Nostalgia Hurts, But Why? The 4-Step Process

🔨 Breaking it down

To understand the process of why nostalgia hurts we need to first define the step-by-step breakdown of the whole process.

Mankind’s most complex problems were solved by breaking down things and understanding the small parts of huge systems.

📈 Steps

The Trigger

The memory is triggered by either a similar scenario from the past, seeing a picture of your past, listening to a sad song where the singer is mentioning his love. Absolutely anything that leads you to the past is a trigger.

Time Travel

Once that trigger hits, you are involuntarily thrown into that specific scenario, for the smallest unit of time you are back in the past. You see, our brains are designed to filter out and store only the most important things at a particular time.

When you’re walking on the road, your mind cannot store the position or observe every single person or car moving in all directions, so instead it focuses on the area where you are heading to and throws away all other information.

In a similar way, when you are reliving a moment, you are reliving your version of the moment, all the emotions you felt, all the dialogues that were said. You only end up remembering the part which gave you immense emotions (positive or negative) and tend to forget the rest. Which is why looking back at a moment, you perceive it to be more better or worse than what it really was and you immediately feel high on those emotions.

The Comeback

Eventually after a few milliseconds of reliving your manipulated past, you realize it’s gone and will never come back. You compare your life right now and the life you had back then, and that is exactly when you make a wish “I wish I could go back” and you know it’s not possible, that’s when it hurts.

The key to be able to enjoy memories from the past is to master your control over the switch from the Time Travel → The Comeback.

  • When the trigger hits [step 1]
  • You relive the past [step 2]
  • You come back to reality [step 3]

STOP right here,

before you develop the urge to go back, manually kick in the feeling of gratitude (eventually this will become a habit).

Tell yourself,

I’m grateful I had the chance to truly experience those moments and to be able to share them with my loved ones or people that were once close to me.

Gratitude in itself is a huge topic, but to be able to truly express gratitude you need to realize is,

Someone’s wildest dream is your reality.

There is someone out there perfectly healthy from the outside but recently diagnosed with a terminal illness. That person would do absolutely anything to be in your place right now.

Imagine being in that persons shoes, Imagine having only a few days left to spend with the people you love. Now go back to your case and you now realize that you were able to experience much more and now you can finally see how lucky you were to be able to have these memories.

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