Nostalgia: The Bittersweet History of a Psychological Concept
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NOSTALGIA: The Bittersweet History of a Psychological ConceptKrystine Irene BatchoLe Moyne CollegeThe concept of nostalgia has changed substantially both denotatively and connotativelyover the span of its 300-year history. This article traces the evolution of the concept fromits origins as a medical disease to its contemporary understanding as a psychologicalconstruct. The difficulty of tracing a construct through history is highlighted. Attention ispaid to roles played first by the medical context, and then by the psychiatric, psychoanalytic,and psychological approaches. Emphasis is given to shifts in the designation of nostalgicvalence from bitter to sweet to bittersweet, and the processes of semantic drift anddepathologization are explored. Because the sense of nostalgia was constructed and recon-structed within social, cultural, and historical contexts, its meaning changed along with thewords used to describe and connect it to other entities. Nostalgias past illustrates theinfluence of language, social-cultural context, and discipline perspectives on how a con-struct is defined, researched, and applied.Keywords: history of nostalgia, evolution of a construct, emotion, denotative and connotativemeaningEbbinghaus paradoxical description of psy-chology as having a long past but only a shorthistory can be borrowed to capture the essenceof nostalgia as a psychological concept (Ebb-inghaus, 1908, p. 3). Although the term nostal-gia was coined as a medical construct in 1688(Hofer, 1688/1934), its history as a psycholog-ical concept is only a century old. Many theo-rists assume that nostalgia is a powerful senti-ment that has been part of human experiencesince long before it was assigned a name. How-ever, the working assumption that conceptsrepresent enduring natural entities has been con-tested by theorists who have argued that cate-gories are historically constructed and recon-structed (Danziger, 1997; Richards, 1989, 2010;Smith, 2005). Nostalgia illustrates how a con-struct is framed within a social-historical con-text and evolves as that context changes.Simple dictionary definitions of nostalgia asa bittersweet longing for the past and ashomesickness (The American Heritage Dic-tionary, 1994, p. 569) mask its dramatic seman-tic evolution since the word was coined and thecomplexity of its current understanding as apsychological construct. This article traces thehistory of the construct in a search for the rootsof the conflicting facets within present theoret-ical formulations. The analysis highlights meth-odological and conceptual issues inherent indistinguishing between concept and language,retrospective interpretation and the possibilityof an enduring experiential phenomenon.Nostalgia as a Physical Disease:Medical OriginsThe bitter side of nostalgia dominated thefirst phase of the evolution of the term as itoriginated as a diagnostic label. In coining theword nostalgia Hofer explained in his medi-cal dissertation1 that it is composed of two1 Although several authors date Hofers dissertation in1678, the actual date, 1688 appears on the title p. of thedissertation as reproduced in Anspachs, 1934 translation.Although the origin of the error is unclear, several of theauthors using the 1678 date cite Werman (H. Kaplan, 1987)or McCanns, 1941 literature review (Kleiner, 1970; Rosen,1975; Werman, 1977). McCann referenced secondarysources for the dissertation, but did not list the dissertationitself or Anspachs translation among his references. Ans-pach reports Hofers birth in Muhlhausen on April 28, 1669,which would make him only 9 years old in 1678.This article was published Online First May 6, 2013.Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-dressed to Krystine Irene Batcho, Department of Psychol-ogy, Le Moyne College, 1419 Salt Springs Road, Syracuse,NY 13214. E-mail: email@example.comThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.History of Psychology 2013 American Psychological Association2013, Vol. 16, No. 3, 165176 1093-4510/13/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0032427165sounds, the one of which is Nostos, return to thenative land; the other, Algos, signifies sufferingor grief; so that thus far it is possible from theforce of the sound Nostalgia to define the sadmood originating from the desire for the returnto ones native land (1688/1934, p. 381). Hecompared his term derived from Greek com-ponents to the German word Heimweh, whichdenotes the grief for the lost charm of theNative Land or homesickness, and to theFrench term maladie du pays (which trans-lates literally to disease of the native land).He stated that he would be equally satisfiedwith the label philopatridomania, denoting aspirit perturbed against holding fast to theirnative land from any cause whatsoever (de-noting) return (p. 381).For homesickness to be understood properly,Hofer argued that it was necessary to apply aname and that the one he invented defined thething to be explained. He transformed home-sickness into a medical construct by incorporat-ing it into the framework of assumptions andconcepts that dominated the medicine of histime. Based primarily upon cases among Swisstroops serving in France, Hofer cataloguedsymptoms including sadness, insomnia, fever,weakness, loss of appetite, and cardiac palpita-tions (Havlena & Holak, 1991; Rosen, 1975).His nerve theory posited that persistent thoughtsof home caused the vital spirits to surge con-stantly in the part of the brain where the desiredimages are located, creating a path in whichthey can move of their own accord (Hofer,1688/1934). Focused entirely upon images ofthe past, the vital spirits are not available forother functions, including life-sustaining pro-cesses (1688/1934).2 Although Hofer proposeda physical mechanism for the bodily symptoms,he attributed the cause of nostalgia to recurringthoughts and memories of home.Much of the early interest in nostalgia wasmotivated by the concern for optimal perfor-mance of military resources during Europeanconflicts well into the 18th century (Rosen,1975). The association with Swiss soldiers wasso strong that some writers referred to nostalgiaas Schweizerkrankheit (Jackson, 1986). Fearingthat this association would make the Swiss sol-dier appear weak, the Swiss physicianScheuchzer proposed in 1705 that nostalgia re-sults from an increase in atmospheric pressurewhen the Swiss descend from the mountains(Rosen, 1975). However, Blumenbach pointedout that Swiss from the mountainous regionswere rarely afflicted, and Zimmerman, anotherSwiss physician, noted nostalgia among British,Scottish, and French troops (Jackson, 1986, pp.375376).In the United States, Union doctors reportednostalgia symptoms ranging from sadness tocerebral derangement among over 2,500 sol-diers during the first 2 years of the Civil War(Matt, 2007). Ultimately, attempts to explainnostalgia in terms of bodily abnormalities didnot succeed (Auenbrugger, 1761/1824, XXVII,2; Laennec, 1819/1829). In 1838, surgeon JohnCollins Warrens diagnosed a woman as suffer-ing from nostalgia, an unusual longing for thenative country (De Rham, 1841, pp. 115116,124; Martien, 1840, p. 246; Sanchez & Brown,1994). Not able to find any bodily disease, hetestified that her debility proceeded from hermind (Rutledge, 1997). Physicians had come toview nostalgia as a mental disease that mani-fested in physical symptoms, but the develop-ment of a field of specialists in the diagnosis andtreatment of mental disorders was still in itsinfancy (Anderson, 2010; Clarke, 2007).Whereas Hofers disease model concentratedattention on symptoms, prognosis, and treat-ments, prior to Hofer, homesickness was pre-sumed to be the norm, even admirable or noble.For example, in Homers Odyssey, neither life-threatening challenges nor the prospect of re-maining with a goddess could dissuade themythical Odysseus from returning home(Homer, trans. 1991, Book IX). Similarly, theintensity of yearning for their homeland duringthe Israelites forced exile following the fall ofJerusalem is clear in Psalm 137:5 6 (NewAmerican Standard Bible): If I forget you, OJerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill.May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth ifI do not remember you.2 Two elements of Hofers theory reappear in more so-phisticated forms in modern psychological theory. For ex-ample, Hebbs (1949) explanation of psychological disor-ders in terms of the disorganization of cell assemblies isreminiscent of Hofers notion of a path laid down by rever-berating travel of the vital spirits. Similarly, Hofers pro-posal that mental events can result in structural or physicalchanges is reflected in modern two-stage theories of disor-ders such as depression, amnesia, and anorexia.166 BATCHOThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.Within the political context of exile, home-sickness is part of a set of concepts of loyaltyand allegiance to ones social group and ideol-ogy. Assimilation into the foreign country rep-resents abandonment of ones native beliefs andidentity and acceptance of those of the oppres-sor. Similarly, Odysseus journey is a tempo-rary separation from those he loves and thesocial context to which he owes allegiance. ForOdysseus, choosing to remain in one of thepleasant settings of his adventurous itinerarywould constitute a betrayal of his people, familycommitments, and social identity.Whereas homesickness prevents attachmentto a foreign social setting, the medical contextencouraged efforts to prevent and cure home-sickness. Such contrasts illustrate the potentialfor error in understanding a construct in the pastby applying contemporary ideology and meth-ods. Presuming the medical approach to besuperior, Hofer failed to appreciate the biasimposed by the military cases he examined.Military urgency during wartime promoted theidentification, or invention, of a disease so thateffective treatment could be developed. Fromthe political imperialist perspective, attachmentto home is not an admirable value if it interfereswith performance far from home.From Physical to Mental Illness:The Role of PsychiatryWith advances in anatomy and physiology,germ theory, and instrumentation, distinctionsdeveloped between two categories of phenom-ena. As medicine became defined by its meth-ods and resultant discoveries, instances werecategorized as medical when the availablemethods were applicable. When those methodswere not easily applied, instances could be ei-ther reconstructed to fit or relegated to the de-veloping category of mental illnesses.During the 19th century, the study and treat-ment of mental illness became the province ofpsychiatrists, referred to then as alienists (Hil-gard, 1987). Nostalgia received little and short-lived attention in psychiatry. In 1892, Tukewrote that, Nostalgia always represents a com-bination of psychological and bodily distur-bances, and for this reason it must always bedefined as a disease (Tuke, 1892, p. 858).Extending this thinking to forensic applications,Tuke argued that by suspending the free deter-mination of will, nostalgia can cause certainacts and crimes which bear the character ofimpulsive actions, and can frequently be themotive to incendiarism, infanticide, and sui-cide (1892, p. 859).With the emphasis on sadness, theorists clas-sified nostalgia as a form of melancholia.Griesinger observed, home-sickness . . . is amournful disposition of spirit suggested by ex-ternal circumstances . . . home-sickness oughtin foro to be regarded as a mental affection onlywhen it presents the usual signs of insanity(Griesinger, 1867/1965, pp. 245246). By theend of the 19th century, refinements in classifi-cation, together with industrialization, a declinein military mobilization, and greater social mo-bility because of improved means of transpor-tation, contributed to the eventual disappear-ance of nostalgia as a separate disorder.Conflict and the Bittersweet: The Impact ofthe Psychoanalytic MovementDuring the first half of the 20th century,nostalgia had lost its place of interest in psychi-atry, and the psychoanalytic movement contrib-uted to shifting nostalgia into the developingdiscipline of psychology. Although nostalgia isnot indexed in Freuds writings, Freuds ap-proach profoundly affected conceptualizationsof nostalgia. Most notably, the centrality ofearly experience, symbolism, and conflict influ-enced 20th-century theories of nostalgia (seeespecially Freuds Screen Memories, 1899/1968c, On Transience, 1916/1968b, andMourning and Melancholia, 1917/1968a). Assummarized by H. Kaplan (1987, p. 466), In apsychoanalytic context, the meaning of nostal-gia changes to become a variant of depression,an acute yearning for a union with the preoedi-pal mother, a saddening farewell to childhood, adefense against mourning, or a longing for apast forever lost. According to Kleiner (1970,p. 17), All authors agree on the importance ofthe preoedipal mother in the emotional devel-opment of nostalgics.Neumann (1949/1971, p. 16) argued that nos-talgia is a reaction to the potential alienation ofindividuation, being oneself is still a weari-some and painful experience. Peters (1985)proposed that many cases of nostalgia manifestunresolved problems in oneness/separation andomnipotence/helplessness, with nostalgia pro-167NOSTALGIA: THE BITTERSWEET HISTORYThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.viding the motivation to persist in the gruelingwork of individuation (p. 145). He character-ized nostalgia as a yearning that ranges in in-tensity from a fleeting sadness to an over-whelming craving that persists and profoundlyinterferes with the individuals attempts to copewith his present circumstances (p. 135).Whereas medical theorists had designated thehome as the object of yearning in nostalgia, thepsychoanalytic emphasis on symbolism facili-tated the generalization beyond spatial location.Peters (1985) assumed that one can be nostalgicfor any object since objects serve as symbols,and Kulish (1989) and Bassin (1993) extendedthe meaning of nostalgia to denote an incom-plete form of mourning for an idealized past.In sharp contrast to the original emphasis onmelancholy, the psychoanalytic perspectivemade conflicting emotions critical to the es-sence of nostalgia (e.g., Kaplan, 1987; Werman,1977). Kleiner (1970) distinguished the nostal-gic individual from the homesick, the sentimen-tal, and the romantic by nostalgias peculiarcombination of sadness and pleasant reminisc-ing (p. 15), and identified the bittersweet qual-ity of nostalgia as its unique defining feature (p.29). He observed that the homesick feel onlypain, the sentimental excessive emotion, and theromantic only the joy of fantasy and idealiza-tion. Kaplan (1987) distinguished nostalgiafrom depression and argued that for nostalgia tobe normal it must contain both pleasurable anddepressive affect. Many psychoanalytic theo-rists agree with Wermans characterization ofnostalgia as bittersweet, indicating a wistfulpleasure, a joy tinged with sadness (Werman,1977, p. 393; Bassin, 1993; Castelnuovo-Tedesco, 1980; Hertz, 1990; Kaplan, 1987; Pe-ters, 1985). Citing Mahlers notion of the am-bivalently loved mother after separation,Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1980, p. 122) explainedthe genesis of nostalgias bittersweet character:It is sweet because the original object or eventgave pleasure and because the pleasure is en-hanced through idealization. It is bitter not onlybecause it cannot be made to come back but alsobecause, even in its original setting, it containedconflict and disappointment.The focus on conflict led theorists to proposenostalgias role in dealing with loss and transi-tion. Kaplan (1984, p. 150) explained: Thedepressive moods, grief reactions, and profoundanxiety states so typical of adolescence aremanifestations of the inner struggle to relin-quish the past and at the same time never let itgo. As an expression of this struggle a new,bittersweet emotion comes into existence. Dur-ing adolescence the child can for the first timeexperience nostalgia for the lost past and asense of the irreversibility of time. What hasonce been is gone. It cannot be brought backexcept in memory. L. Kaplan argued that ro-manticizing the infantile past helps the adoles-cent cope with the difficulties of her present byinstilling a sense of worthiness based uponmemories of having been an infant or childwho was once perfect and absolutely adored(p. 151). In such a way, nostalgia takes thesting out of the sense of loss . . . Time is irre-versible, but the goodness that was serves asincentive for aspiration (p. 151).The Depathologizing of Nostalgia:Origins as a Psychological ConstructThe growth of psychology as an experimentalscience during the 20th century contributed def-initional precision and objective methodologyto the empirical investigation of nostalgia. Asearly as 1898, Kline studied nostalgia within theframework of genetic psychology made popularby interest in evolutionary theory (Hilgard,1987). Kline (1898, p. 6) explained, The ge-netic psychologist has taken his cue from thebiologists, and accordingly . . . investigates boththe causes and the processes in its developmentuntil it reaches conditions found in the adultform. Applying a quantitative approach, Klineexplored nostalgia (homesickness) as a functionof age, gender, context, psychical effects, andbodily phenomena (p. 78). He concluded thatnostalgia is a reaction to stimuli, primarily, lossof the familiar, presence of the new or strange,and secondarily, restricted liberty and signifi-cant lifestyle change. Kline likened nostalgia toseasickness with the nostalgic having lost hispsychical orientation analogous to the seasickpatient having lost his land sense of equilibrium(p. 80).The introduction of survey techniques re-flected the early impact of scientific conceptssuch as operational definitions on the study ofnostalgia. Although his comparison to seasick-ness shows that Kline had not totally abandonedthe disease model, he had shifted nostalgia to apsychological process, the reaction to particular168 BATCHOThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.types of stimuli. Equally important was Klinesearly allusion to nostalgia as a personality type.Faithful to its title, The migratory impulse ver-sus love of home, 80 of the 81 pages of Klinesarticle are devoted to the migratory impulseand the love of home. In the concluding para-graphs, however, Kline adopts the perspectiveof personality theorist and contrasts the mi-grant who is cosmopolitan, has manifold in-terests, and finds profitable objects and kindredspirits in a variety of situations with the loverof home who is provincial, plodding andtimid, and whose interests are identified withthe conservative and microscopic affairs of so-ciety (pp. 8081). The traits identified as char-acteristic of the lover of home hint at the muchlater transfer of meaning to social/historicalnostalgia (for discussions of historical nostalgiasee Holbrook, 1993; Lears, 1998; Stern, 1992).3It is easy to recognize the influence of Klinesmentor, G. Stanley Hall. Hall (1904) placednostalgia within an evolutionary and develop-mental framework. Identifying adolescence as aperiod of transition, Hall cited a consensusamong authors that adolescents are especiallypredisposed to nostalgia. Indicative of a sub-stantial change in the way nostalgia was framed,Hall included the topic in his chapter titled,Social instincts and institutions. The develop-mental framework shifted the emphasis awayfrom the individual and disease to basic processand normal development. This conceptual tran-sition had progressed further by 1933. Ruml(1933) defined nostalgia as a pathological con-dition, but he added the notion of nostalgicsentiment to extend the concept beyond home-sickness to normal processes: Nostalgic senti-ments are associated not only with place, butalso with persons, time, and even abstract sym-bols (p. 656). As a normal process, nostalgicsentiments could be seen as serving a purpose.Just as Hall discussed nostalgia in the context ofsocial institutions, Ruml asserted that nostalgiastrengthens patriotism, class stability, and thefamily. The disengagement of nostalgic senti-ments from pathology is clear in Rumls pro-posal of their involvement in aesthetic and re-ligious experience.Rumls suggestion that nostalgia plays a rolein social and personal processes advanced animportant transition in the scholarly approach tonostalgia. Methodologically, the preoccupationwith clinical case histories declined with grow-ing interest in methods being developed in ex-perimental psychology. The new meaning laidthe logical foundation for pursuing beneficialfunctions of nostalgia. As a normal universalphenomenon, nostalgia must serve some psy-chological or social purpose.McCann (1941) collected data from collegestudents, and important differences between thecollegiate and the military contexts contributedto the semantic drift toward a broader meaning.As modern transportation made geographicalseparation less traumatic and lessened isolationand cultural differences, the attachment of theconcept of home to a specific place was weak-ened. Although McCann still defined nostalgiaas homesickness in his 1941 review of the lit-erature, he also anticipated the broader use ofthe term. McCann recognized that the meaningof the concept home varies from individual toindividual and also is relative to time and place(p. 174), and he cited reports of nostalgia expe-rienced by people at home after others had goneaway. In McCanns view, as the frustration ofan intense emotional desire to return home, nos-talgia is really no different than the emotionaldesire for another type of object, such as an-other person either living (i.e., lovesickness) ordead (i.e., grief). McCanns recognition of thesubjectivity of the concept home coincided withthe broadening of the meaning of nostalgia.The contrast between McCanns view in1941 and Martins in 1954 is remarkable. Mc-Cann argued that to guard against adult home-sickness, during the developmental years ev-erything be done to prevent a strong emotionalfixation or attachment to the home situation orto any item in it (p. 181). According to Mc-Cann, treatment is anything that tends to re-duce the individuals emotional fixation to hishome (p. 181). Within a framework of bio-logical rhythms, Martin predicted: A returnto humanism will bring with it a healthy re-spect for nostalgia and an encouragement ofthe nostalgic tendencies (1954, p. 103).Rather than defining nostalgia as a disease tobe prevented and treated, theorists began to3 The 1993 Addition to the Oxford English Dictionary(Simpson & Weiner, 1933) provides the additional meaningto the entry for nostalgia Cause for nostalgia . . . freq. as acollective term for objects which evoke a former era, esp.remembered past, and it offers examples of such a use asearly as 1976.169NOSTALGIA: THE BITTERSWEET HISTORYThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.view nostalgia as an adaptive response tostress or change, a fundamental component ofhuman experience, or a positive universalemotion. By 1979, Davis argued that only aminority of speakers would consider nostalgiato be homesickness per se. He reported thatseveral dozen college students he surveyedassociated words such as warm, old times,childhood, and yearning with the term nos-talgia much more frequently than they didhomesickness (p. 4). In 1987, H. Kaplan de-fined nostalgia as warm feelings about thepast, a past that is imbued with happy mem-ories, pleasures, and joys and identified it asa universal affect that results in a heightenedmental state, an enhancing, uplifting moodrelated to particular memories of the past.(p. 465).The more positive approach to nostalgiaemerging during the second half of the 20thcentury influenced both theoretical and appliedresearch. Cognitive theorists began investigat-ing the role of nostalgia in memory and pro-posed nostalgia as an appropriate phenomenonfor the study of the interaction between cogni-tive and affective processes (Batcho, 1995,1998; Cavanaugh, 1989; Ross, 1991). Ca-vanaugh (1989) proposed the empirical study ofnostalgia as an opportunity to integrate our un-derstanding of the relationship between emotionand memory in everyday life with what we havelearned about personality development fromempirical work and psychoanalytic theory. Ca-vanaugh argued that, nostalgia represents acognitive attempt to recapture a time when lifewas good, safe, secure, and contented (p. 603).He proposed that, as a cognitive-emotionalevent, nostalgia is one of the ways that onedevelops and maintains identity and reminis-cence is the primary means by which onemaintains relationships with old parts of the selfand by which one measures personal changeover time (p. 603).Applying a cognitive approach, Batcho(1995) introduced a survey measure of nostal-gia, defined as missing aspects of ones personalpast, and explored the relationship between nos-talgia and memory and personality. Batcho con-cluded: The largely negative picture of a fear-ful, unhappy, dependent person which haddominated many years of nostalgia theory isreplaced by a more positive image of an indi-vidual with the capacity to feel intensely and forwhom other people are a high priority (1998,p. 430).From a sociological perspective, Davis(1979) conceptualized nostalgia as an attempt toadapt to discontinuity in life and noted thatolder people are especially likely to be nostal-gic. Similarly, Cavanaugh (1989, p. 604) cited agrowing suspicion among researchers thatmemory is more closely linked to affect in olderthan in younger adults. Appearing in Educa-tional Gerontology, Cavanaughs article on ev-eryday memory aging reflected the applied in-terest emerging in clinical studies of nostalgia.Whereas the military needs of previous centu-ries framed nostalgia as an illness to be treated,the 20th-century focus on adaptive functionsintroduced nostalgia as the therapy rather thanas the problem.Hertz researched the ability of aging survi-vors of the Holocaust to cope with the extremetrauma they had suffered (1990). Having ob-served more frequent reminiscences and nostal-gic longings with advancing age, Hertz viewednostalgia as an adaptive mechanism used tocope with major challenges that confront theelderly. Advocating clinical studies to comple-ment laboratory research, Mills and Coleman(1994) explored the role of nostalgic reminis-cence as a therapeutic strategy among sufferersof dementia in a psychogeriatric setting. Theyconcluded that nostalgia can help maintain orrestore a sense of self-identity by reweavingthe broken threads of life history (p. 215) andcan enhance personhood by strengthening theindividuals connections to others.The emergence of clinical work with nostal-gic reminiscence illustrates how the practice ofa discipline is shaped by the theoretical con-structions available at the time, and how thatpractice in turn influences the further develop-ment of the constructs. The work of clinicianssuch as Hertz and Mills and Coleman exempli-fies the shift of nostalgia from the object ofmedical treatment to that of treatment for otherconditions in need of amelioration. By the endof the 20th century, psychological stress,whether induced by present conditions or mem-ories of past events, had become a medicalentity in its own right. Nostalgia had joined thedeveloping class of psychological constructsbeing added to the arsenal of medical treat-ments, most notably the growing list of psycho-active pharmaceuticals.170 BATCHOThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.However, the vestiges of nostalgias patho-logical past are still apparent in disagreementsabout the therapeutic value of nostalgia and thepossibility of pathological forms of nostalgia.For example, Zinchenko (2011) reported psy-chosomatic symptoms in recent refugees with-out prior psychiatric history as a result of amalignant form of nostalgia. Zinchenko arguesthat maladaptive nostalgia involves repetitivereconstructions of bittersweet memories ratherthan the creative reconstruction of past experi-ences. While reconnecting them with the past,these involuntary reminiscences were obstaclesto learning new material, prevented healthy ad-aptation to their present reality, and threatenedtheir psychological well-being.The survival of negative alongside morerecent positive conceptualizations illustratesthe influence of a medical context. Within themedical setting, nostalgia is examined withterminology such as symptoms, patients, ma-lignant, and maladaptive. The medical con-text revisits taxonomic questions of whethernostalgia is essentially a pathological entity,whether there are bitter and sweet forms ofnostalgia, or whether bitter and sweet dimen-sions are intrinsic to nostalgia. Nostalgia isanalyzed quite differently from a nonmedicalperspective. The benefits of nostalgia wererecounted by two Holocaust survivors whovisited their homeland with their daughter(Hirsch & Spitzer, 2002). Reminiscence andnarration enabled them to reconnect with boththe pleasurable and the traumatic in the pastand to help their daughter in her search formeaning as a child of exiles. Rather thanrelying on medical terms to communicatecomplexities of their experience, the authorsintroduced qualifiers to distinguish types ofnostalgia. Conflicting feelings aroused by re-membering joy and horror in the past arereferred to as ambivalent nostalgia, and thedaughters yearning to connect with a pastexperienced only second-hand through herparents memories as rootless nostalgia.Hirsch and Spitzer (p. 274) concluded that thejourney engendered an encounter betweengenerations, between past and present, be-tween nostalgic and traumatic memory.By the 1990s, the designation of bittersweetas the distinctive feature of nostalgic affect hadbecome typical. Some theorists gave cursorycredit to psychoanalytic authors (Cavanaugh,1989; Stern, 1992), while others cited empiricaldata or simply defined nostalgia as a bittersweetemotion (Batcho, 1998; Havlena & Holak,1991; Mills & Coleman, 1994). Differences be-tween technical and nontechnical uses contrib-uted to a lack of unanimity. Davis suggestedthat until well into the 1950s nostalgia wasregarded as a fancy word, with use confinedmostly to psychiatrists, psychologists, and a fewlay speakers. Davis maintained that the desig-nation of nostalgic affect as bittersweet in ver-nacular use had become only occasional, withthe recognition of the bitter side of nostalgiahaving become rare. He argued, Nostalgic feel-ing is almost never infused with those senti-ments we commonly think of as negative, andsuggested that the component of sadnessserves only to heighten the quality of recapturedjoy (1979, p. 14). What remains unclear is theextent to which observations such as Davis aregermane to the use of the term as a label ratherthan to the construct of nostalgia. Had the termnostalgic been coopted to designate the warmfuzzy feeling associated with sentimental re-membrances of youthful joys?Referential MeaningPsychologys drive to define itself as an em-pirical science increasingly strengthened the de-mand for definitional clarity. Words, essentialto thought and communication, can also get inthe way, distract, or confuse the understandingof a construct. As the sense of an experience isconstructed within a social, cultural, historicalcontext, its meaning changes with the wordsused to label, describe and interconnect it toother related entities. Confusion of differentconstructs designated by the same term has con-tinued to obstruct progress in empirical researchon nostalgia. In addition to the longstandingconfounding of varying notions of homesick-ness and longing for the past, the past is itselfa construct that has different meanings and as-sociations within the context of nostalgia. Forexample, Stern (1992) articulated a distinctionbetween two types of nostalgiahistorical, thedesire to return to a distant historical periodperceived as superior to the present, and per-sonal, which idealizes the personally remem-bered past. Arguments that historical nostalgiaimpedes social, cultural or technological prog-ress by encouraging reactionary opinions and171NOSTALGIA: THE BITTERSWEET HISTORYThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.choices should not be confused with argumentsthat personal nostalgia can trap an individual inhis or her own past. The term nostalgia has beenapplied indiscriminately also to the sentiment asa mood state and to nostalgia proneness as apersonality trait. The need for conceptual clarityas a prerequisite for consensus has become animpetus for the development of methods for theempirical investigation of the characteristics,triggers, correlates and functions of nostalgia(Barrett et al., 2010; Bassett, 2006; Batcho,1995, 1998, 2007; Batcho, DaRin, Nave, &Yaworsky, 2008; Batcho, Nave, & DaRin,2011; Best & Nelson, 1985; Godbole, Shehryar,& Hunt, 2006; Hart et al., 2011; Iyer & Jetten,2011; Juhl, Routledge, Arndt, Sedikides, &Wildschut, 2010; Leboe & Ansons, 2006;Muehling & Pascal, 2011; Nawas & Platt, 1965;Routledge, Arndt, Sedikides, & Wildschut,2008; Wildschut, Sedikides, Arndt, & Rout-ledge, 2006; Wildschut, Sedikides, Routledge,Arndt, & Cordaro, 2010; Zhou, Sedikides,Wildschut, & Gao, 2008).As the referential meaning of nostalgiashifted away from homesickness, questionsemerged about the connections between them.Can homesickness be thought of as a specificcase of nostalgia, in that there are warm feelingstoward, longing for, and memories of home?Or, is missing home independent of feelingstoward the past? Gibrans poetic simile ex-presses the compelling parallel between bothforms of longing: An old man likes to return inmemory to the days of his youth like a strangerwho longs to go back to his own country(Gibran, 1912/1995, p. 352). However, withinthe longing of homesickness, home is experi-enced as present, not past. The two constructscan coexist or be interrelated, and the languagethat allows such possibilities to be consideredsuggests that they are two constructs, not one.Naming can have profound implications. In1933, reacting to atrocities such as the Arme-nian massacre, Raphael Lemkin proposed thatextermination directed against ethnic, religiousor social collectives be deemed an internationalcrime (Lemkin, 1933). Arguing that New con-ceptions require new terms, Lemkin (1944)coined the term genocide: This new word,coined by the author to denote an old practice inits modern development, is made from the an-cient Greek word genos (race, tribe) and theLatin cide (killing), thus corresponding in itsformation to such words as tyrannicide, homo-cide, infanticide, and so forth (p. 79). Theinitial social and political impact of the labelbecame evident as it was applied in the 1945indictment of war criminals (International Mil-itary Tribunal, 1945). With the adoption of Res-olution 260, the United Nations General Assem-bly defined genocide as an international crimeand established policy for the prevention andpunishment of acts of genocide (G.A. Res.260[III], Dec. 9, 1948).While a label can facilitate thought and ac-tion, it can also limit thought and behaviors.Ignatieff (2001) argued that the term genocide isdeliberately not applied when needed most inorder to avoid the legal and political ramifica-tions, while those who use the word often ba-nalize it into a validation of every kind of vic-timhood (p. 27). Short (2010) advocated anexpansion of the use of genocide beyond masskilling to include culturally destructive pro-cesses that do not entail direct physical killing.By choosing cide in constructing his label, per-haps Lemkin contributed to the narrow under-standing of genocide as physical killing.Similarly, Hofers choice of the suffix algiadeliberately incorporated nostalgia into themedical ideology of his time and changedprescribed medical, social, and even legal be-haviors with respect to homesickness. Wherelonging for home was once admired as the em-bodiment of faithfulness, love for family, andcommitment to a social community, it became adisease to be prevented and cured. Similarly,conceptualizations of longing for a lost pastchanged as a result of the application of thelabel nostalgia. Subsumed within the web ofattributes that constituted nostalgia, longing forthe past acquired vestiges of medical, psychiat-ric, and psychoanalytic thought. Home and thepast do not share an obvious, necessary connec-tion. Changes in mobility shifted the notion ofhome such that the geographical referent be-came less central and birthplace, family, people,lifestyle, language and all that constitutes cul-ture and allegiance to it became more integral.Ease of transportation meant that people couldfeel free to leave the place of their birth with theexpectation that return would be as simple.However, the new construct of home re-vealed that the return trip was no longer a geo-graphical journey. You cant go home again,because leaving home means leaving behind a172 BATCHOThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.time in ones life; this understanding was one ofthe pivotal links between homesickness andlonging for ones past. Originally coined as abetter name for longing for home, nostalgia wasthen applied to longing for ones past. Theavailability of the apt existing label homesick-ness for longing for home allowed for the un-easy distinction between the two constructs ofhomesickness and longing for ones past. Withno existing label for longing for the past, nos-talgia became used more often in reference tolonging for the past and less often to homesick-ness. Changes in lifestyle, family structure, andchildcare diminished the salience of homesick-ness and increased the importance of longingfor ones past. The present arguments do notdetermine how greatly a construct can changebefore it becomes a different entity entirely.The proposition presented here is that homesick-ness and longing for ones past represent dif-ferent, albeit related, constructs, and that bothhave undergone transformations as a result ofchanges in social and historical events as well asby the application of labels and methods tostudy them.ConclusionsThe analysis presented here illustrates thedifficulty of tracing a phenomenon throughhistory. As articulated by Starobinski (1966,p. 81), the effort encounters the question ofmethod resulting from the interplay of emo-tions and language. The history of nostalgiais more than a chronicle of changes in theaffective character of the complex experience.The shifting referent for the term reflected thestruggle to understand the nature of the sen-timent, its source, its significance, and deter-mination of its adaptive or maladaptive char-acter, correlates, and consequences. It isbeyond the scope of this article to decide thephilosophical issue of whether a psychologi-cal construct such as nostalgia can constitutea natural entity. However, revisiting nostal-gias past reminds us that how a construct isdefined, researched, and applied is influencedby social-cultural events and norms as well asby the dominant philosophical perspectives inthe scholarly disciplines. Disciplines aredriven not just by the search for truth and thestatus of knowledge, but also by pressures offinancial support, practical need and popularreceptivity.The coining of a medical label to designatethe longing for home transformed a normalemotion into a disease, introducing undesir-able connotations to a previously admiredsentiment. Whereas a confluence of warfareand development of medical nosology con-tributed to the pathologizing of nostalgia, sci-entific advances that yielded no viable theoryof nostalgia as a physical disease ushered inthe first phase of the depathologizing of nos-talgia. Interest shifted from physical medicineto psychiatry and then to the psychoanalyticmovement, the new profession of clinical psy-chology and the discipline of psychology.Theoretical and methodological develop-ments in psychology advanced the psychoan-alytical shift in referential meaning fromlonging for home to longing for the past.Constructs evolve via a dynamic interplaybetween referential and connotative meanings.Coined as a bitter emotion within a diseasemodel, nostalgia gained its sweet side within thepsychoanalytic framework, but the valence at-tributed to nostalgia varied as a function ofsocial forces. As with reversible images, onecan perceive a bitter or a sweet sentiment de-pending on contextual and discipline bias. Andas with such images, despite the difficulty ofperceiving both simultaneously, both compo-nents comprise the whole.Richards (1989) suggested that the psycho-analytic perspective has remained relevant,because it had incorporated certain principlesof science that have not yet been totally aban-doned. One such principle, that of conflict, isreflected in the bittersweet character of nos-talgia. Longing for the past is particularlyrelevant as people struggle for a sense ofcontinuity in a rapidly shifting landscape oftheir personal and social lives. The possibilityof maximizing nostalgias therapeutic poten-tial is appealing in a society anticipating afuture characterized by innovations beyondcurrent imagination. Half a century ago, DagHammarskjold perceived no inherent conflictbetween valuing the past and valuing the fu-ture: The intensity of a mans faith in life canbe gauged by his readiness to say yes to thepast and yes to the future (Hammarskjold,1953/1972, p. 98). 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Journal of Russianand East European Psychology, 49, 8497.Received January 17, 2012Revision received January 3, 2013Accepted January 21, 2013 176 BATCHOThisdocumentiscopyrightedbytheAmericanPsychologicalAssociationoroneofitsalliedpublishers.Thisarticleisintendedsolelyforthepersonaluseoftheindividualuserandisnottobedisseminatedbroadly.NOSTALGIA: The Bittersweet History of a Psychological ConceptNostalgia as a Physical Disease: Medical OriginsFrom Physical to Mental Illness: The Role of PsychiatryConflict and the Bittersweet: The Impact of the Psychoanalytic MovementThe Depathologizing of Nostalgia: Origins as a Psychological ConstructReferential MeaningConclusionsReferences
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