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Were the Good Old Days Really Good?

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Were the Good Old Days Really Good?

No more rose-colored glasses.
David  Niven Ph.D.
David Niven Ph.D. More by this author
Dec 02, 2010 at 09:00 AM

Many people could list a hundred ways that life in the past was better than life today. Life was easier. Pressures didn’t build 24 hours a day. And on and on. By romanticizing a tiny part of what life was like—and blocking everything else out—they can make it seem like life used to be almost perfect. But the simpler life that once existed was also stifling and harsh.

“If you want to go backward in time,” Harvey Levinson says, “you have to be willing to go backward.”

Harvey is a Connecticut rabbi whose social conscience brought him to the Deep South several times during the Civil Rights Movement. He remembers exactly what it felt like when he stepped up to the counter of a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, and the waitress told him they were out of food.

To his left and right were plates of food. On the shelf between the kitchen and the dining room were plates of food. And he could see the cook in the back with yet more food.

This was a minor disgrace compared to what others were facing at the time. But Harvey was still stunned by the reflexive hate.

Four decades later, Harvey was traveling in the area and stopped in Birmingham. Out of curiosity, he looked up the restaurant and found it was still there.

“I ordered dinner, and do you know what the waitress said to me? She said, ‘Would you like anything else, sweetie.’ Can you imagine that?” Harvey said.

“Don’t ever let someone tell you the world isn’t a little bit better place today, when we treat each other with more dignity and humanity.”

In psychological studies, people with the strongest tendency to romanticize the past also score very high in the certainty of their views. In other words, they not only rewrite the past, but also are confident that their revisions are correct. When researchers asked a group of senior citizens to make lists of things that are better and worse today than they were 40 years ago, the “better” lists were, on average, three times as long.

About Author
David  Niven Ph.D.
David Niven, Ph.D., is the author of the popular 100 Simple Secrets series, which has been translated into 30 languages. As a psychologist and social scientist, his work makes the case that a more satisfying life can be had with small changes Continue reading