Every memory is composed of two parts:
- What happened in reality.
- How you felt about what happened in reality.
It happens all too often that we let how we felt about our past memories or how we feel about our future experiences ACTUALLY DEFINE WHAT WE THINK HAPPENED.
When you experience something, you are NEVER experiencing what ACTUALLY HAPPENED. That is impossible. Your emotions won't allow for it. Monks have been trying to do it for generations and look at the extremes they have had to gone in the process.
(despite what you may believe, this an old photo of an ex-Catholic, currently practicing Buddhist monk. It is NOT a photo I stole from an online costume shop.)
You are only experiencing your emotional interpretation of what happened. It is that emotional interpretation that lingers in your mind years later when you try to recall that experience.
I had a past altercation with my wife.
In this altercation, my wife offers me a piece of advice. I do not accept the piece of advice because I do not see it's relevance. Months later, my idea about that piece of advice changes and I communicate to my wife how I feel. Instead of rejoicing in the unity of our minds, my wife is frustrated with me. Not because I accepted her piece of advice. Not even because I didn't accept it months ago. She is frustrated because it reminded her of how she FELT when I didn't accept her piece of advice months ago. The feeling was the defining aspect of that past experience and therefore became her memory. My wife is a very open woman. She loves diversity. She loves discussion. She would never turn down an opportunity to fuck shit up with questions, yet in her mind of our past experience there was not a memory of "James disagreed with me" as that memory would bring feelings of joys upon its recollection when I tell her that I finally agree with her because she enjoys discussion. My wife's emotions defined what actually happened so that something she enjoys (discussion) in so many other circumstances was redefined as something she does not enjoy because she had a negative emotion attached to it....and that memory lingered on in her mind for months.
Now, I fully admit that the way in which I disagreed has a HUGE part to do with the negative emotion she attached to the experience. I mean there is a huge emotional difference between this type of disagreement and this type. But once again, the way in which I do things and the way in which she interprets things HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT HAPPENED IN REALITY - a disagreement.
It is letting emotion define our experiences that cause us the occasional confusion of liking something in one context only to hate the exact thing in another context.
It is letting emotion define our experiences that causes the common human to take a couple decades to become fully independent.
It is letting emotions define our experiences that can cause two people who were present for the exact same thing, at the exact same time, to differ so greatly in how they recall the details day/months/years/minutes later.
It is letting emotions define our experiences that causes us to be original.
It is letting emotions define our experiences that causes us to stand out from the crowd.
It is our emotions that define each individual us.
It is the lack of knowing when to let our emotions define our experiences and when not to that will keep us from improving our emotional maturity.
And it is the lack of emotional maturity that keeps humans from becoming more human.