We all have memories of the good ol' days that were simpler and less complicated than the present we live in. Life just seems better, simpler, and more fun. We tend to look back at our memories as a much rosier picture than it actually is. We forget how challenging the times were and we give ourselves less credit for what we've endured in the past. At the same time, we tend to judge the current situation we are in as more challenging than anything else we've faced before.
Because of this bias of the past, we tend to escape into it, constantly think about it, and also dismiss the present as incomparable to those experiences. This attitude makes us bitter; we miss the reality we are living in now and forget to enjoy the present moment. We tend to favor the past for many reasons. Here are some reasons why we find nostalgia more seductive than the present.
We can connect the dots.
When we look back to our experiences, we can see our life unfolding. We are able to connect the dots in our lives that have led us here today. We see how those experiences in the past have shaped us and helped us grow. We almost have that 20-20 vision of our past experiences, which makes them less painful than what we are going through right now. Any painful moment we are experiencing right now seems more impossible and more complicated than in the past. Simply because you edited several pieces of that out of your memory. This video from the School of Life illustrates the complexity of the situation perfectly.
Our past has been with us for a long time.
We've spent time with our memories, directing them and looking at them from a million different angles. Our past has been a part of our lives for years now and like it or not, we often develop some kind of attachment to it. If you are in the habit of dwelling in it for hours at end, the attachment is even stronger.
Our past has defined us.
Our past literally made us who we are today. If you've been through a traumatic life event in the past, it has literally affected your every life decision, good or bad. In many ways, this experience has helped you become who you are today. And sometimes we tend to romanticize that idea. While this is a really good thing, we often tend to carry that past as a badge of honor or a reason for our failure. When we go too far with identifying with our past, it becomes our crutch and we don't know who we are without it.
Our past has lead to growth.
Let's face it. Certain events of the past have led us to dig deeper. We've had to carry on when we thought we absolutely couldn't. In fact, that growth has served us well and helped us through countless experiences after that. But many times, to truly achieve freedom from our past and to live in the present, we have to learn to let it go. We must be thankful for what we were capable of but also, conscious that we can be much more. We need to accept that we are not done growing and more beautiful life lessons are on their way. We have to learn to live in the now so we can continue to grow in our lives.
We've edited out the pain of the past.
As mentioned in the above video by The School of Life, we've edited out the boring, painful, and downright gruesome parts of our experiences. You see, we are all born with survival instincts. And it works in our favor to forget the pain we went through years ago. For us to be able to function, we have to numb the pain of past experiences. It is in our best interest to hold on to the good memories. This is very important, but we must also acknowledge the challenges we've faced. We must weigh both, the good and the bad together and accept that we cannot experience one without the other.
While there are several reasons why the past seems seductive, there are also many reasons why we escape the present moment and often, spend our time in the past:
The present is constantly with us.
If you are going through a tough time, then it's more likely that you will see your past as perfect. If your life is monotonous with very little room to deviate from your routine then it's likely that you spend a lot of time in the past and look at it as the golden years. This is because the present is with you right now. The pain, boredom, and the gravity of the present is always a part of your subconscious. Past, on the other hand, is this perfectly edited movie that plays in a loop for years showing only the good stuff. So since you are still experiencing the pain of the present constantly, you are likely to see your present as less romantic than your past.