Posts Tagged With: emotional memory

Day 34: Object Constancy

“Object constancy” is a Psychological Concept which I will now try to explain.  (When I say “try to explain,” I mean that  I’m going to Google it, check to see whether the definition there matches my assumptions in the moment) (and, if I find a definition that’s good enough, steal it).

Of course, it’s risky when you go to the Internet for information.   Who knows which sources are reliable?  But here’s a definition of Object Constancy, from the GoogleSphere:

 in psychoanalysis, the relatively enduring emotional investment in another person.

That doesn’t quite “click” for me. Hold on.

Well, I’ve looked at a few, and I’m going to use this one, which — interestingly enough, defines LACK of object constancy.

Lack of object constancy is the inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

Hmmm. It’s occurring to me that this definition reflects a kind of all-or-nothing thinking. I mean, look at those words: “lack.”  “inability.”

Object constancy is not usually something that human beings either have OR don’t have at all. The vast majority of us are somewhere on the scale from 0 to 100%, Object Constancy-wise.

Let me tell you why Object Constancy is the Topic Du Jour. Yesterday, I gave a party for myself, to celebrate a Big Numbered Birthday.  And I invited people to come and help me celebrate the day — people who have meant a lot to me and people who I assumed would feel comfortable being there.

And these people said some pretty incredible things to me throughout the party — face-to-face, by cards and other writings, on video messages, and during a point in the party where people sat around and shared memories. And I was trying really, really hard throughout the party to take the good stuff in.  I was trying not to get caught up in what might go wrong with the party, whether people were having a good time, whether I was being a good host, whether I seemed too self-centered in having this kind of party for myself, and the other varied menu of judgmental choices. And I was friggin’ exhausted the whole time, because I had trouble sleeping the night before. So I was trying not to judge myself for that, too. (Why didn’t you make sure you got enough sleep so you could be more present?) And I was trying not to be disappointed that I hadn’t managed to figure out how to RECORD what people were saying at certain points, so I could remember it later.

And I really wanted to record things, because I think of myself as a person who has “Poor Object Constancy.”

Which, I realize right now, is a judgmental term.

I mean, it’s the word “poor” that tipped me off, right then.

But let me tell you by what I mean by that belief about myself: People may be vivid, real, and important to me in the moment, but they can fade when I’m by myself. When I am by myself,  I can start believing that I’m not important — that I fade from their minds, too.  And even though I know on some level that there are people out there who care about me, when I’m alone and feeling scared or insecure, I have trouble accessing a sense of those connections.

I spend a lot of time, in my work, talking to people about What Sticks and What Doesn’t Stick. And I have noticed, in myself and other people, that what scares us — the negative things — do tend to stick and seem more important than the positive things.  If you’ve read other posts in this blog, you’ve probably noticed this theme coming up before. And here’s something else I’m sure I’ll write about more than once. When we’re feeling at our worst, we tend to NOT do the things that will help us feel better. Over and over again, I see people isolating when they feel worse about themselves and their lives.

The tendency of the negative to “stick.”  How people, when they are in pain, tend to isolate. Yes, I will probably write about these themes — and others —  many times throughout this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.  Because (as the cab driver said in response to the rider asking, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”), practice, practice, practice.

It takes repetition and practice to let go of old ways of seeing things.

So, yesterday, I tried to practice, practice, practice throughout the party.  I tried not to judge the judging thoughts that came up for me during the party. I tried to take in the specific positive things people were telling me.  And I tried to let these very positive messages in: You are important to me. I am important to you.

When I say “important” I don’t mean “all important.”  All of us have complicated lives, and maybe we do lose track of each other here and there. But importance — like most things — is not All-Or-Nothing.

And there was a moment yesterday, when people who mean a lot to me were singing “Happy Birthday.” In that moment, I let go of all judgmental, self-conscious, and scared thoughts, looked around the room, and  thought, “Wow.”  Here are all these beautiful connections, right in the room. Here are all these wonderful faces, looking at me, and celebrating my birthday with song and with themselves. And I took a mental photo of it, filed it away, and reminded myself to Practice, Practice, Practice making that image stick.

And even if my Object Constancy is not the best — even if that image fades and maybe is hidden from me at times —  that image is still there. And I’ll practice, practice, practice making that picture more constant.

Thanks, dear reader.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Day 27: This blog is good enough AND I can make it better.

I’m glad I’ve chosen this for the Topic Du Jour, because I think I’m going to find this helpful (and maybe even fun!) to write about.

For one thing, I like thinking about the generalized version of this subject heading, which I’ve been using lately as a remedy or antidote, when I start to lapse into self-judgment:

It’s good enough already AND I can make it better.

What I like about this handy-dandy, helpful phrase is that it allows me to feel acceptance of where I am (regarding my learning curve at work, relationships,  my abilities as a mother, where I live, a group I’m doing, etc.), despite my constant awareness of all the things I don’t know and could improve upon.

So that phrase definitely helps me.

It’s helping me right now!

Starting and writing this blog is a good example of how that phrase can help me hold (and honor) two things which may seem mutually exclusive:  (1) acceptance of where I am and (2) my inherently lively self-judgmental voice, which wants me to do better (but which, in its zealousness, can make me feel worse).

At this point, I’d like to fill you in on some details about The Birth of This Blog. In December,  after spending several months writing, more prolifically than I expected, chapters for a possible book (or two), I decided that it might be a good time to also start a blog.  I had never written a blog before, but I liked the idea of another outlet for writing — and a way of writing that would be much more interactive than writing a book on my own. I also saw starting a blog as a way to support a current quest of mine:   to let go of judgment (and to help others do the same).  And the title of the blog came to me: The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally. I loved the idea of committing to that for the coming year, recognizing that Non-Judgment is a goal that I would never completely and consistently attain, but which striving toward could  be very helpful.  (I’m thinking about Calculus, which I actually hated in school, but which — if my memory serves me correctly  —  is all about approaching and getting closer to a point without actually ever reaching it.)

I wasn’t sure how often I would write in this blog, and I wasn’t sure when I would start it.  The two possibilities for starting were:  January 1, 2013, and February 2, 2013, which would be my 60th birthday.  So, in December, I started a quick and dirty research of How To Blog, using my usual learning technique of asking people what they knew and what they would advise. A couple of people suggested WordPress as the site.  And then I did a quick crash course, for myself, of how to get started blogging on WordPress.  I spent a few hours looking at possible formats (called “themes” here),  saw the “Adventure Journal” theme  and loved the idea of this coming year as an adventure. (I also looked at the suggested photographs for the Adventure Journal and LOVED the picture of that camel, looking at the pyramids — a place I’ve always wanted to go, and haven’t been to yet.)

So, late in December, I decided upon the theme and felt like I knew enough to Take The Plunge. And I began writing this blog on January 1, 2013.

Now,  I am 27 days into this journey, and have actually posted each day. I have also had a chance to look at other WordPress blogs.

So, right on schedule, I am having thoughts that fit into the Cognitive Distortion of ….


Here is the definition of Comparisons,  from a hand-out I use at work on Cognitive Distortions/Unhelpful Thoughts:


We compare ourselves to others, with ourselves coming out short. For example, “I’m not as smart (or good, competent, good-looking, lovable, etc.) as that other person.”   Or, we compare ourselves to how we think we should be, or how we’ve been before.  We might think that comparisons help motivate us, but they usually make us feel worse.

So, yes, I am now reading other blog posts here, where I really enjoy the cleanness and simplicity of the posting themes. And lately, I have been comparing, to my disadvantage, the way my blog looks. My blog has an appearance chosen by a newbie, overwhelmed by all the choices here, who fell in love with the words “Adventure Journal” and a picture of an inscrutable camel staring at the pyramids.

Okay, if you’re interested in more details about the negative  thoughts  have come up for me lately about this blog — thoughts also heavily laden with the previously blogged-upon cognitive distortions of Mind-Reading and Should’s– feel free to dive into this italicized Pool of Judgment:

I don’t like the sans-serif type font that my blog theme uses.  And I can’t seem to change it!   When I used to work in marketing and advertising, I was a fanatic about using serif fonts in every piece of marketing literature I helped create –since studies showed that serif fonts were easier to read.  Why did I choose this theme without more care about the type font that was available?  People are probably having trouble reading this with that lousy type font.  They’re also probably getting annoyed with the “gimmicks” of my posts! It’s bad enough I’ve chosen my own gimmicks — using the term “dear reader” and my tendency to Capitalize Important Concepts (which drives my son crazy) — but at least THOSE I CAN CHANGE IF I CHOOSE. What about those gimmicks I can’t control because it’s part of the Adventure Journal Theme ? Those ripped slips of paper that serve as my replies to comments, and so on!  I bet those gimmicks are driving people crazy, and maybe even preventing some people from reading this blog!  What was I thinking, choosing such a busy theme?  Why didn’t I take more time to look at other people’s blogs, which look so modern, so clean, so easy to read?

Phew.  I don’t know how that was to read, but — as always — it helps me to write  down those dang judgmental thoughts — getting them out of my head.

I repeat, Phew!

I’m also noticing the focus on appearance — how this blog looks — in that pool of judgment. So  I’m remembering, right now,  times I’ve made other judgmental comparisons about appearances. That is, I’m remembering some painful times where I’ve compared how I look to a more popular ideal.

Hmmmm. That’s interesting.

So what I would like to do right now is to make some choices.  I’m reaffirming my acceptance of appearances (mine and my blog)  and hoping that people can get past any flaws –that I might see or fear  — to the beauty they may be able to find for themselves.

Wow!  I actually didn’t know this post was going to go THERE, dear reader.

Before I end this surprising post, I want to say a few more things:  There are some important lessons for me learn about being a blogger, including how to refer to other posts I’ve written, in a way that meets Blog Etiquette. (I have googled that concept of Blog Etiquette, but I’m still confused and relatively clueless about rules and execution of same.)  I would also like to learn how to list, on each blog post, the other blogs I’m following here, in order to share the wealth I’m experiencing as a reader.

But I’m reminding myself, right now, that I have time to learn what I need to, and I am happy — in the moment, now that I’ve written this post — with exactly where I am on the blogging journey.  Because it’s good enough AND I can make it better.

Thanks for participating on this day of this adventure with me, dear reader.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 17: I think I wake up most mornings feeling uneasy

I think when I first wake up, I have some sense of unease, some measure of worry and anxiety.

I can’t say for sure how long that’s been going on, because I seem to have a bad memory for certain things, especially feeling states.  I see that “bad memory” in other people, too, when I ask them, “How long have you been feeling this way?”  I can see people struggle to give me a good, accurate answer, and I reassure them that I just need a rough estimate. A ballpark figure.  Has it been days?  Has it been months?  Has it been years?  And that they can tell me.

(Okay I have a writer’s problem now.  I floated my topic sentence, and now I want to write more about this issue of emotional memory. I have a proposal, dear reader.  Stay with me on this detour, for a moment, and then I will guide us back to that promised topic.)

So, I think I’m noticing a pretty common human phenomenon there: no matter what emotional state people are in, they tend to remember the times when they felt the same way. When somebody is depressed, they tend to remember those times. The depressed periods are highlighted, and memories of joy, hope,  love, and other  mismatching emotions  fade. This selective memory can work for other feelings, too.  That is, when you’re happier and more secure, the sad times can recede in memory, too.  It’s like looking at your life with a certain search filter on.

(I think this selective emotional memory also relates to why, all my life, I’ve lived in a place that gets friggin’ freezing every winter.  I don’t like the cold. At all. And every winter, I say to myself, “Why do I stay here?  I hate this!  I deserve better than to be in this kind of pain, for this long, every year!  Life is too short, dammit! I am definitely going to look into moving (south, west, to Hawaii, etc.)!”  And every year, the beautiful, warming spring comes, and I forget about it.)

So (heading back around towards original topic!),  I don’t know how long I’ve been feeling this way, but I seem to wake up most mornings — at least, these days — feeling uneasy.  I suspect that this Initial Waking State is common for me, and has been going on for much of my life

And I guess that makes sense.  Why shouldn’t I wake up, ready for the day, with a sense of what needs to be attended to?  Wouldn’t that be an effective coping strategy for effectiveness, and maybe even survival?  If I wake up in a state of Zen and calm, maybe I won’t be as prepared to solve the problems, meet potential threats, avert possible calamities.

Screw it, though. I think waking up in a state of calm would be quite nice, don’t you?  And I’m sure I have woken up that way on certain mornings, but just not that often.

I will say this, though. As hazy as my emotional memories might be, I know that there have been times when I’ve woken up with a considerably higher level of discomfort and anxiety — more “on alert.”  Compared to those times, I am waking up kind of Zen-ish, actually.

I think I can do better, though. Let’s see how I’m waking up in April.  And November.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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