Retromania is a combination of the words retro and mania. It refers to the belief that everything was better in the past. Retro comes from Latin and means backward-looking, mania is a mental impairment in which the expression and experience of feelings are disturbed. Retromania embellishes things from the past that were in reality much less beautiful. This does not happen consciously, rather the psyche plays a trick on us out of self-protection.
Whether it’s a holiday, a past relationship, our school days or the cakes in the bakery next door, in retrospect things from the past seem much better than they actually were. We tend to gloss over especially unpleasant things from the past. In reality, they were much more stressful, difficult and ugly than we would like to admit on our own. Therefore, we cannot rely on memories of the past, because they deceive us.
What is Retromania? Explanation, meaning, definition
Retromania blurs fantasy and reality. The very moment we recall a memory, it is altered. The brain varies its interconnections with each moment and also reorganises the contents of the neurons. Even during a normal conversation, countless new synapses are formed in the brain, overwriting existing content, much like a computer. As a result, we can no longer recall the original memory.
We no longer know what happened back then, because only the new, already altered memory is in our consciousness. This protective mechanism is unspectacular in everyday life and may sometimes cause a small argument, but it carries much more weight in testimonies. They are often contradictory, and not without reason.
The witness is in no way trying to deliberately deceive the police, he simply cannot remember the colour of the clothes the perpetrator was wearing or the car he drove away in. In order to obtain useful witness statements, many different people must therefore be questioned. Only when the intersection is correspondingly large can the police work with it.
Protective function of „rose-coloured glasses“
Retromania is important because if we were unable to gloss over events from the past, reality would often be a cause for despair. Memories of surprising, moving and important events are the basis for the concept we have of ourselves. That is why we can often remember tiny, rather unimportant details from the past, for example the colour of a toy from childhood. But in the vast majority of cases, our brain generalises or simply sorts out events and overwrites them.
Human life is, so to speak, only memory, because the present is already over in the next moment. If we were not able to abstract, we would be crushed by the mass of memories. The brain can no longer process the impressions. So it constantly chooses between important and unimportant. But not only that, it only remembers the events that fit its own self-image. When we do remember, it is usually in a pleasant, positive direction.
Only people with depression prefer to hold on to the negative. You could also say that they have a more realistic picture of the past. This form of distortion strengthens the psyche, which is absolutely necessary for mental health.
Getting to grips with the „true“ memory
If you want to approach authentic memories, you should start writing in a diary. Because when you read it later, many things are revealed that you cannot remember without the diary. The entries show what it was really like back then. Photos can also support here, but they are not as treacherous as diary entries, because we almost always keep only attractive photos.