Memorized Feelings Limit Us to Re-creating the Past
By definition, emotions are the end products of past experiences in life. When you’re in the midst of an experience, the brain receives vital information from the external environment through five different sensory pathways (sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch). As that cumulative sensory data reaches the brain and is processed, networks of neurons arrange themselves into specific patterns reflecting the external event. The moment those nerve cells string into place, the brain releases chemicals. Those chemicals are called an “emotion” or a “feeling.” (In this article, I use the words feelings and emotions interchangeably because they are close enough for our understanding.) When those emotions begin to chemically flood your body, you detect a change in your internal order (you’re thinking and feeling differently than you were moments before). Naturally, when you notice this change in your internal state, you’ll pay attention to whoever or whatever in your external environment caused that change. When you can identify whatever it was in your outer world that caused your internal change, that event in and of itself is called a memory. Neurologically and chemically, you encode that environmental information into your brain and body. Thus you can remember experiences better because you recall how they felt at the time they happened — feelings and emotions are a chemical record of past experiences. For example, your boss arrives for your performance review. You notice immediately that he looks red faced, even irritated. As he starts speaking in a loud voice, you smell garlic on his breath. He accuses you of undermining him in front of other employees, and says he has passed you over for a promotion. In this moment you feel jittery, weak in the knees, and queasy; and your heart is racing. You feel fearful, betrayed, and angry. All of the cumulative sensory information — everything you’re smelling, seeing, feeling, and hearing — is changing your internal state. You associate that external experience with a change in how you’re feeling internally, and it brands you emotionally. You go home and repeatedly review this experience in your mind. Every time you do, you remind yourself of the accusing, intimidating look on your employer’s face, how he yelled at you, what he said, and even how he smelled. Then you once again feel fearful and angry; you produce the same chemistry in your brain and body as if the performance review is still happening. Because your body believes it is experiencing the same event again and again, you are conditioning it to live in the past. Let’s reason this a bit further. Think of your body as the unconscious mind, or as an objective servant that takes orders from your consciousness. It is so objective that it doesn’t know the difference between the emotions that are created from experiences in your external world and those you fabricate in your internal world by thought alone. To the body, they are the same. What if this cycle of thinking and feeling that you were betrayed continues for years on end? If you keep dwelling on that experience with your boss or reliving those familiar feelings, day in and day out, you continually signal your body with chemical feelings that it associates with the past. This chemical continuity fools the body into believing that it is still reexperiencing the past, so the body keeps reliving the same emotional experience. When your memorized thoughts and feelings consistently force your body to “be in” the past, we could say that the body becomes the memory of the past. If those memorized feelings of betrayal have been driving your thoughts for years, then your body has been living in the past 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. In time, your body is anchored in the past. You know that when you repeatedly re-create the same emotions until you cannot think any greater than how you feel, your feelings are now the means of your thinking. And since your feelings are a record of previous experiences, you’re thinking in the past. And by quantum law, you create more of the past. Bottom line: Most of us live in the past and resist living in a new future. Why? The body is so habituated to memorizing the chemical records of our past experiences that it grows attached to these emotions. In a very real sense, we become addicted to those familiar feelings. So when we want to look to the future and dream of new vistas and bold landscapes in our not-too-distant reality, the body, whose currency is feelings, resists the sudden change in direction. Accomplishing this about-face is the great labor of personal change. So many people struggle to create a new destiny, but find themselves unable to overcome the past memory of who they feel they are. Even if we crave unknown adventures and dream of new possibilities ahead in the future, we seem to be compelled to revisit the past. Feelings and emotions are not bad. They are the end products of experience. But if we always relive the same ones, we can’t embrace any new experiences. Have you known people who always seem to talk about “the good old days”? What they’re really saying is: Nothing new is happening in my life to stimulate my feelings; therefore I’ll have to reaf irm myself from some glorious moments in the past. If we believe that our thoughts have something to do with our destiny, then as creators, most of us are only going in circles.