How Events From the Past can Affect us Emotionally in the Present

How Events from the Past can Affect Us Emotionally in the Present.

‘When some feature of an event seems similar to an emotionally charged memory from the past, the emotional mind responds by triggering the feelings that went with the remembered event. The emotional mind reacts to the present as though it were the past.’

(Daniel Goleman,1996)

Sometimes something happens in the present and our emotional reaction to it seems bigger than we would have imagined it to be. It can seem like the emotional reaction is somewhat out of proportion to the event and this can leave a person bewildered as to why. If someone is critical, for example, or if someone is annoyed with you, can it take days to get over the critical remark or do you feel devastated if someone is annoyed by something you have done?

At times, the criticism or annoyance directed our way really does hurt a lot if what we have done or said to result in the criticism or annoyance was done with good intentions. But sometimes our emotional reactions are more related to events that happened in the past, rather than the event happening now. We all have life experiences that are stored in our memories and minds and even if we don’t remember them in an accurate way, we still have some emotional memory of it. For example, if a person was criticised a lot as a young child, even if they don’t remember it, they will have an emotional memory of it stored. This emotional memory is stored often in a person’s sub-conscious and can be triggered if a small but similar event takes place. If we react strongly to something, we can sometimes work out quite quickly that our response is related to past experience. This can then free you up to separate out the two events, the one from the past and the one from the present, putting in perspective what is happening emotionally for you right now and having more choice about how you wish to react. Our emotional responses to situations are not a genetic inheritance. We can work on our level of emotional intelligence and become more aware of how we do and how we wish to react to things that happen in life.

The present is now and despite the emotional memories we all have stored, now is the situation at hand. Make a choice about what you believe and while all that happens in the past shapes how we think and what we believe, we can control to a large extent how we choose to focus our mind. The present is not the past so the next time your emotional reaction to something seems huge; ask yourself if something else is being triggered. It can all be worked through.. And this includes unresolved  pain from the past too. Remember always… the present is not the past.