When we think about the concept of romanticism, our mind immediately goes to romantic relationships in our lives. In reality, romanticising is much broader and can apply to literally any aspect of our lives. Be it our family situation, our professional career, or our home life – anything can be looked at from the rose-coloured glasses of romanticism.
So, why do we romanticise?
At times we catch ourselves romanticising our past experiences, brushing over all the things that went wrong in a certain situation and just focusing on the good. In a way, this is a way of protecting ourselves from feeling the negative emotions that were felt during this experience all over again and only wanting to re-experience the positive aspect. For example, if someone thinks back to a memory of a school play, they might only focus on the applause that they heard from the audience at the end or the feeling of satisfaction that they got when they exited the stage after performing their part. The countless hours of frustration spent trying to learn their lines by heart, or the intense feeling of anxiety felt before going out on stage may be much less vivid in their memory.
Overcoming Negative Experiences
Research also shows that this type of nostalgia is common as an attempt to overcome feelings of loneliness and boredom. Whilst there is no real harm in romanticising past experiences, it is important to consider the negative emotions that were felt to inform us on how to navigate the present or the future. If we think back to the example of the school play, remembering just how anxious you were before going on stage can help you brainstorm ways to keep yourself calm the next time you have to perform.
One can also romanticise ideas or goals that they have for their future. For example, when thinking of their future wedding day one may focus on how they will feel on the day, imagining the sun shining, and feeling like a princess in their perfect bridal gown that fits like a glove. The reality and stress of planning a wedding may be something that is not as significant in their minds. Apart from this way of thinking providing a sort of escape from any present stressors, it is also a way of protecting ourselves from feeling the anxiety or apprehension of future experiences in the here and now.
Romanticising the Present
Something less considered is the possibility of romanticising the present. Whilst it is important to navigate each situation we encounter in a reasonable, and practical way, adding a touch of romanticism has been proven to boost one’s mood.
When we romanticise our present means becoming more aware, and therefore more appreciative, of the beauty around us. This could be as simple as really paying attention to the sounds you can hear around you in a moment of silence or going for a drive and noticing the little things you don’t have time to do when you’re rushing from one place to another.
Taking the time to think about ways you can inject a healthy level of romanticism into your everyday life can help keep your mood high when you’re feeling low!
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Lisa Laspina is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently working with Willingness. She is reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.
Lieberman, C. (2021, April 2). Why we romanticize the past. The New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/smarter-living/why-we-romanticize-the-past. html#:~:text=The%20act%20of%20thinking%20about%20the%20past%20is%20one%20way.%E2%80%9D&text=Looking%20back%20at%20the%20past,their%20experience%2C%E2%80%9D%20he%20said.