It is pretty well established in psychology that past events create emotional patterns that help us in determining the proper course of action in the future. This, friends, is why your current girlfriend/boyfriend always compares you with their ex. It is also well established that we have two kinds of explicit memories: semantic and episodic . Semantics are things learned from school books, etc. Episodic encompass experiences and feelings associated with them. This accounts for that feeling of opposing desires that I had with JJ. Although I knew something different intellectually; emotionally I was using an episodic memory.
We all do this, whether we are aware of it or not. Interestingly, there is a case study involving a man who suffered brain damage due to a motorcycle accident and could no longer access his episodic memories. He could tell you semantic information such as what kind of car he had, but he could not tell anything about any trips he had ever taken in it. He could tell you about someone, recognize them, but have no recollection of ever having spent time with them. Additionally, he could not conceive of or imagine the future, because he had no concept of past experiences.
This is why first love is so very different than other loves. You gain both episodic and semantic memories from first relationships, but you gain more semantic knowledge with later relationships because you pattern your experiences, overlaying them on top of previous ones and making broad assumptions that similar actions have similar motives. This is also why first loves are more emotional than other loves. This is why your relationship with the opposite sex early on affects how you think throughout your entire life. Finally, it suggests that if your first love didn’t work out, you will need to give other relationships more time and more opportunities so that you can collect more new episodic memories in order to feel more emotionally attached to the other. Most of us approach new relationships by depending on the other person to behave differently or by seeking out someone who seems different than our previous pattern hoping to gain new experiences.
After reading this for school, it confirmed a theory for me. The theory was that JJ (and others, including myself) was only actually dating ME when we had new experiences together that were new for both of us. When a previously experienced situation arose, he/we were actually basing their actions on a first experience with someone else. He/we were not able to use semantic knowledge to override their episodic knowledge. Therefore, it was nearly impossible for JJ to imagine a future with me that was different than his past experience. A quandary, in other words. JJ was just entering into this quandary and I was well into it. You might think I would know more, but that really depends on the strength and balance of your semantic vs. episodic memories.
In the end, what does all this really mean? It means that it’s biologically very easy for people to get stuck in a relationship pattern. That quantification and qualification are poor ways to determine the value of a relationship. It might also mean that they way out is through patience, forgiveness, tenacity, and acceptance of differences as being okay. It also means that when you are unsure, running away keeps you in the rut because you are bound to repeat at least some of the experiences with a different person, which just reinforces problems. Taking a giant leap into the unknown is what creates new experiences. New patterns don’t just depend on the other person acting differently, they depend on you acting differently too which is tough because it’s a loop. A self-fulfilling prophesy.
Although I didn’t understand the underpinnings and, honestly, wasn’t quite convinced myself at the time. These strange functions and processes of memory confirm for me that I gave the right answer to JJ about trust when we were first dating and again right before we broke things off. I told him maybe the answer was that we just needed to hold hands and jump in together.
Also, I have bad news for those of you who struggle with changing your diet. It’s the same. So, if you know the burgers are bad for you, hold your nose and jump in the salad bowl no matter how good you think that Big Mac will make you feel right now. It’s not as scary as you think.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” – Gandhi
Micro Green, Apple, and Fennel Salad (from http://www.rawguru.com)
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 medium apple
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ of a small sweet onion
- 2 tablespoons cold-pressed hemp oil
- 1 tablespoon cold-pressed olive oil
- 1 tablespoon poppy seed
- 1 tablespoon fennel sprigs
- ¾ teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 2 cups micro greens
1. Shave the fennel very finely using a mandoline.
2. You should end up with around 1½ cups of shaved fennel.
3. Core the apple and slice with the mandoline.
4. Cut the sliced apple into very thin strips with a knife.
5. In a large bowl, toss the fennel and apple immediately with thelemon juice to prevent browning.
6. Slice the onion very finely with the mandoline.
7. Add the onion, hemp oil, olive oil, poppy seed, fennel sprigs and salt.
8. Mix very well.
9. When ready to serve, divide the micro greens among two dishes.
10. Top each bed of greens with half of the fennel-apple salad mixture.
11. Enjoy with great pleasure!