Nostalgia is a tempting mind-space to use as an escape that I also often use as a prompt to write. The fact of the matter is that nostalgia is an indulgence–an unwise one at that. One cannot live effectively in the past. There are a few other personal indulgences that come immediately to mind such as overeating salty snacks, watching YouTube documentaries, and scrolling through Reddit. I try to rationalize them by telling myself that there are more harmful ways to self-indulge that I wouldn’t dream of doing.

The problem of escape into self-indulgence seems to be a universal human one. Life can be difficult so we want to salve our emotional bruises with a nice treat. Situations of overindulgence in addictive substances and habits can be professionally treated in professional therapy sessions or group therapy, but common self-indulgence is a bit trickier to grapple.

What about overindulgence by clinging to certain abstract principles? Indulgence in political dogma or harmful ideologies are two examples. These indulgences are insidious and more difficult to assess. They are also more socially acceptable. It’s easy to cling onto them for a lifetime.

Although such indulgences seem less destructive than substance addiction or anger, in the big picture, they can be more harmful because they lead to existential misunderstanding. The indulgences hold us hostage to shortsightedness and inaccurate perception.

There is an old South Asian parable about how to catch monkeys by having them trap themselves. The hunters cut a small hole in a coconut that is just large enough for a monkey hand but too small for a monkey fist. The hunter nails the coconut to a tree and baits it with a sweet, irresistible treat. When a monkey detects the coconut, it thrusts its hand through the hole in the coconut and grabs the bait. The monkey’s problem is that it does not want to let go of the treat and becomes a prisoner of itself. The hunter soon arrives and easily captures the monkey.

One could apply the monkey trap lesson to nearly any mental attachment or pleasurable experience–perhaps nostalgia. Nostalgia is normally a pleasant experience. We love to relive happy times from the past. Life seemed to be simpler and more enjoyable back in the good ol’ days. Although occasionally dreaming of pleasant memories about the past is fairly harmless, it is less benign if one does this uninterrupted for several days in succession. How fulfilled would I feel if I indulged in nostalgia 24/7 for a week or longer? To achieve similar feelings the next time I want to escape, will I need to indulge in nostalgia for even longer periods of time? This is an express train to unhappiness and even more dire mindstates.

In my opinion, for my own benefit, it seems that the most effective way to utilize nostalgia is to reflect upon the past with temperance. Mentally touch upon events but refrain from either depriving myself of or indulging in thoughts about the past. To be aware of them and then let go, works best for me. When nostalgia lingers longer, reasonable comparison with the present is a help in the letting go process.

For instance, a popular nostalgic topic is vintage automobiles. Many people are fond of old cars, and that’s OK. It’s easy for me to get caught up in fantasies about classic vehicles, too. However, I might find myself going down the rabbit hole of believing that old cars were better than modern cars. I come to my senses when I remember that modern vehicles are far safer than the old ones. The new vehicles are generally more dependable and trouble-free than earlier cars. Upkeep and maintenance of late-model vehicles is simpler and time-saving in comparison to older cars. These comparisons remind me to be grateful for the privilege of being able to drive a modern car. Instead of escaping into nostalgia, the brief fantasy serves as a reminder to be thankful for the present moment.

It’s important to understand the difference between self-indulgence and self-rewarding. A treat is a small indulgence we give to ourselves just because we desire it. A reward is something that is earned or legitimately justified. To treat oneself occasionally is healthy behavior. Exercising patience to earn and wait for a reward enables longer-lasting satisfaction. At least this is what I’ve observed.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes University College London professor, Sir Geoff Mulgan. “L’Oreal’s slogan ‘because you’re worth it’ has come to epitomise banal narcissism of early 21st century capitalism; easy indulgence and effortless self-love all available at a flick of the credit card.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, Health, philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Self-Indulgent

  1. Occasional nostalgia is probably human. However, I know people who live permanently in this dream world, where everything was much nicer, easier and better back then. Even more who rack their brains about when and why things got worse. And how unfair life was to them. And the next mental step is to blame someone for why after a certain point nothing really worked out anymore. I have known a good friend in this condition since she was 30-40.

  2. Yernasia Quorelios says:

    💎 – Diamond Hard – 💎

    💎 Rose Tinted Glasses 🥂 👓 🕶 😎 ♥️ 😍 🥂 EveryOne; it’s Crystal 🔮 Clear Clarity 🔮 👌🏾 😀 😉 😄 😊 🔮 that ✍️ We ALL Have History and what We Do with that Personal History Determines Our Future via Our Personal CHOICES!!! and DECISIONS!!! ✍️ EveryBody because HindSight is a Wonderful Thing if Applied Properly

    💎 – Diamond Hard – 💎


  3. tiostib says:

    A timelly reminder. Thank you.

  4. Next month I’ll be going to a 50th high school reunion and revisiting my hometown for the first time in years. The nostalgia will be overwhelming. I’ll try to avoid going off the deep end and keep things in perspective.

    • swabby429 says:

      Wow! How time flies! Nostalgia is expected and OK in such events. It’s also enjoyable to catch up on old classmates’ current lives. The reunion will probably be a lot of fun.

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