The lifecycle of experience

Image: Minjoo Son

All events are neutral. The worst thing that could happen is a neutral event.

Until we come along and assign a story to it. We assign it with different degrees of good or bad.

Let’s say something happens and we assign a bad story to it. Really bad. This thought creates a negative experience out of it. We get emotional. We may burst into tears, slam our fist through a wall, or even worse.

And then, what do we do? We cut the experience off at the knees by suppressing or rationalizing it.

Every experience has a lifecycle.

We don’t allow the experience to complete itself. We stop it in its tracks and either amplify it or re-plant it. We hold it in our bodies and minds until the ripe moment when we dig it back up and relive it again and again — each time adding more thought to it and more emotion and cementing it even deeper into our lives.

Kids are brilliant. Rory — my almost-3-year-old — when something bad happens to her (usually involving her not getting her way), what does she do?

Like any human, she creates the story (I can’t get my shirt off by myself and I’m suuuuuper pissed — aggghhhh!!!), but then, she fully allows the experience to express, run its course, and end. Then, as soon as it does, she’s totally fine. Red, teary eyes and puffy cheeks, she walks up with a huge smile and gives me a hug — like it never happened.

I’m not saying we should start throwing more temper tantrums in the middle of grocery stores (although some of us still do). We’re adults. We’ve had enough life experience to be able to sit with an emotion without letting it totally overtake us. But the point is to let it finish. To sit with it — to be fully present with it — until it goes away. To not think we’re ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ for having this experience, but to be completely conscious of it and okay with it until the lifecycle finishes.

Unlike kids, we adults get in situations where you owe me $20 and I don’t talk to you for a decade. Instead of letting the lifecycle finish and then approaching you about it in an unemotional way (or just getting over it), I keep that experience alive in my psyche and never get past it.

Let the lifecycle finish. They’re just stories which lead to powerful emotions. Nothing to be frightened of. If we’re aware of them and we let them pass through, they will.

I’m Jonas Ellison — a motivational messenger and transformative guide who writes daily here on Medium. To get my short vignettes in your inbox daily, click here.

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