The mutual understanding amongst people towards the feeling of homesickness stems from the longing for home and family while being absent from them. When placed in an uncomfortable setting with the wavering of uncertainty, people tend to look back to the ‘good ol’ days’ using nostalgia as a coping mechanism. Wanting to be reminded of the familiar, assuring ourselves that we are in a good and safe place.
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, momentary yet always fragile. It is as close to a time machine as one can get, a peek into what is lacking at the present moment, and a phone call and answering word of advice from the past. There is a sense of comfort that comes with knowing you have once felt contented and happy. To have experienced something worth looking back to. However, being homesick for a place that does not exist is surprisingly unheard of; albeit the concept being less absurd than it sounds.
Oftentimes, we yearn for fictitious experiences based off the plots of movies we have watched and narratives of books we have read. Formulating the ideal world with the drops of the familiar senses of touch, smell and taste, without realising that they are the perfect blueprint for understanding our innermost fantasies and desires. In comparison with the act of retelling a story, our memory like the telephone game is altered by the retelling of each story.
A memory is not simply an image produced by time traveling back to the original event– it can be an image that is somewhat distorted because of the prior times you remembered it. Your memory of an event can grow less precise, even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.Donna Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Memories are not static and the context (emotional state, environment and time of how one remembers the event of something) has the ability to integrate new information. Moving away from the time of the event, the act of nostalgia mimics that of idealism and reveals insight on one’s level of contentment.
Living in this fast-paced world, we are constantly chasing for satisfaction with increased expectations, ingrained with the mindset that happiness is achieved at the end of each success, but left with merely a fleeting sense of joy upon completion. The explanation behind this full cycle of chasing for happiness and utilising nostalgia is the psychological process of Hedonic adaptation, which is the tendency for humans to quickly adapt to major positive or negative life events or changes and return to their base level of happiness.
I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that – I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying, ‘write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep,’ and ‘cheer up’ and ‘happiness is our birthright’ and so on.Hugh Mackay
The pursuit for happiness is a tail chase and it is contentment and wholeness we ought to be striving for – part of that is the acceptance of sadness, disappointment, frustration and failure all of which makes us who we are.
As much as the positive elements of nostalgia triumphs, the idea of how desperate we are to snap out of a painful experience is absurd. The disregard of our downfall and believes in happiness being our birthright moves us further away from reality.
The concept of contentment is the means to be happy with who you are, what you have and where you are. It is respecting the reality of the present and being satisfied in the absence of desire. To radically accept all emotions whilst keeping the faith that your life will turn out as planned for the better.
With the new year in full bloom, here is to wishing all the fresh and longstanding readers of Storehouse out there who are experiencing homesickness for a place that does not exist, to finally feel more grounded and content. To use what you have learnt in the past to guide you through the reverberation of the present, and lastly to be more in tune with yourself so as to pave your way to your envisioned future.
Words: Gigi Soh, Storehouse Content Team, @thecheesychick