Nostalgia is a Trap

the nostalgia trap jkmcguire

Why Nostalgia at Christmas Can Be Dangerous

“Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.” (Brene Brown)

Christmas is a dangerous time. A time when Nostalgia sneaks in to set up shop in our thought patterns and emotions. It tries to compare where we are to where we were once upon a time. The only problem with once upon a time is that once upon a time has been twisted by nostalgia – it didn’t really happen the way that we remember. It didn’t really happen the way that we desperately need it to have happened.

Nostalgia twists the past.

Nostalgia is a trap. It can be a trap in how we choose to live in the present because we live under the cloudy half-truths of ONCE UPON A TIME.

Do you know what Disney has done to those old fairy tales… that is like nostalgia? They have warped the original tales and given us instead counterfeit stories with: fluffy princesses, happily ever afters, all things shiny and bright, everybody gets what they deserve, and princes with royal, good intentions. But the true stories – the ones the authors originally intended, they included: death, blindness, princes who were cowardly jerks, dismemberment, needy-ugly princesses, broken ever afters, poverty, doubt, and pain.

Like the twisting of fairy tales by Disney we oftentimes have neglected to see the aching, bleeding, awful pieces of our pasts in the first place.

Nostalgia leads us to making up stories. 

Nostalgia is a trap – like Disney fairy tales – it warps our past and creates chaos in our present. 

So many times we see only one side – that part we played that was awesome and amazing and made us feel good about ourselves. We have ourselves convinced of past’s truth. We neglect to acknowledge the hurtful, unkind, cruel parts we added to the story that made it horrid for others. Or on the flip side we fail to recognize the emotionally trying, spiritually abusive, physically exhausting parts that others played in our lives in the past – those places and people we had to GET OVER to be OK in the world and with ourselves. We wonder why we are so exhausted, defeated, and broken after each new encounter with the same people – because the once upon a time has a trapped into believing the good ole days were actually GOOD.  We can focus on all the good feelings and fail to remember the hurting places. Just as we can dwell too long in the hurt and not move forward into the JOY that comes after the sorrow.

nostalgia is a trap

Nostalgia helps truth to hide. Nostalgia is a crafty narrator.

The truth – there is a reason that you chose the things that you did. Way back when you made some choices to find wholeheartedness, to take the time you needed to heal the pain, find your upright places, to walk in truth, and to refuse to allow poison to cycle into your life. There is a reason that you moved forward while the past places sat in bitterness, unchanging, resentment, and rage. There is a reason you chose joy and living in the overflow… anyways. And there is a reason those who live in the past stay stuck there.

Nostalgia can be a dangerous way to navigate the world in all areas of our lives: faith, family, work, friends – especially at Christmastime because it leads us blindly into situations where we should “KNOW BETTER.” Where we learned this lesson before – but maybe we misunderstood, perhaps it is different, maybe we were wrong?

“It’s Nostalgia. It’s like a drug. It keeps you from seeing things as they are. And that’s a danger…” (The Walking Dead)

We’ve been here before. We know what these situations, people, places have been for us in the past, but nostalgia can leave us exposed. We put down our guard. We walk back into places that are toxic to our souls. We give emotional vampires room to speak or act simply because the holidays dictate a decorum of compliance, togetherness, ‘honoring, ” and touching base.

nostalgia is a trap it warps our past

What happens when home base – isn’t a safe place for you anymore? Perhaps it never was… perhaps nostalgia has so twisted the vision because if you sit in the truth for too long it hurts, the aching bleeding places seep and burn and weep.

The worst blows tend to come from those who know us well and should have loved us…Did your family believe in you? Some did – but far too many more believe in the person they wanted you to be. Did they even notice your heart at all? Have they been thrilled in your choices, or has their disappointment made it clear that you just aren’t what you’re supposed to be?… Misunderstanding is damaging, more insidious because we don’t identify it as an attack on the heart. How subtly it comes, sowing doubt and discouragement where there should have been validation and support. There must be something wrong with us.” (John Eldredge, “Waking the Dead”

So many people ask, “How can I honor my past, and the people I come from while staying true to who I have become, practicing self-care and wholeheartedness?” Sometimes the best honor you can muster is one where you allow the past and those places, people go. You just let it go and let the universe/God/whoever to deal. Be honest with yourself in what you can do, what can you handle, what can you muster? Because this is the area where resentment can build so that you end up living as someone you do not recognize. To be authentic – to be vulnerable – to be true to you and to honor God – you often have to let those places and people go.

nostalgia honor

Other times, if you have found safe places that respect and honor your heart and voice – you can begin to practice being honest about what you need. How can I be honest about the things I need this holiday season even if that truth is a bit uncomfortable for me and others? How can I choose self-care and love for others by being forthright about where I am right now so that resentment, anger, or stuffing my pain is not where I am living?

Living from the overflow means that I am honest about what I need this Christmas to be OK with myself and the world- even if that makes others angry.

Can you make peace with your past and move forward wholeheartedly in the present – even when the past bites, rages, manipulates, intimidates, and nags?

Honestly I don’t have all the answers – I haven’t but a tiny clue how to walk out Comfort and JOY in all places and among all people and at all times.

But I know where to start – right here in this home and among these people I have been given to cherish, comfort, protect, and encourage.

I can do great joy among these people.

All really is well.

We choose JOY.

Merry Christmas.

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