Ah, yes. Those were the ‘good old days.’ How often have you heard someone say that or said that yourself? Recently referring to those good old days gave me pause. I decided to do a semi deep dive about those days. It’s such a great blanket phrase we throw out there when we are not too pleased with our current situation. That phrase begs several questions. So let’s begin diving.
How old are those good old days? Sometimes they are just a few weeks or months ago before some difficult changes or event occurred. Sometimes they are part of our youth. Sometimes they are prior to the digital age when people actually spoke to each other face to face. We all have a different reference point for the good old days and what made them good for us.
Next there is the question, what was good about those old days? Because what is good is a personal perspective, our answers would likely be quite different based on that personal interpretation.
Here’s where this gets interesting. How accurate are our memories and recall? It has to do with how our brains work in terms of encoding and retrieving information.
We tend to think that memories are stored in our brains just as they are in computers. Once registered, the data are put away for safe-keeping and eventual recall. The facts don’t change.
But neuroscientists have shown that each time we remember something, we are reconstructing the event, reassembling it from traces throughout the brain. Psychologists have pointed out that we also suppress memories that are painful or damaging to self-esteem. We could say that, as a result, memory is unreliable. We could also say it is adaptive, reshaping itself to accommodate the new situations we find ourselves facing.
For most of us that usually means we recall a rosier past than we actually had. The who, what, where of a memory tends to be pretty accurate. The other details, not so much.
Again, we ask, “Just how good were the good old days?”
Answer: The good old days are as good as we interpret them to be. So why not simply enjoy all the pleasure we get from what our memories conjure up for us?
Comments are welcome.