Dealing with the angst of regret after ending a relationship: curbing the mental habit of nostalgia

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“Nostalgia can’t accept that the current situation we are in has stemmed from the inescapable difficulties that occurred with the past. A nostalgic mindset has us believe we were happy in our past relationships and then, mysteriously, everything changed for the worst, perhaps due to our own error and ungratefulness, that caused us to forget how happy we were.”

The School of Life, 2020

Here’s a quick summary:

  • The beginning of the video talks about how nostalgia can have us missing the way things were and disconnecting those memories from the negative experiences we had during that time period. It used the example of societies often romanticizing and glorifying the past. Specifically, romanticizing the Middle Ages during the industrial revolution, despite its violent and dangerous undertones and poor quality of life experienced during that time period.
  • It reminded me of when older generations saying “back in my day….” and “when we were young…” to criticize current circumstances, norms, and generational transitions.

    Technology is an example that came to my mind immediately. While holding fond memories of the past, baby boomers picture playing outside in the grass and appreciating their autonomous childhoods, technology free. Nostalgia in this capacity turns a blind eye to why the generational changes occurred in the first place: the need for a wealth of faster and diverse information to help our society grow and flourish. Without technology, where would our society be? These truly ARE great memories for older populations. These memories don’t negate the need for positive growth and development at that time. Are they also remembering how difficult it was to acquire diverse and instant information? How learning required an extensive process of a library card, limited book selections, and extensive time and effort? Would we truly like to revert back to a time without computers as a society?

We can also fall into the nostalgia mindset in our past romantic relationships. It’s easy to miss the love, warmth, and laughs when we ignore and minimize the pain, intolerance, confusion, negativity, mismatch in personalities or poor timing that lead to the demise of that same exact romance.

Reminders

  • The inescapable difficulties of the past inspire the progress and growth of who we are today. This transition and evolution of our lives occurred this way because there was NEED for change, transition, evolution, and growth.
  • When we look back and judge ourselves negatively for our dissatisfaction, “I was so ungrateful” and “I shouldn’t have felt that way,” we may not be giving our earlier selves enough credit.
  • The truth about what a relationship was like is most accurate when we are in the midst of it, when we decided to leave.
  • Months later, our brain has the ability to emphasis the good times and gloss over the bad. This can also stem from the pain of loneliness and apprehension, rather than a genuine desire to return the relationship as it was.
  • Unpleasantness must have been present for you to end the relationship.
  • “We must trust ourselves about why we made the decision, when we had the maximum amount of information at hand.”
    The emotional incentives to forget the reasons why we left the relationship are bound to arise after the breakup. These emotional incentives can steer us away from the logical grounds that we made the decision on, putting us at risk to experience a painful reminder as to why it didn’t work out the first time.
  • Good things DID exist in the relationship. We need to acknowledge that. They just don’t erase the harmful, stressful, or toxic things that happened in the relationship, either.

The solution to our current unhappiness / unmet needs is not glorifying the past, but to create tangible solutions for how to have our needs met now.

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