Internalizing negative experiences

There are many ways to characterize the origination of a new piece of emotional baggage. We may endure a traumatic experience that we cannot forget or resolve in our minds. We may get into some frightening amount of trouble for doing what we thought was the right thing and end up with a disturbingly unresolved issue about right and wrong. We may experience a devastating loss which becomes a deep seated fear that a similar loss will happen again. We may get betrayed, exploited or abused in profound ways that change our beliefs in what we deserve and what will always happen to us.

In all these cases, we internalize the negative experience. We do not: write the incident off to experience, let it go for our own good or see how to outgrow it. We take it to heart and take it very personally. We get into a stuck place. We see no way out of the entrapment of our thoughts and feelings created by the negative experience. There appeared to be no choice to avoid internalizing it at the time. Taking it in very deeply simply happened to us, just like the negative experience itself.

It's usually comforting to note that we also internalize positive experiences. We become big believers in our successes. We assume we can repeat what worked out well for us previously. We take issue with exceptions to those victories because we've made up our minds that we deserve to win and expect it to happen routinely. We only maintain unresolved issues about losing or failing because we've internalized positive experiences.

The fact that we internalize both positive and negative experiences suggests there is a process in our minds that we can trust. There's nothing wrong with internalizing experiences. The trouble results from the negative experiences that get taken in too deep. With this perspective, we can choose to internalize the positive experiences and seriously question the negative ones. We can work at getting our reliable process of internalizing experiences working in our favor. We can give this process positive experiences to assimilate and keep the poisonous ones out of our system.

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