I had just finished re-watching Game of Thrones in its entirety for the third time since I was introduced to the show three years ago. I instantly had a show-hangover. You know, that empty yet longing feeling you get when your favorite stories come to an end. Even after three watches, I felt a desire to immediately restart the show and dive back into the story.
Instead, I moved onto re-reading my favorite book series and re-listening to my favorite podcast.
I am continuously watching and reading the same shows and movies and books over and over and over again. I watch new shows and movies and read new books too, but I can never quite stop myself from reading the Harry Potter books for the 13th time or watching the original Jumanji for the 23rd time. I am a creature of habit and repetition. And maybe a little obsessive.
Why do I do this? Well, for one, I love the nostalgia. When I’m watching a show like Game of Thrones, I love returning to the moments I first watched it. I love reminiscing on my initial reactions to it and I love thinking back to where I was, who I was watching it with, and how excited I was. I also often compare those past moments to my present moments of reconsuming all these works. Who was I then? Who am I now?
Is this normal? Is this something you do, as well? This phenomenon is actually quite common.
The simplest reason we do this is just because we really enjoy the story. But other reasons arise when we dig deeper. Scientific American says, “People use familiar entertainment to measure how their lives have changed in positive ways” as one possible explanation for this phenomenon. We also continuously return to our most beloved stories because the ending is a sure thing – we know exactly what’s coming at the end, and with reality being so unpredictable and frankly, really difficult, our brains love when it doesn’t have to work too hard to figure yet another thing out.
Perhaps we do this is for comfort and the all-too-rare feeling of safety and security. Perhaps we re-watch our favorite shows to assure ourselves that despite whatever is going on in our outside world, things will be okay. Because this show still exists, and this show still makes us feel good. We re-read our favorite books because they are stories we grew up with that inspired us and made us who we are today, and they still inspire us. These stories are therapeutic.
However, these shows, movies, and books aren’t really the same as the first time we watched them.
I was nine years old when I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and I was 25 years old when I read it most recently. The book is the same, but my life is not. For example, my 25-year-old mind understands exactly how tragic and heart-wrenching the abuse Harry endured from the Dursleys is, but my nine-year-old mind was far too caught up in magic and spells and flying to even comprehend the grimmer parts of the story.
Do you know that quote that goes, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man” by Heraclitus? This quote essentially means everything is perpetually in a state of flux. Our minds and lives are always in a state of flux. Our favorite stories are not always quite the same because our perspectives and interpretations of them are forever changing. There may be a variety of reasons explaining why we continue to re-watch and re-read. But this one is my favorite.
There’s something miraculous about always finding something new in what is old.