It is never too late to know yourself better. In truth, working on understanding the inner workings of one’s psyché is—should be—an ongoing process. For all sorts of reasons, not least of which is to have some grasp of your own reactions and how you affect those around you, that work to understand is vital.
Unfortunately, it’s not the most amenable process to any kind of ordered plan. Revelations, discoveries, realizations come when they will, and often not at convenient moments.
We’ve been rewatching some episodes of Queer Eye. We like that show quite a lot, it’s impressive (though early on I wondered at the work they managed to accomplish in a week, which seemed…incredible) and we’ve gleaned useful insights over the course of its (so far) seven seasons. Last night we were watching one and unbidden a thought popped into my head that sent me down a twisted path of self-analysis.
One of my habits—and one I wish I could dispense with—is a tendency to revisit my past. Usually, it’s nostalgic self-indulgence. Remembering good times (or just interesting times) can be a pleasure. But the bad habit part is when I start to obsess over a period or incident I wish had gone differently. Opportunities lost, chances not taken, encounters that did not go well, outcomes that left me uncomfortable. From time to time, I find myself running things over and over as if I could somehow find a way to make them right. I am aware of the pointlessness of this, but at such times I seem helpless before the imaginative reengineering my memories demand. It’s not so much that it wastes time, but it definitely wastes emotional energy, and often leaves me feeling sapped and dissatisfied.
Last night, I had something of an insight. This kind of dwelling is, I think, all about the unfinished and unrealized part of such memories. These are things you were invested in, there was skin in the game, you had your sights set on an outcome that was never achieved, and what your subconscious is doing is trying to see them through. In the process, you relive parts of the past, and it always ends up being just as unsatisfying and frustrating as it was in the first place. That goal is not to be reached and some part of you is geared still toward reaching it. Walking away is not an option because, damnit, it’s not finished.
That it is impossible (mostly) to do that, it goes into a file that comes back at triggering of certain events. There are conversations that I have had again and again in my head that will never resolve the way I want them to, but that only makes them harder to break off and step away from.
I don’t know how common this is, but I suspect some variation of it runs through society and we see people caught up in reliving the past. Often it is at worst annoying. Sometimes it turns into a toxic recycling that continues to disrupt well beyond any utility we might derive in puzzling out the “what went wrong” at the heart of such memories. That need to finish it may be the hook that keeps us coming back and going over it one more time.
I don’t know if realizing this will result in less of this for me, but we’ll see. I just wanted to share it, just in case others may find the observation…helpful.