The danger of a negative experience is not necessarily the experience itself, but the deep-rooted beliefs that can take hold as a result:
- I'm not good enough
- I don't deserve happiness
- I will never be successful
- Bad things always happen to me
- I have bad karma
Personal relationships are a prime example.
One failed relationship is bad enough – a break up or a divorce – but more than one can convince you that you'll never find happiness in a partnership.
Of course, we know that our happiness shouldn't be dependent on being in love or in a physical relationship, but that's a separate issue.
What I want to address here is the negative cycle we can fall into as a result of negative experiences.
The subconscious mind is very powerful: All the beliefs about ‘the self' are stored there, and in turn control our behaviours and habits.
I know this all too well.
In fact, at one point, I almost gave up on ever making a close friendship again.
Because after forming a close friendship that became such a joy in my life, I was hung out to dry in favour of a new girlfriend.
My assumption at the time was that she was force behind this; that she didn't like how close we were, or that we had potential influence over each other.
Perhaps she was insecure. Maybe I was perceived as a bad influence.
I say this because it wasn't a simple case of a friend having a new girlfriend and being head over heels in love.
We've all experienced that: Once the honeymoon period is over, he's soon looking for some space with his old mates.
This was different.
He ended up distancing himself to the point where he went missing.
He didn't pick up the phone. He didn't want to hang out anymore, and he didn't invite me along to places he'd go with her friends.
But perhaps it wasn't her at all. Perhaps this was his decision. After all, he had a choice, right?
He would most likely tell this story in a different way. There are always two sides to every story.
Actually, though; who did what, when or why is irrelevant.
The point here is to recognise how a situation like this can lead to these spiralling thought processes?
And how easy it is to assume, presume and create insecurity within yourself.
This is the danger of negative experiences.
Let me continue the story…
We had a lot in common: humour, taste in music, fondness of women (we were at uni at the time, you know).
We got on like a house on fire from day one. I genuinely believed we would be friends for life.
I was pretty hurt that he just edged me out without so much as an explanation, but far more than I knew at the time.
Sometimes we don't like to admit how affected we are: you know, “man up”, etc.
Moreover, a couple of years prior to this I'd suffered a big disappointment in my life, something I'd buried deep down too.
So I'd developed an emotional barrier back then, one that I wouldn't allow to be penetrated, and one I used to protect myself in this situation.
Long story short, he married her some years later.
It worked out well for them.
So the sacrifice of a friendship was worth it, I guess.
I wish them well; truly, I do.
For the record, I never disliked her. She seemed like a lovely person, and for a time we were friends of sorts too.
So that's the backstory.
But here's the critical thing about this story, it isn't about them…
…It's about me.
For a long time I subconsciously carried that experience around.
I didn't seek close friendships.
I didn't put much effort into meeting new people.
I didn't believe I could connect with anyone in the same way and make a good friend.
I still haven't quite got there, at least not like that…
…Not a friendship where you are on the same page, pretty much all the time. One where your generational experiences align, your understanding of each other is concrete, and you are constantly laughing and sharing stories.
I have made a couple of new friends since, and it has been largely positive.
But my point here is this:
This negative experience took root in my subconscious and created a mindset that was essentially blocking me from making new friendships.
For a long time I held the belief that it wouldn't be possible to find the same level of friendship again.
I also held a fear that if I did, I'd experience the same hurt.
Being friends with this guy was a really positive experience for me. I learned from him, and I think he learned from me too. I have fond memories of these times.
But life is transitional. Change is inherent, and inevitable.
Nothing remains the same, be it relationships, jobs, or any other personal circumstance.
Life is impermanent.
It's hard to accept, but with good times often come bad experiences.
But if we bank the good memories and cash in the bad, we create a platform for new, positive experiences to take hold in our lives.
Conversely, if we bank the bad, we close the door and live in fear, low self-esteem and internal exile.
So what's the answer?
Allow yourself to hurt. Admit how you feel and let your emotions free.
Accept the situation and move forwards, one step at a time, when you're ready.
Don't push, and don't pull. Take every day as it comes and work on being you.
Better days and new experiences will soon arise.
That's how life works.