Friday, June 11, 2010

Ingrained Responses

The emotional responses ingrained in our brains are strange things. They can be triggered by people, places, smells, songs...basically anything that our brain recognizes as associated with a specific era or event in our lives.

For example, a little while ago on the way to a girlfriend's home, my son told me that when we pass the field where he plays football (which is very near her home) he gets butterflies in his stomach. He said that being near the field immediately calls pre-game nervousness to memory for him; a recollection of wondering whether he and his teammates were going to play well, to win or to lose. Similarly, as I scrolled through Facebook statuses recently, I came upon one written by my high school boyfriend reminiscing about cookouts at his childhood home. I "liked" the status, then proceeded to click to see who the other 5 people were who had also liked the status. One of them was his cousin, who I met for the first time at one such event and still like very much--a pleasant sensory recollection; another was the girl for whom he'd broken up with me to date ever so briefly during my senior year--a very negative sensory recollection that had me immediately up in arms wondering how he could DARE be friends with her, and that sent my brain on a temporary tailspin with flashes of memory from that year.

Um, what the heck?! For starters, it's Facebook--a funny, silly pastime, not to be taken seriously or looked upon as a reflection of anyone's "real" life. And not only was high school a lifetime ago, but I also have nothing more than a passing, friendly interest in this ex's life and no desire to be with him again. In short, I don't really care. But apparently I may have unresolved issues from the way our relationship ended. This was my first real, long-term relationship, and at 17, I didn't know how to deal with what I was feeling--so did I bury a great deal of it? Probably. And though he and I have remained intermittently in touch, we've never discussed what went wrong.

I think it's amazing what we can hold on to without even realizing it, and that this is a good reminder to always allow ourselves to feel what we feel, and to work through it--even if we don't come up with the answers right away. We just never know what could be buried deep inside, coloring our perceptions, or threatening to suddenly disrupt our peace without our knowledge or consent.


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