Thursday, 6 October 2011

Nostalgia and plagiarising James

I liked James's most recent post, and thought, why not steal it? And besides that - I wanted to tie in those stolen goods with something I've been thinking about recently: how unbelievably biased nostalgia is, and how untrustworthy our memories of happiness are. Not that I'm critcising your graph James (it probably averages out on the long term), it's just that, at least in my life, there are moments I look back on with extreme fondness, which with a lot of thought on my part, I've realised weren't even that happy at the time. My graph would go like this, if I were to rip it straight from my subconscious:
But controlling for nostalgia, and asking outside sources for mood information etc.:
As you see here, things are a hell of a lot different, but make a hell of a lot more sense. For example, my particular mood disorder, (probably schizoaffective - but who knows - not my useless psychiatrist) becomes pretty apparent around late adolescence (the pattern at the start was simply because I was depressed at school, absurdly happy at home - I mean euphoric at home).  Also about those dips in late childhood: yes I'm being honest, at around 8 years old, I think, I started thinking about dying and how, at those moments, I would have been better off dead. The "zero-line = will-to-live" rule still stands.
The main problem I find with nostalgia is simply that sometimes this thought occurs to me - that I'm happy at every point in existence but the present one. What I mean simply is, even nostalgia of previous months (where I am horribly depressed) likes to glue itself to my perceptions, where no spatula can remove it. But my extensive keeping of journals does help me appreciate that my life is actually, well, a lot worse than I estimate it at usually. And the same should go for everyone's life, I think. Were you really *so* happy at that particular moment, or was that moment just so perfect, from an OBJECTIVE point of view, that your brain is equating the experience with SUBJECTIVE feelings of happiness, like fluttering little snapshots into worlds that never existed. I don't think anyone could really be "so happy" on say, their wedding day, unless they had shot up with heroin just moments before. Nostalgia, I think, is another important reason why people vastly overestimate their lives - and more importantly, most importantly in fact, their children's potential lives.


  1. Estnihil, I agree with you completely. Lately I've noticed that I've even gotten into thinking last week was happier for me even if it didn't seem so great at the time, but I think what's going on here (and with most other people's retrospection) is that the past is a safe place. You can recall yourself reading, going for a walk or whatever and know that nothing too terrible happened to you afterwards. Whereas in the present, we live in a state of dread and uncertainty. If I were to be totally honest, I reckon I've had but moments of happiness over the years, but no real sustained period of joy. Yet another reason to regret one's existence!

  2. I can relate as well to this graph. And I like the little jokes in it also (venlafaxine twice a day), made me smile a bit.

    Yeah, nostalgia is another of the tricks we are played upon by biology - so we have this urge to throw another dice, to do it again, and of course, bring another human being to the play, by reproducing.

    Right on.