Perhaps it’s the wine, or perhaps it’s the great meal, but when it’s time to give out the gifts under the Christmas tree, it’s so easy to remember similar times in the past, and to remember how the gifts of the past years have also given people happiness. And so it is with nostalgia – it is the gift we give to ourselves, so we may remember all the good times across the years. Even for a moment, this year’s Christmas will become Every Christmas, a time when all times leave you with a smile on your face, and an overall pleasant feeling of knowing it has all happened before – and will happen again.


Whenever the end of the year rolls by, the combined holidays, the cold weather, and the feeling of having to look back at what you’ve done in the past year has often made a person more sentimental, and, as they say, the past look like it’s seen through a pleasant haze.

We know that in many cases, our own minds are just glossing over some of the unhealthy parts of our own history, but the question is: Is nostalgia overrated, or is it an important gift that our own mind gives to ourselves?

The Past, revisited

But what is nostalgia, really? And why do we indulge in it, however reluctantly?

For some nostalgia is an emphasis on remembering the more pleasant memories. These moments are usually triggered by familiar sights, smells, and even sounds. Some people say that it is the opposite of trauma, in that rather than creating a feeling of fear of blocking of the memory, nostalgia strengthens pleasant memories even more, making them a source of strength or inspiration when a person is encountering personal difficulties. However, it’s important to remember that like many things, nostalgia can have a dark side to it, and one that most people do not think about.

The rose-tinted glasses

Traumatic memories, although they are negative experiences, also have positive uses – for one, if the memory is repressed, it allows the person to operate at some level of efficiency even while the mind is still trying to sort out what happened. For another, unpleasant memories can often drive people to either act on them to make sure that they never experience similar situations again.

But with nostalgia, our rose-tinted glasses can also be an issue. Nostalgia can keep us paralyzed when we have too much of it. In large doses, it’s like being lost in your own memories, or simply being caught in a feedback loop of trying to find ways to make the pleasurable moments in the past come back. In some cases, this can be a negative reinforcement, particularly if the memory being reinforced can be harmful to others, or causes a person to act in ways that are detrimental to his or her own development.

In some cases, it even makes people stubborn about certain ideas –and this can make people ignore their own instincts about certain situations. A person who is stubborn for nostalgic reasons can become hopelessly unable to accept logical input, even from friends.


Finally, nostalgia, like trauma, can be very selective, and can even work in conjunction with trauma, serving as a more pleasant way to remember only what you need. After all, you don’t remember the bad times with pleasure, unless there was a pivotal event that you need to remember to keep your personality intact. Nostalgia, then, is a way of erasing “useless” memories by focusing on those that give pleasure, or a sense of satisfaction.


Hope, or Hopeless

Perhaps one of the true powers of nostalgia is that it can trigger the feeling of hope. For some of us, this past year has been less than ideal. But when you look back to remember the good things that happened in the past year, chances are, you’re also thinking of events from other years that have definitely brought you much joy. And because of these pleasant memories, many people are driven to work harder.


Once you have that spark of hope that things will get better, you can proceed to set things right in your own family or circle of friends. And nostalgia of that magnitude, it rarely comes out unless a person is feeling hopeless.

We instinctively know that when tied to or triggered by a gift, nostalgia is very powerful. It can be as simple as an inexpensive gift – a trinket – whose symbolism will trigger memories. It can also be as elaborate as a gift based on good memories in the past, like an old toy, or perhaps even something as simple as a repaired watch.


The Holidays, why we celebrate

Christmas – or its equivalent celebration at this time of the year, seems tailor-made for the feeling of nostalgia. The ritualization of remembering a core belief can, in itself, trigger waves of nostalgia.

For some people, this can lead to what some have called the “Christmas Blues,” since while the memories – the nostalgia – for times past can be wonderful, it can also emphasize the current issues of the person, such as being alone on another country, thinking about the noche buena dinner that he or she won’t experience.

For others, it is also a great time for just sitting back, and having fun conversations with friends and family, on all the good things that have happened in the past year, as well as retelling each other stories of all the times when something good or funny happened.

And let’s be honest, many reconciliations between friends and family members would never have worked if people weren’t nostalgic for the “good old days.”

That is nostalgia in a nutshell, perhaps – to remember fondly even what really wasn’t so much fun when it was happening, perhaps to make us realize that even if the actual experience was unpleasant, that it was something important for us.
And finally, as we remember all the good times, we close the door one last time for this year, and at the same time open a new one, for the coming year. And we hope, as we come to the end next year, that we will have added another layer of good memories that we can be nostalgic about.

A toast, and perhaps another, as we prepare to live another year. And there it is, why nostalgia is so important: even if it unjustly removes the bad from our memories, it emphasizes all the good things we have experienced.


Originally posted by Richard Ramos at  Nostalgia — the best gift and, sometimes, the worst

Photo: “I remember” by , c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

““Hope never abandons you; you abandon it” George Weinberg

hopeThe new year always promises hope for all of us. Hoping for something is personal to us. Aside from being the project editor for (a Citizen advocates’ site), I hope for many things on a personal level to keep me on track for 2013.

1. I hope to continue my healthy lifestyle and keep my weight to my ideal limit (not beyond 125 pounds). A relaxed and productive mind starts with a healthy body so being fit and right is my number 1 priority. I need to take care of myself first and foremost, and the rest follows.

2. I hope for clarity.

When I am caught in the midst of an experience, it is easy to forget that there is a Plan. Sometimes all I can see is today. I hope for a perspective whenever I undergo confusing, difficult learning times.

3. I hope for balance.

Sometimes I can get too obsessed with work because I love it so much. I need to seek balance. Balance emotions with reason. Balance giving with receiving. Alternate work with play, business with personal activities. Juggle responsibilities to others with responsibilities to ourselves.


4. I hope for courage.

I need lots of courage for the upcoming May 2013 elections. It can get tiring to monitor the candidates and the #epalwatch. Whenever I get compliments from my work, I often thank the person and say that I am a work in progress. I know as a project head, I need to know the way and show the way. I am constantly learning by researching and being open to new ideas as well as old and tired ideas. My courage comes from my passion to make a difference in this world and I call upon God to help me go through the day. I am aware that courage won’t be a loud roar at every step of the way. With each step I take, I know I will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.

I know that sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day telling me, “I will try again tomorrow.”

5. I hope for change.

I am doing my part as a citizen of the Philippines with the new media initiative for Elections 2013. When I talk of change, it means moving in the right direction. Change starts in us. I hope that more voters select their candidates based on informed choices and not on popularity alone. I hope they take it upon themselves to study Five ways to make a difference in the 2013 Elections.

Spread the word that voting criteria should consider a candidate’s coherent platform, clear vision, character, competency

I know I can’t control actions of people, places and things so I can only hope for the best.

That change starts in me. I will continue to be empowered and to learn more about the intricacies of the Philippine Electoral system.

Let’s all hope for the best in 2013. Sometimes things do not look too optimistic and we often feel helpless.

When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.

As Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.