I hope you have survived/ enjoyed the festive time, and are looking forward to a new start.
Before we dive in, I would like to share something personal with you: There is a black hole in the back of my psyche, and it is called ‘I have done everything wrong and made all the wrong decisions in my life’. That hole is deep and dark, filled with regrets and grief.
When things don’t go well, my feelings often quickly escalate into complete melancholy. I look at my past and see ‘only if’. I look at my present and envy my peers. I look into the future and see shattered dreams that will never be.
Coming to terms with life as it is, including all the decisions I have made- has been a lifelong lesson for me.
Throughout the years, I have picked up wisdom and advice here and there. If like me, you are at times plagued with existential Toxic Nostalgia and regret, I hope these words will be soothing for you.
“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
― Carson McCullers
Nostalgia is a beautiful human emotion.
It is an inevitable part of being an ultra-sensitive, emotionally intense soul.
The tenderness and melancholy that come with Nostalgia can be heartbreaking, but it is also what brings colour to our lives and make it a worthwhile journey.
Not all nostalgia, however, is benign.
There is a kind of nostalgia that acts in an evil spirit, and they are not your friend.
Toxic Nostalgia is a trickster. This trickster will do all that they can to trick you down the memory lane of a glorified, imaginary past.
Every time you visit the memory lane, you find no new surprise.
You come back feeling diminished, depressed, plagued with regrets and self-doubt.
And yet, the trickster perseveres.
When you see through one of their traps, they come up with another one.
Toxic Nostalgia makes you doubt yourself again and again.
They make you question every single one of your decision.
They are arrogant; they think they know you better than you know yourself.
They say your instinct is inaccurate. They say the grass is indeed greener.
They make you forget your unique needs as a sensitive and intense soul, they say you ought to be like everyone else and have what they have.
They reinforce the negative pressure that comes from your parents, institutions and mass culture.
They condemn you for walking the path not taken.
Their empty speech is full of ‘what if’, ‘only if’, ‘had I ’ ‘maybe’.
They glorify your past and lure you away from abundance in the present.
They turn you away from new possibilities that are right beneath your nose.
They are a robber of joy, a poison for excitement.
Toxic Nostalgia does not always just operate on their own.
Sometimes, they join forces with toxic, resentful or emotionally immature people in your life.
People may try to punish you for growing up and growing out because of their vulnerabilities, emotional immaturities, lack of self-awareness, and insecurities.
When they do, Toxic Nostalgia is their best weapon.
There are times in life, you have no choice but to walk away from some relationships.
You left because your soul knew the other person was in a world too small and limited for you.
In fact, deep down, you both knew that.
No relationship is a one-way manoeuvre. You both subtly moved apart from each other— Even it looked as like it was you who walked away.
Perhaps they could not accept that you value your dream more than time spent with them.
Perhaps when you hyper-focused on your passion, they felt abandoned by you.
Perhaps they could not keep up with your intensity, your hunger for more in the world, and your love for autonomy and the quest for knowledge.
They may, via explicit criticism or subtle passive-aggressiveness, made you feel like you were a traitor for moving on.
Try not to be a helpless victim of these attacks.
See them for what they are, then shrug your shoulder and walk on.
If you can, rise above it, send them loving-kindness and compassion.
Let their actions validate precisely why you needed to leave.
It may be saddening, but a relationship ending does not mean you have done anything wrong.
When you look very very closely, you see that you had to move on to save your life.
You felt suffocated, you were playing small. Like a plant that has outgrown its container, you had no choice but to breakthrough. Your soul would not let you do any otherwise.
You had not betrayed anyone, you had not harmed anyone.
Being gifted is lonely, but it is not a sin.
Do not let toxic Nostalgia tell you any otherwise.
Toxic Nostalgia especially loves to target the sensitive ones, because you always have your heart door wide open.
But No, No.
Do not listen to them. The trickster does not know your true nature.
You are tender yet firm, kind but not gullible.
You must, for your one and only life, practise trusting yourself.
You must learn to stand by you.
You must be on your own side, even when the world fails to understand you.
Your warrior stance is an essential life skill.
It is time you start embracing your fate as an intense and gifted person.
You are constantly growing into the next best version of yourself.
You are driven, at any given moment, by the existential angst that you are not fulfilling your full potential.
And so, as you rapidly absorb information from all sources, as you travel around the world geographically and intellectually, you have no choice but to outgrow some people.
Whenever the trickster tries to lure you down the path of toxic regret, remember these truths:
Every time you take a step, you do it in full integrity, honouring the needs, desires you have at the moment, and based on all the information you have at the moment.
The same applies to all decisions you have made in the past and will make in the future.
Nothing is ‘wrong’.
Even if the results is surprising or disappointing.
Shall anyone manipulate, gaslight, or guilt-trip you, remember these truths:
You may have set priorities, but you are not selfish.
You may be passionate, but you are not ‘too much’.
You may get over-excited and hyper-focused, but you are not narcissistic.
You may be emotional, but you are not ‘hysterical’.
You are not a bad person.
Do not let people’s projection and aggression bring you down.
Even if, at times, you are plagued deeply by the loneliness that comes with being you.
Even when Toxic Nostalgia comes knock on your door again and again.
Hold tight and brace yourself.
That like many out there in the highly sensitive and intense souls tribe,
You have an important place in the Universe.
Let some doors close
That will allow you to open new doors
for the New Year.
May you be well,
“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.