Living in the here and now brings liveliness. So what about reminiscing? Is this living in the past instead of the here and now?
I can remember the impact of discovering that my experience happens in the here and now. It was 25 years ago and I can still feel the elation. I think this extraordinary discovery is often misunderstood.
The misunderstanding is that you should live in the here and now. This is a judgement instead of an observation. This usually means that reminiscing or worrying is judged as wrong. Reminiscing is regarded as living in the past (rather than the here and now) and worrying is judged as living in the future (rather than the here and now).
The Truth in the Misunderstanding
It seems to me that there is an important truth in this judgement — that we have a choice. We can avoid parts of our current experience by doing other things: reminiscing about past times or worrying about the future instead of dealing with a current difficulty for instance.
The idea that we should live in the here and now points to our ability to choose to pay attention to our experience or ignore parts of it.
“Experience is here, now.”
“Experience” in this statement means conscious attention. It means that what we are paying attention to currently occupies us. The thoughts and feelings we are aware of occur here and now.
This means that reminiscing occurs in the here and now too. If it is reminiscing to ‘think about something else’ because we don’t want to confront a problem, then this reminiscing will possibly have a slightly different quality to reminiscing as a way of re-establishing contact with an old friend that we haven’t seen for a long time. The differences will be in how the reminiscing is done (here and now). They will be available to observation if we pay attention to what we are doing. For me, reminiscing to ‘think about something else’ has more of a hopelessness about it, while catching up with a friend has a more relaxed quality.
I’ll be fifty next year. Hopefully I can avoid slipping into an anecdotage — where I bore people about past triumphs and failures and instead stay engaged with the world around me. And I enjoy reminiscing — recalling past enjoyments, especially when I get together with long-time friends.
I think reminiscing can be not only enjoyable but a nice way to get comfortable with someone we haven’t seen for awhile. We can talk about familiar things while we relax with each other again. This seems very useful to me.
If we find ourselves reminiscing about the same things it may also indicate something missing in our current lives. This is useful information too.
Let’s reminisce and let’s enjoy it. Let’s choose to do it with our full attention. It can be one of the joys of life.
I’d like to hear from you about reminiscing in the comments. Is it a part of your life? Do you enjoy it? Do you have favourite reminiscences (feel free to share them)?
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by