Many of us enjoy taking a trip down memory lane from time to time, either metaphorically or physically. We head for those places we used to frequent. But what happens when the people, places and structures are no longer there, or no longer exist? How do we then satisfy our desire for the comfort we often find in nostalgia?
How’s Your Memory?
The following poem is circulating again on Social-Media. As far as I can see it first appeared some time in 2014 (see Bytes Daily) and periodically thereafter. It’s kind of funny that then, as now, it generates pleasure and anger in people, in almost equal measures… but why?
The ‘Remember’ Poem
I remember the corned beef of my Childhood,
And the bread that we cut with a knife,
When the Children helped with the housework,
And the men went to work not the wife.
The cheese never needed a fridge,
And the bread was so crusty and hot,
The Children were seldom unhappy,
And the Wife was content with her lot.
I remember the milk from the bottle,
With the yummy cream on the top,
Our dinner came hot from the oven,
And not from a freezer; or shop.
The kids were a lot more contented,
They didn’t need money for kicks,
Just a game with their friends in the road,
And sometimes the Saturday flicks.
I remember the slap on my backside,
And the taste of soap if I swore
Anorexia and diets weren’t heard of
And we hadn’t much choice what we wore.
Do you think that bruised our ego?
Or our initiative was destroyed?
We ate what was put on the table
And I think life was better enjoyed.
Is our memory always correct?
Around the time of it’s (possible) original publication, one blogger asked; Have we lost contentment? And if so, is it because of the things we wistfully recalled?
To that I would add; Isn’t there nearly always a tendency for us to recall visions of our past through rose-tinted spectacles? Is there really any harm in that?
Surely, having the ability to pluck the positives from the negatives, the not so good, the bad or the horrendous in our past is a good thing? Often that ‘skill’ is what helps us to keep moving forward, without constant recourse to the unpleasantness or trauma of our past. In general usually a much healthier way of doing things.
In 2016, Fay Roberts, a ‘performance poet’ and self-proclaimed “Queer, invisibly disabled, Welsh feminist” posted on her blog – Got Angry, Wrote a Poem – on seeing the ‘I Remember’ piece pop up in her Facebook feed. At the time she wasn’t happy about what she described as a “…glurgy piece of nostalgia porn misogyny masquerading as poetry.” To the extent she penned her own version (below).
We remember the old beef of Childhood,
The silence that cut like a knife
Where Children were seen and not heard
And blows clamped down marital strife
The Wife could not claim her possessions,
Worked for nothing in kitchen and bed;
The Children were gifted this vision:
That’s your future until you are dead.
We remember the Childhood diseases
That took all but lucky or strong
Darwinianism in action
And no-one to challenge our wrongs.
We gazed at the chasm dividing
The have-nots from those haves who strode
Over huge tracts of land that were paid for
By theft, tax, and History’s goad.
Those who were beaten learned nothing
Except how to govern by fear
Girls were pressed into corsets and wasted away
You won’t learn if you don’t try to hear
The privileged never do question
From whence comes their food and their board
You whine incognito as we change the world
With your death rattle justly ignored.
Irrespective of any personal or political angst for the original poem, it’s a well-known fact that you can subject two people to the exact same set of circumstances, in the same place at the same time however; when you question them later, it’s common to find that those two people could have vastly different recollection of what actually occurred.
Perhaps not so good for the police officer interviewing witnesses as they investigate an incident, but a healthy mainstay supply of bread and butter for our legal profession – a nice little earner – but I digress.
We humans tend to get a little agitated when someone remembers something in a different way than we ourselves have, especially if their memory was more pleasant than ours. We feel as if we have missed out or, perhaps they’re lying? This 2018 Tweet (below), along with the subsequent thread of replies, goes some way towards illustrating some of the polarised feelings and comment attached to the poem.
Get Some Nostalgia Therapy
A little nostalgia is considered by many, in and out of science or the medical profession, to be a positive trait. Nostalgia is, or can be, something that is actually good for your psychological well-being and mental-health!
Our thoughts, influence our feelings and drive our emotions and that can present problems for us. It’s often a good idea to try and recognise why we might be feeling the way we do about something but more importantly, also understand how we can adjust our thoughts.
Why do we feel what we feel?
The way we think is often governed by our personal perceptions of fact. We form associations in our minds; that happens and this is what we must think… but is it? Often the perceptions and beliefs that we have, about almost any given subject, are based upon past learning, experience and a good measure of irrational self-talk and/or excessive rumination.
These types of thought process which take place in our head, can lead to all kinds of problems. Often these feelings of increased negativity simply reignite and fuel our already negative emotions. Leading to ever more upset and pain. In short, we often talk ourselves into feeling shit about things!
Understanding why you feel what you feel is one of the most important aspects of human development. After understanding comes control. When you control your emotions through vertical development, you can be more successful and happy.
Dr. Alan Watkins, founder of Complete Coherence, a leadership and management development consultancy, explains the key phases of human development and why our poor emotional control constricts our progress (below).
Watkins suggests we can imagine a world where we never have to feel anything we don’t want to feel; where we have complete control of what we feel and when we feel it.
Irrespective of whatever Watkins might say, or even what any science may teach us, I am entirely convinced that it is possible to feel better about a poor or difficult situation, when you adjust your thinking. Those thoughts that drive your emotions.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Watkins our his commercial interests, neither do I receive any benefits from mentioning him or his business. I do however believe that some of the stuff that gets sold to wannabee CEOs of the future, can also provide some productive guidance for us minions too.
After all, successful self-management can often be a far more onerous task than managing any FTSE100 business. I hope you enjoy the remainder of your day!