By Kathy Wilson
Many years ago I was crying on the shoulder of one of my dear, wise friends about… what else… a man I’d been dating who’d done me wrong. She let me go on for a while as I told her in graphic detail about this latest in his history of being a rat. And I reminded her of several instances in the past when he’d exhibited his ability to be a complete you-know-what. After I’d described, with great emotion, six or ten of these incidents, she held up her hand to stop me.
“You’re attaching other events to this one most recent incident. By doing so you’re making the one incident much greater that it actually was,” she said, startling me with her abrupt honesty.
“What do you mean?” I asked, a bit taken aback.
“When you remember all the times he acted in a less than loving manner toward you, the effect of the emotions your feel becomes cumulative. At each recital of yet another nasty thing he did, you’re attaching the emotion of that incident to the first one. And so on and so forth. The result is that you end up experiencing a much greater emotional impact than the one incident truly calls for.”
As I sat there, stunned into silence by this new concept, she continued. “Separate the most recent incident from the others. Think about it solely. As you do so, feel the emotion you’ve attached to it.”
She waited for a few minutes while I did as she asked. Then she said, “Now, think about a few additional incidents you’ve had with him. Notice how your emotions become more intense regarding the current incident.”
I tried it and she was right. I could feel my blood pressure going up as I remembered several more not-so-pleasant incidents I’d experience with him. By the time I’d circled back to the present issue I was in a full rage.
“Each event you experience has an emotion attached to it. The most productive way to resolve issues with another person is to deal solely with the one incident. When you attach other events from the past to a current incident, you also attach the emotions. The result is that the emotions you feel regarding the current event become hugely out of proportion.
“You’ll find it much more difficult to come to any kind of resolution with that person when you’ve attached the emotions from several past events to a single current event. If you truly want to work things out, focus only on the current incident.”
Difficult as this might be, it works. In the years since my wise friend taught me this lesson I’ve had a multitude of opportunities to test this theory. In each of my experiences, focusing solely on the one incident facing me and NOT attaching other emotional experiences to it has been of great benefit in helping to resolve issues that crop up in relationships.
Try it out for yourself. I think you’ll find that finding a resolution to a difficulty you’re having with another will be a whole lot easier.