Stockpiling negative experiences

One way to handle a negative experience is to let it go. Once it's over, it's regarded as"water under the bridge" of no further consequence. It's "over and done with". It's merely "something that happens". We lighten up and move on with no regrets.

The opposite way to handle a negative experience is to cling to it. It's never over and always lingers around in memories, dreams, emotions and outlooks. It proves to be a life-defining incident with unforgettable qualities. It makes the future look different than it did prior to whatever happened. It makes life a drag where we carry around a heavier burden than before. The prior negative experience fuels an ongoing stream of equally dark emotions (hatred, anger, revenge, self-pity, shame, fear).

When we choose to cling to a negative experience, we're usually certain that we have no choice in the matter. It seems like the clinging choses us, not the other way around. It appears we're haunted by by the negative experience, stuck with and paying an endless penalty for what sucked in the first place. Letting go is not an option on the menu we're looking at. Stockpiling negative experiences happens automatically for some hidden reason.

As I've pondered for years why we stockpile our negative experiences, it's become clear to me that it's good for survival. While our conscious reasoning is taking care of business, maintaining relationships and solving problems, our autopilot navigation is constantly looking out for danger. We transcribe negative experiences in indelible ink to not get into the same troubles again. We memorize what didn't work, what to avoid and what to to reject the next time around. We assume it would be far more dangerous to forget our negative experiences.

If our stockpiling only kept us safe, we'd appreciate this automatic approach to vigilance. However, it runs deeper and takes effect in other ways. The stockpile produces the stream of negative emotions I've already mentioned. This inner storm occasionally results in flipping our lid and giving others negative experiences. Our need to justify what happened to us produces a world view we accept without question. We over-generalize the negative experiences into our facts of life, bad luck, curse or particular misfortune. We imagine how we must live in a world where these experiences are always present, threatening and posed to waylay us. We stand guard against these negative experiences while they continue to occur and prove us right about their inevitability.

Losing our luggage is as much a life-defining experience as getting it was originally. We not only let go of what happened to us, we feel liberated from the world view that justified its occurrence. We no longer feel trapped by some wicked curse, bad luck or cruel fate. We experience freedom from our long standing captivity. We put down the heavy burden and lighten up considerably. The stream of negative emotions disappears. Our outlook sees more mysteries to wonder about, opportunities to explore and changes to work on. A new day has dawned when our baggage gets left behind.

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