Psychiatry Now Says 'Nostalgia' Is Healthy After All

When Humphrey Bogart looks into Elsa’s eyes in ‘Casablanca’ he speaks for every nostalgic in the world: “We’ll always have Paris.”

For generations the experts gave this emotion its name because of the ‘nostos’ [longing in Greek] and the followup ‘algos’ [pain]. However, In the current edition of the New York Times we find new evidence for a new theory: “Nostalgia makes me feel that my life had roots and continuity, it makes you feel good about yourself and your relationships….”

Like I said — I knew that. Hard, though, living in such a Carpe Diem culture as America where past glories like the Pantheon are less likely to be preserved than built over with gleaming new parking lots.

Researchers in Europe have been pursuing this more upbeat line of thought as they identify experiences like music as a major nostalgia-trigger. Well, I knew that too; and so did you. A certain melody, a specific lyric, and quite suddenly and splendidly the past materializes for you. Not always but usually with a warm feel-good feeling which some of these researchers are trying to package. Ways for self-triggering the feel-good feelings.

Well gee, we all knew that too.

Researcher Clay Routledge put it this way: “Nostalgia serves a crucial existential function. It brings to mind cherished experiences that assure us we are valued people who have meaningful lives….and are better at coping with death.” If true, and how could it not be, then nostalgizing isn’t such a foolish thing after all. Now when people laugh and say: “You live in the past and just visit the present….” I laugh and say: “Would you like me to show you how….?”

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