November 10, 2013

Retrospection and Nostalgia


I've always been a strong believer in retrospection as a teacher. The sort of retrospection where you just look back and start smiling at the many times you've told yourself, "I should just get through this one day". Maybe an exam in a subject you dreaded or making some presentation of stuff you've never understood fully. But why would anyone want to revisit the moments that scared them the most? Two polar possibilities:
  1. For some reason, you've had to continue doing the same stuff -- like a sportsperson -- but this time you've have kept it at; finally comprehending what you had missed to earlier. Most of my life I've always been in this category: of getting those late epiphanies and have also had company in a couple of friends who faced similar experiences. Or, 
  2. You've landed yourself in yet another similar situation and get that sad, depressed feeling with a sense of deja vu` trying to recollect when you felt that worse. I guess we all have our own vulnerabilities and often find ourselves in such a situation.
I say polar because, in the former situation you end up feeling good about yourself -- looking at the maturity, the learning, on facing your demons, etc. While in the latter, you feel sadder, lose more confidence and just start crumbling and giving up.

There were infinite times when I just ran to a secluded place to think and re-think and gain something out of the exercise.


Another feeling that traverses a similar path in our mind is a longing for things gone by. A longing for the good times that were, a longing for school days, a longing for a loved one, and the list goes on.

  • And when is this triggered? Sights, sounds, and even smells! In fact, all the five senses.
  • How does nostalgia effect us?
    • Well, if there's not a huge change in your life -- you're living in the same city, with the same set of friends, with the same clothes -- then you'd feel happy and continue living it the same way. Not much to gain out of this. 
    • If there's a drastic change to how you've been living life, say for example, you've enrolled in the army leaving aside your profession. When you start living in the most horrifying conditions of war and realizing the fragility of life, etc. you feel happy and sad immersing yourself in nostalgia.
The differences are immediately obvious:
  1. Nostalgia is more common, more talked about, more shared, more experienced. Whereas retrospection is something more personal -- something you can discuss only with people who know you, or know what you do, well. Retrospection is not something you just sit back, re-watch the moments go by, but you start doing something about it and in the process you learn and become better. 
  2. Nostalgic feelings come once in a while, when you meet an old friend, visit your old school or anything with an 'old' prefix.Whereas retrospection could be about something dating a year back or a decision taken in the morning or even a second before.
  3. Finally, nostalgia leaves us with both a sense of happiness and sadness, but retrospection affects us at one of the extremes. You feel the happiness of those times and yet feel sad that you are not there in that place anymore. 
Combining the two 
Since they go so closely, how about benefiting by using the two together? In no particular order as such.

Retrospection ending up in nostalgia is an important trap to avoid. We should retrospect without (always) succumbing to nostalgia, because the consequence is that every time you want to figure out what went wrong you'd get stuck like a tape at some point. And there's no real learning from it, you just have some happy-sad feelings.

But Nostalgia with Retrospection is more powerful. Not only do you recollect how things were, and soak in the emotion of it but also come out of it and start re-building yourself. And that is what the superhero thought I had once come up with was about: 
If these things can take you back in time, they can take you ahead as well.

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