebody early on or not early on thinking about man life was easier when i was doing that it felt good it was relieving blah blah blah and they’re more picturing the feelings of that one good day and not the other 364 shitty days they had that year and it’s more about just reminding themselves well you know there was also that day that i got burnt at like three in the morning when i sold a keyboard for 20 bucks and it was my last 20 bucks and then i was just miserable all night and i ate a mustard sandwich and that’s totally not specific to my story at all um if you’re finding yourself nostalgic for times when you drank or use drugs seek out recovery support groups or learn about options in your area that can help you stay in recovery so yeah i mean that’s one of the important things i think if you’re feeling like returning to this old time of using would be a good idea the first thing you should probably do is reach out right like talk to it talk about it talk to someone about it i can’t talk that booster shot is a doozy yeah i might have to change my clean date uh no but yeah talk to somebody about it right because i think i don’t know anybody that can’t relate to this idea that like we have these thoughts or feelings from time to time this idea that things felt good and and let me tell you it makes total sense it makes sense that if your life has been filled with these experiences that lead to an overwhelming feeling of like negative self-regard and self-hatred and all these things of course you’re gonna like glorify and seek out this time when you didn’t have to feel that which is what substances do they they they’re not a good coping skill in the sense that they provide great outcomes but they’re an incredible coping skill in the sense that they work like they relieve pain that’s what they’re for they take you out of the painful miserable experience that you might have without seeking some healing and growth and they transport you to a time that feels better so yeah it makes sense that you feel that way and that’s okay but let’s remember some of the reality of this nostalgia you’re feeling right let’s remember it wasn’t all actually rainbows and butterflies and then let’s start a process of working towards something that feels better without that like there’s other coping skills that can work too it’s going to take time it’s going to be a painful process but there is relief on the other end of this as well we just got to hang on right and i’ll be here with you while we hang on like yeah reaching out yes staying in the present yeah recovery is a wee process nobody does it alone doesn’t happen that way i didn’t heal alone that’s for sure if you think about giving your addiction another chance because it wasn’t that bad you’re not thinking clearly you’re not thinking about the facts i’ll be honest i don’t have a lot of nostalgia for drinking um i have like nostalgia for like life uh situations but for the actual drinking at least right now things change you know at least right now my stage i don’t think the thought of drinking scares me so do you still have nostalgia for using um i i it that all depends i i don’t think so like i i don’t i’m definitely not sitting around like oh my god if i just smoke crack all friday night this up coming friday life will be great like [ _ ] no that was not a good experience like the the relief feeling was nice but i think i’ve had enough growth and healing that like i can feel that relief or something similar pretty frequently like i’m not too disregulated on a regular basis i don’t think um so i don’t long for that at all like when i picture that i’m like oh my god i used to like be paranoid and sit in my car with a can trying to smoke this [ _ ] on some ashes and smoking a billion cigarettes to have enough ashes to smoke it with and worried the cops are coming and seeing the [ _ ] shadow people like peeking out windows like this no that wasn’t that’s not a good time even though at the time and and when i first got in recovery i was like oh my god that felt so good like ah no that doesn’t sound good at all now it sounds crazy that does sound crazy yeah right yeah right but i i think with a healed body and mind i can see that but i couldn’t early on right to tell somebody else they’re like oh my god what the hell is wrong with you um i don’t think of like sitting around in a chair nodding out and scratching my face and stuff like that that doesn’t sound pleasurable to me at all either honestly yeah i don’t think any of it sounds pleasurable even even thinking like i talk about on here like i i think maybe these hallucinogens or psychedelics could be useful for you know healing and growth i don’t actually like sit here and long for the feeling of being on them like that scares the [ _ ] out of me i’m like ew i don’t want to be high can’t you just give it to me while i sleep or something i can wake up feeling healed i don’t want the experience that’s weird be out of my being in my mind it’s kind of nice

so no i don’t have nostalgia for that i think like i said i really believe at least from my experience what it feels like is when life was miserable intolerable and i was very disregulated and i didn’t know the word then but felt unsafe then yeah i wanted all these pastimes to make me feel better that was my experience with nostalgia i don’t have a lot of nostalgia now for like anything really i don’t think of any past time as being better i’m like they were cool i had some nice memories but there’s also some not so nice memories like they’re all there do you still recall things from any other point in time in your life nostalgically um yeah i guess certainly you know like certain childhood stuff me and my brother we had we were happy kids until like we weren’t huh how were you happy kids though you know we were just you know we we played we were imaginative you know like we lived in long island like we were on the water like i mentioned we just like run around the woods you know we watched tv shows oh we we started sunday school like you know we had each other we had friends in the neighborhood you know life was good there was like nostalgia for times in like college i had a good group of friends so even though i was drinking there was a period of time in college where i wasn’t drinking to excess because i had these great friends and it’s for me at least it was about connection and i had this great group of friends in college and i i wasn’t like drinking my face off because i don’t know i had i just had connection i had but then actually it’s funny if we had a party like a halloween party or something oh i’d get wasted like real quick you know and um but it still didn’t occur to me that i was alcoholic but so yeah i have nostalgia for like you know some of that wistful kid stuff and then old friends and relationships and like um like you know one of my old boyfriends who passed away this year in part largely due to alcohol like yeah i still have like nostalgia for the times we had like wow we were close man you know um but play the tape through we were also really drunk and you know kind of irresponsible and not so great to each other but you know like there were these like tender moments like oh that was nice you know so i have like passing nostalgia for that and i will i’ll indulge in that like oh i miss him all right back to the present you know like you know so i have those nostalgia moments that’s that structured nostalgia like i will let myself get carried away with a song or a memory and then but then i try to bring myself back all right i’m a mom i got two kids i live in maryland um i’ll be where my feet are you know yeah my my nostalgia like if i think about it i was like oh man we used to play ball when i was in elementary school we would go out in the backyard and like hit a tennis ball with a baseball bat and go down to the park and we meet up with some boys and play football but like when i really examined that they weren’t really good friendships and those kids weren’t really all that great to me and it’s like i don’t know did was your childhood really that good or do you just not remember the parts of it that maybe weren’t yeah our neighborhood had bullies you know and i was kind of i mean like sure like i was kind of a nerdy kid you know like um i had good enough friends though you know i think i think i didn’t average childhood and then uh and then you know my parents they didn’t get divorced until high school but their relationship deteriorated and that’s when like everything kind of deteriorated so for the childhood but those early days were nice you know it was simple and you know what you know we didn’t i didn’t have much responsibility like we did chores on saturday you know like that was my responsibility you know we didn’t have pets or bills or you know whatever was just going to be happy we we’re healthy we’re healthy you know not like no no medical emergencies so i don’t know i i grew up a lot with the kind of only child experience not technically an only child but had that experience quite a bit where i was the only kid around in the house um yeah i don’t know felt kind of lonely a lot of times like i basically just spent a lot of time playing with me and that wasn’t always the best thing to you know when they say addict alone is in bad company like i think i already had some of those like feelings of displeasure or dis ease with life so i was like ah i gotta sit here with me all day god i don’t know something i don’t i have no science behind this but i think those kids that were in their head a lot as a kid exercise their brains in ways that are useful as an adult i mean maybe maybe i just overthink and make a podcast about overthinking so some of the things you can do besides calling people which i think connection in the present is probably one of the best things you can do if you’re if you’re feeling that nostalgia if there’s some kind of whether it’s during the holidays or any point in time when you’re thinking like life was better at some other place calling people is a great idea practice mindfulness right we talk about meditation meditation for mindfulness it doesn’t even have to be a a sitting meditation it can be a walking mindfulness practice it can be a washing dishes mindfulness practice like something to get you in the moment here and kind of telling yourself a little bit like this is a new life and you get to create new memories that also feel good right like these reminders that that wasn’t the only positive and probably wasn’t even as positive as we’re making it out to be um and then and and this kind of ties into what you were saying about like going back to pre-trauma to think about it asking yourself what can i do now that i couldn’t do while i was actively using right or before recovery so you know what were those those lost streams that i used to have what was it about being a kid that i really liked about me right did i like building did i like thinking did i like writing that i like drawing like maybe i can get back into that and and reconnect with that piece of me um or or maybe you just always had a career direction or you played a musical instrument like there’s things you can do now and so maybe that’s what we need to try to recall while we’re in this nostalgia of life sucks today well why does it suck today maybe i need to go to counseling and find out why it sucks today and start to explore some other things i think i’m gonna have nostalgia for this show 20 years from now i’ll look back and be like remember when me and jason and billy used to record that show oh as long as the internet doesn’t crash i guess it’ll still be available i don’t know oh and i can go back there mindfully right mindfully go back all right so uh if you’re having some of these sanitized uh beautiful versions of what life used to feel like when you were getting high this is the things you can do so try to do them and not be not be stuck feeling that life is miserable today because if it is miserable today and if that’s what you’re trying to escape to go back to like maybe we need to do something about that and i don’t know if that’s step work i don’t know if that’s some other form of recovery i don’t know if that’s you know professional counseling but like seek something man because if life is miserable that’s not the experience it’s supposed to be right all right and it is we so do reach out yeah we we will have a good week see ya

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2 responses to “113: What is Nostalgia? – Misremembering the Past (Sort Of)”

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