Toxic Nostalgia: Moving Past Expired Relationships
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 color to our lives and makes it a worthwhile journey.
Not all nostalgia, however, is benign.
There is a kind of nostalgia that acts in an evil spirit, and it is not your friend.
Toxic nostalgia is a trickster. This trickster will do all that it 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 its traps, it comes up with another one.
Toxic nostalgia makes you doubt yourself again and again.
It makes you question every single one of your decisions.
It is arrogant; it thinks it knows you better than you know yourself.
It says your instinct is inaccurate. It says the grass is indeed greener on the other side.
It makes you forget your unique needs as a sensitive and intense soul; it says you ought to be like everyone else and have what they have.
It reinforces the negative pressure that comes from your parents, institutions and mass culture.
It condemns you for walking the path not taken.
Its empty speech is full of ‘what if’, ‘only if’, ‘had I’, ‘maybe’.
It glorifies your past and lures you away from abundance in the present.
It turns you away from new possibilities that are right beneath your nose.
It is a robber of joy, a poison for excitement.
Toxic nostalgia does not always just operate on its own.
Sometimes, it joins 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 maneuver. You both subtly moved apart from each other, even if it looked 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 have, 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 break through. Your soul would not let you do any different.
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 different.
Toxic nostalgia especially loves to target the sensitive ones, because you always have your heart door wide open.
But no, do not listen to it. 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, honoring the needs and desires you have, 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 are surprising or disappointing.
Should 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 knocking 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.
Imi Lo is the founder of Eggshell Transformations, a place for the emotionally intense, and author of the book Emotional Intensity and Sensitivity. She sits at where art, psychology, and spirituality meet, and her mission is to inspire and empower emotionally intense, sensitive and gifted individuals to rise from being the ‘misfits’ to leaders of the world. Imi is a qualified Clinical Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Schema Therapist (ISST), Mentalization-based Therapy Advance Practitioner (BPC), and Mindfulness Teacher (in MBSR, MBCT). She works holistically, combining Eastern and Western philosophies with other psychological and spiritual healing modalities. She was granted the Endeavour Award by the Australian Government for her clinical and academic excellence, and the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) for her commitment and contributions to social changes. She has been featured as a pioneer in the field in The Psychologies Magazine, The Telegraph, Marie Claire, The Daily Mail, and Talk Radio Europe. Her work appears on Psychology Today, Psych Central, Rebelle Society, and more. Leaving home at a young age, Imi has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, the USA and the UK. She has been a suicide counselor, social worker, artist, mindfulness teacher, yoga instructor, holistic healer, art therapist, psychotherapy trainer, and supervisor. She has also enjoyed an artist/art model career where she toured around the world. Her work reflects her passion in the emotional and existential themes that connect people. Imi’s artwork was exhibited in Australia and London’s East End and sold internationally. Combining her life-long passion and clinical expertise, she founded the Eggshell Transformations, where she works with intense people across the world. Imi owns over a thousand Japanese manga and eats broccoli every day.