Nostalgia – The Bitter-Sweet Emotion

Human brain is so complex that no one can foresee where and how far human it traverses and how diverse conclusions it makes. Nostalgia is a subject which has fallen prey to diverse conclusions. As in the case of any other phenomena, nostalgia too has undergone many evaluations and judgments.

Right from common man to intellectuals, the meanings and explanations received by the word nostalgia are so many. The general opinion of the folks is that Nostalgia is a type of longing for pleasure connected with places, persons, experiences and events of the Past. But in specific terms the connotations of the word are divergent: For some, intense homesickness is nostalgia, for yet another lot, obsolete things are nostalgic monuments. For a few others romantic experiences are real nostalgia but in the field of Medicare zone, nostalgia is a melancholic condition.

In whichever way it passes by, nostalgia is an emotional  feeling  connected with personal experiences of the past. Those experiences may be of places, scenes or social and cultural situations.

In essence, nostalgia refers to a general interest of the past; nostalgia dwells in the past in terms of personalities, places and or events. In common parlance of common man, nostalgia is reminiscences of the “good old days”.

Nostalgia can rightly be classified as an precious human possession even if it would be unreasonable and or unscientific to claim that animals and birds are outside the net of nostalgic experiences relating to the past. Of course , there is no denying the fact that advanced animals like elephants, monkeys and dogs do undergo dreamlike states where flashes of imagery of the food they ate, mating they enjoyed, attacks they faced et al might be taking place as nostalgic experiences. But such experiences of the past for animals and birds cannot be as deep, continuous, frequent and frustrating as those human beings undergo. There is therefore, nothing wrong in the premise that nostalgia is  an experience of human thoughts and actions which constitute crucial existential potential of the homo-sapiens species.

Psychologists who reportedly conducted in-depth studies on nostalgia have come up with very many interesting revelations. They claim that the intensity of nostalgic experiences goes on changing in accordance with aging. Among the adult youth nostalgic experiences are at very high level compared to the middle-aged ones who face nostalgia significantly at very low rates. On the other hand, as people grow older and older they become prone to increased levels of persistent nostalgia, mainly nostalgia pertaining to the incidents and encounters they shared during their bygone past.

Recent scientific investigations have confirmed that nostalgia is not an unhealthy mental transgression but it has very many good postulations on personality development of the people. It impacts beneficially on human behaviour; it improves moods, self respect and it helps develop good social interactions. Nostalgia counter acts loneliness, reduces boredom and brings down anxiety. Nostalgia helps people to feel better about themselves with self-esteem and meaning in life. On many occasions, reminiscences of the past help people to become tolerant and to keep pleasant mood even in unfamiliar situations.

Memory is the basic structure based on which nostalgia springs up. Without the faculty of memory there cannot arise any nostalgia for anyone, anywhere. As for memory it is the product of sensory interactions to stimuli emanating from the environs, mostly the stimuli emanating from the external environs. The stimuli excite the sensory centers which then lead to arousal of Sensations, Perceptions and Conceptions and then on clearing the process of judgement the whole process end up in memory.

Traces of various sensory experiences of places, people, incidents, sceneries, occasions and socio-cultural encounters which individuals face or come across during their existential pursuits get posted in memory. As years pass by and changes in age and environs take place, during idle moments brain cells engage in tracing back the past experiences of various encounters stored in memory. That process is what is called nostalgia. The process of trekking the past is carried out by the pull of cell to cell nerve-connections nick-named as conditioned reflexes which excite the sensory centres in the cortex of the brain providing nostalgic experiences of the past.

Human existence is not a story of success in every step forward in the journey but it is intermingled with full of hardships and miseries and also with isolated cases of happenings involving happiness and joy. Probably therefore, nostalgia is a mechanism developed as part of evolution to ensure adaptability to the changing environs and thereby to sustain meaning and excitement in life.

Nostalgia is a complex phenomenon and the phenomenon is very often fascinating as well. Nostalgia need not and does not always be pleasant recollection of the past. Nostalgia is a bitter-sweet emotion but the end result of which turns life worthy and meaningful irrespective of whether it involves sweet remembrances or pain-filled thoughts.