I’ve just updated an old post about dealing with a negative past. While I was revisiting my past, I realised there’s another group of people who don’t necessarily have a negative past, but who are stuck there anyway, and might want an update as well. You probably know someone who hasn’t changed their hairstyle since forever, who still only likes music from the era when they were a teenager, and whose memories are focussed on a particular period of their past. Psychologists call this the Reminiscence Bump. Memories of our formative years, between 15 and 25 are more vivid and accessible than those from any other period in our lives, and they persist over a long time.
“did you know that nostalgia means “homesick” and that the original sufferers were Swiss mercenaries in the 17th century?”
Philip Zimbardo’s Time Perspective model has two different aspects of the past – Positive and Negative. If you have either or both of these Time Perspectives, you like to hang out in the past a lot more than other people. If you’re Past Negative, you’re regretting past mistakes. If you’re Past Positive, you’re nostalgic about the good old days. By the way, did you know that nostalgia means “homesick” and that the original sufferers were Swiss mercenaries in the 17th century? Doctors supposed that they were prone to the blues because the sound of cowbells had damaged their brains and eardrums during their youth.
“That didn’t work last time we tried it”
Nothing much wrong with being nostalgic, is there? It’s a harmless past time. In fact, having a positive past is a good predictor of well-being generally – you have deep roots, close family ties and a strong sense of how tradition binds us together. That’s all good, and makes you very resilient, but the flip side is less rosy. Resistance to change is the most obvious negative – you will hear your colleague saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “that didn’t work last time we tried it”. They may well be right, just don’t expect them to be the driving force behind any innovation in the team. They like to stay in the same place.
It’s only a personal theory, but I suspect that past positive people also tend to collect more stuff around them as they go through life. Memorabilia. Souvenirs. Photographs. 10 yard swimming certificates. That kind of thing. And they would tend to stay in the same place – the place where they’d set down roots – so they wouldn’t get the chance to clear out the loft every time they moved house.
Full disclosure: on average I think I’ve moved house every four years, so I like to think I don’t carry much stuff around with me. But I’ve just looked over at my vinyl record collection – most of which is clearly at least thirty years old, that I hardly ever listen to. And my books, which also come with me, wherever I go.
Guilty of a positive past, m’lud.