Sometimes when we get home from a long or stressful day we just want to watch that movie again. It’s simple, fun, relaxing, and calming somehow.

We’ve seen this movie probably 50 times, but we still want to see it again. We might just want it playing in the background as we browse our phones or do something else. We just enjoy glancing at it once in a while.

Why?

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We enjoy re-watching old favorites for a few reasons:

1. Predictability

When we’re stressed or tired, we don’t have the energy to watch something new. We don’t have the emotional budget to get wrapped up in something intense, even if we know it’ll be a good movie. This is when our old favorites come to the rescue. We know exactly how these stories go and we already know what moods these stories put us in. No need to develop tension not knowing what mood the story will send us into. Instead, we can actually relax through the whole movies, even moments of drama or suspense. We can drift in and out of the story exactly when we want to.

This predictability is soothing.

We can ruminate on the themes of the film calmly. We can let our minds wander to how these themes are reflected in our lives and then we can return to the story at our favorite parts to savor the perspectives the film shows us.

2. Aesthetic

It’s almost like putting a favorite painting on the wall. We sometimes play movies to run in the background because they look or feel nice. The movie might take place in a sunny European town, in a mansion during the Recency era, or the streets of an exciting, nocturnal city. We don’t pay too close attention to the story or the characters on these re-watches, instead we want the aesthetic in the room with us.

We want to set the mood for ourselves to either moderate tense feelings or maintain pleasant ones.

Film is a form of visual art and it can be appreciated for what the images in the film inspire us to appreciate. Certain vistas in films help us contemplate the value of nature, of quiet, or of comfort. Other settings like urban scenes perhaps remind us of home or help us to appreciate the beauty of city-life. Fantastical vistas in space or alternate universes help us ponder deeper truths and the fundamentals of life.

We watch these aesthetically pleasing movies to carefully curate our moods and thoughts for the next few hours – to settle our minds into places and themes that we’re craving. Appreciating the aesthetic of a film is as useful as appreciating a favorite piece of fine art; both pieces of media transport us to enlightening and consoling mindspaces.

3. Nostalgia

Who were you when you first saw your favorite movie?

How did you make sense of the story and it’s themes? How did you think of the characters?

How have you or these perspectives changed?

These thoughts float around our heads when we watch old favorites. We can feel a strange overlap in our thoughts from the past. On our first watch, as a kid, we thought these characters were so grown up and adult. Now, years later, they seem like normal people or perhaps even immature. Certain scenes scared, thrilled, or embarrassed us, but now they seem quite tame. When watching a movie we also reconstruct the thoughts and impressions of the person we were on our first few watches.

The movie has become a time capsule of our younger selves.

When we watch the movie we revisit that younger self. We see how that self measures up to who we are now and think more deeply about the events that changed our perspectives. This is a gentle form of self-evaluation. This nostalgic self-evaluation is quite useful for us to stay connected to our pasts. Remembering our younger self is important to remaining aware of our personal growth and generating our personal stories into the future.

How Can We Use This?

We re-watch movies intuitively. We do it without really having a conscious reason. Even though it defies logic to engage in a story we know the ending to, it is because a movie is more than it’s ending. A film holds messages that we like to be reminded of, its aesthetic helps us meditate on interesting or fulfilling perspectives, and our relationship with a story evolves as we do. Re-watching a movie is, in a way, a form of light meditation – we instinctively pick what moods, feelings, and perspectives we want to spend more time calmly contemplating.

However, it would serve us well to develop more mindfulness about what we watch and why. To consume media mindfully is to use the knowledge of why we re-watch certain films to better understand ourselves, our current emotional needs, and bolster our overall emotional intelligence.


Thank you for reading!

This blog, Screen Therapy, is dedicated to exploring how we can mindfully use the time we already spend on games and movies to strengthen our emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is crucial when we face the everyday stresses and anxieties we all endure (such as the fear of death, how to develop the skills for loving relationships, or learning how to cope with just how difficult life feels, etc.)

We receive very little formal education or help in processing these difficult challenges, but by strengthening our self-knowledge and emotional intelligence through art and culture we can better pursue our personal balance.

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