Many times, I've written that your feelings are just passing things. They come and they go. You are not your feelings. You endure even though anger or hurt or joy may be what you are experiencing in a moment. But last week I wrote that nothing goes away. I wrote that thoughts, words and actions don't go away. So all week, I've been thinking, "So what's with feelings? Do they go away or don't they?"
Well, yes. Feelings do come and go. If they didn't, we'd be insane. We'd be all those feelings we ever had all at once and it would be a big hot mess. So, yes, feelings do pass like water in a stream or like time. But the impact of the feelings lingers. Sometimes the impact of the feeling, especially of a big feeling and even more specially of a big feeling at a vulnerable moment, is deeply embedded. It doesn't just linger. It becomes formative.
An embarrassing moment when you were 11 years old. Witnessing violence when you are unable to stop it. Being treated tenderly and lovingly when you are grieving. We all internalize the result of our feelings, even as we recognize that they may be fleeting. And in the process, we all may find ourselves surprised by the unexpected, full-blown smack in the face of a feeling we thought was long gone. Years can go by and our memory may not have turned to the formative moment until some trip-wire word, smell, sound or movement happens, and suddenly that old feeling is right back again. It's not quite the same as it was when if started but it sure as heck feels like it. What's different now is you. You are older. You are, perhaps, wiser.
Or at least, you have the opportunity to become wiser. You have the opportunity to re-examine this formative feeling, the circumstances surrounding it, the vulnerable self that internalized it and view it from a new perspective. It's the same stream but it's a different time. Your life is the stream, and something about it feels very familiar, but you are in a different place now. What do you know now that you didn't know then?
Yes, nothing goes away. But maybe when it comes back, you'll be in a time and place of greater compassion, wisdom and strength to see it anew and respond in a way that serves you, and the world around you, much better.