Monday, November 12, 2012

The Point of Vectors

You know what you are by what you were.  Usually that works to your advantage; providing stability, a sense of purpose, and a sense of direction heading forward.

In the grand scheme, we learn the history of our respective counties to know our identities and directions as citizens.

In the same vein, our personal history defines our own identity and individual direction.  But sometimes, if not usually, our histories contain some "blemishes," for lack of a better word.  These blemishes can, and often do, affect the relationships we have and the choices we make, ultimately affecting the direction we take in life.

These blemishes affect the direction we take because emotionally, and/or logically, they point to the next steps of our behavior.  And those next steps lead to others, and those lead to others, etc.  But they don't have to.

Not to trivialize it, but after a blemish has happened, it is just a story, and you find yourself at a point where you choose to continue that story, or to break away on a new path.

You choose the narrative going forward at each moment in your life:  Either you are offended, an orphan, a victim of abuse, a liar, a thief, etc., or you were offended, an orphan, a victim of abuse, a liar, a thief, etc.  What is history truly is history.  Whether or not it lives on in our minds is our own choice.  Depending on the type blemish, it can be hard to let it go and leave behind, but that's where history is; behind us.  None of us claims "I am five" when we're actually twenty-seven years old, yet we all were five.

I challenge you to know yourself, not by who you were, but by who you actually are now, and who you seek to become.  A new vector can start at any point.

I'll leave you with a classic Buddhist tale to ponder:
Buddhist monks were forbidden to touch women, but one day a particular monk noticed a woman in distress who needed to cross a river to get to her family.  The monk picked up the woman and carried her across the raging river torrent.  Other monks had seen this activity, and they became indignant of the helpful monk.  They scorned him fiercely for breaking his vows by touching a woman.  The helpful monk replied in his defense:

"Friends, I set the woman down at the river bank.  Why do you still carry her?"

What are you still carrying?


  1. You know, this sounds very logical and I know it works this way to some extent - but not entirely. We are human, not robots. We can't just dispose ourselves of our emotions when they're in the way. Sometimes the hurt or anger or love or [fill in the blank] last longer.

    And we can always rationalize and try to put things in perspective, but we remember. Not only mentally, also emotionally. And the time it takes for an emotional memory to wear off depends on the intensity of the emotion when it was experienced.

    Plus people's way of dealing with it, of course. One can dwell and one can try to move on. One lives a happy life and one lives a bitter life.

    But what I'm trying to say is, I think it's more complex than this. I think we need to take a couple of things into account when discussing the issue of "getting over things":

    *) Emotion does not always follow reason.

    *) We hang on to memories, and a lot of the time not voluntarily. A color, environment, smell, face, tune, etc., can bring up memories and these memories are often emotionally charged. To change the emotion attached to a memory would require cognitive therapy.

    *) Our experiences and the emotions these bring make us who we are. We not only suffer from it but we learn from it too. So by rationalizing all the hurt or anger or [fill in the blank] we lose part of our identity.

    *) The emotions that usually keep on straining us in our future relationships, employment or entire functioning are of a severe nature and require some form of therapy. If they're not that severe, we get over them by ourselves. Time heals wounds.

    You do acknowledge these destructive emotions can be hard to let go but you encourage people to let things go because they are history.

    I think it doesn't match human psychology to let things be history simply because they happened in the past. We're not robots, and I mean that respectfully. I'm only saying there is no on- and off-button. Either time heals, or therapy heals. Or people heal.

    But rarely logic.

    1. It is true of course that when we acknowledge a certain emotion derived from a certain experience leads us to make choices that are bad for us, we can work on that. But I do mean what I say: work. Time.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Sabrina. You raise some good points, but some of them do not reflect what I was trying to say. That's probably my fault, because I tried to make the post short, so everything isn't fully explained.

    We're definitely not robots, and I don't think that it's a binary operation to let history be history. It's not like flipping a switch.

    However, we have more control over our thoughts than we realize. It's not absolute control, but we can change our thoughts. Just think of a pink elephant for a moment. Thought control becomes easier the more often we exercise it.

    I'm not advocating either suppression or rationalization. I am simply advocating letting go of that which hinders us. For example, if someone bumps into on the sidewalk, but just keeps walking and does not apologize, you have the choice of whether or not to let it go, by not thinking further about it, or cling to it, by revisiting how rude that was or possibly even confronting the stranger about it.

    Now, if we take an event with more impact, like if we consider an abusive relationship which has now ended, fundamentally the same options apply. We can let it go and keep ourselves open to finding real love, or we can cling to that hurt, and build a mental wall to prevent ourselves from loving that deeply to thereby prevent ourselves from being hurt again. If you choose the latter option, you have to continually remind yourself to keep the barrier up. You have to choose continue the narrative.

    You're right that emotion doesn't always follow reason, but that's not what I was suggesting. I mentioned logic because, as in the abuse example above, there is some logic behind putting up that mental wall for your own protection. In a way, leaving yourself open to new love defies logic, but ultimately it can be the most healthy path overall.

    I'm also not advocating dismissing history in the sense of not learning from it. But there is a difference between learning from history, and letting your history define your future. As in the example of the abusive relationship, you can learn the signs of an abusive relationship, and thereby break off a relationship if it gets risky, or you can instead erect a wall between yourself and love.

    And, yes, change will not be instantaneous. Even as the vector diagram suggests, when you choose to let go, you will still be in close proximity to the path you were on. You'll be close enough for the emotional echos. But as you allude to, time does heal, and it heals even quicker if we play an active role in changing our course, because we diverge from where we were faster than if we just plod along and wait for that healing to come.

    At least, that's my opinion. :-)

  3. Reminds me of poker, as much does. There are times when you can do everything right and still lose a big hand to someone who gets a lucky card after the betting in complete. This bad beat can affect how the player plays the rest of the night. Sometimes it can last longer then that. This blemish causes the player to go on tilt and lose far more then the loss of the single bad beat.

    I except that bad things happen both from external sources and due to my own failures. If there is something to learn, learn it, if not, move on. It is all we can do. I'm lucky to have an awful memory so it is easy for me. :-)

  4. I hear you on the poker thing, Grundy. I'm sure you've got more cards under your belt and up your sleeve than I do, but I've gotten some bad beats myself. The frustration can be blinding for the rest of the game.

    I suffer from the same blessing of poor memory. :-)

    1. Some of us have an excellent memory and in that sense healing, recovery, moving on . . . a lot of work. :-)

    2. Yeah, I don't envy the extra challenge you have there, Zoe!