Thinking in the Past Tense

I cannot sleep until you act. I am too distressed even to pray!I keep thinking of the good old days of the past, long since ended.  Then my nights were filled with joyous songs. I search my soul and meditate upon the difference now                                                                                                                                                          Psalm 77:4-6

I was speaking recently with a client who has chronic anxiety, and he told me that he spends a lot of time thinking about the past. He finds this comforting, and it also affords him the peace of not thinking about his current anxieties. We discussed the fact also that when he remembers the past, it is with a sort of “rosy lens” which somewhat distorts the reality of what that past may really have been like.

I assured the client that thinking nostalgically about the past is very common, and indeed helpful in some ways because of the comfort it may bring. Why do you think the Andy Griffith Show remains popular now over 60 years since its first broadcast?

Thinking about the past conjures up some warm memories for many, and it is also highly predictable. No surprises, typically, as we go over some old comforting themes and memories. I also discussed the idea also that while visiting the past is enjoyable and comforting, we can’t live there. Yes, we can visit there, we just can’t live there.

Indeed, the word nostalgia comes from the Greek as a compound word, with the sense of both “homecoming” and “pain”. Probably coined from the homesickness of that famous traveler, Ulysses.

So, reveries of the past are great- I enjoy it a lot as I get older- but we can’t get lost there. The present is too important to leave for very long.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the capacity we have to fondly remember our past. Give us the courage and strength to face our present and future with confidence, Amen.

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