It happens quite often: you drive through a village, listen to an old playlist on your mobile phone and suddenly that plays a song that reminds you of an ex-lover. A complete memories of all your beautiful moment’s flashes before your eyes: that day at the beach, the moment when he first kissed you, that night when you slipped in at an exclusive party. But then that flurry of nostalgia suddenly stops when your brain reminds you that it all went wrong when you were cheated.
Yes, it seems rather logical that this detail may be the first thing you think back to when this person invades your mind, but no, we often see the past as more beautiful than it really is. We tend to ‘facet’ a closed chapter from our past; we blur imperfections and throw a nice filter over it. The beautiful moments stay sharp, the bad ones are removed in the background. But why do we do that?
According to a behavioral therapist and psychologist Jennifer Guttman, there are a few things that play a role when we romanticize the past. In the first place, it all has to do with the ‘glass half full’ mentality. “Optimists tend to always make a positive selection,” says Guttman. “That means that you often pay more attention to positive things.”
In addition, our brains are going to minimize memories, so that we can store as much as possible, says life coach Katie Sandler. “We forget details. It is in our nature that we first forget the negative aspects and then ignore the positive aspects.” Does an optimist get a new job? Then his brain will first process the positive things (nice new colleagues, the first pay slip), but the negative aspects such as the long hours or unfriendly boss will be included later. Later, when he thinks back about the job, the positive thoughts first come up.
Good old times
Another reason why we have the ‘good old days’ mentality? It simply makes it easier to see the world as a safe place. Having positive memories of bad moments in your life ensures that you can post things. We often want to believe that a certain person is just who he is, and we don’t want information that proves the opposite. When that happens, we make the choice to store the information that emphasizes our feelings.
But that mental favoritism can also be positive. For example, remembering the good sides of that broken relationship can remind you that your ex did indeed have good sides and that you were not completely crazy to give it another chance. In addition, it also helps you to let things go, because you feel that you can still trust yourself. “We realize that we can trust our gut feeling,” Guttman points out.
Learn from mistakes
Do you romanticize the past? Then experts point out that you must keep in mind that you still have to learn from difficult periods. “If we don’t remember our difficult moments, we will make the mistakes again and that often makes you unhappy,” says Sandler.