Everybody has photos that remind them of people, places, and occasions. My favorites are those that remind me of times when God did something special. Like the Old Testament Israelites built monuments of stone as reminders of God’s work, Kit and I have many photos on the walls of our home.
But I also carry a different type of reminder–memories that serve as an emotional snapshot of an experience. I can revisit positive feelings of jubilation, overflowing joy, gratitude, relief, and calm peace. They help me re-enjoy wonderful moments. Other emotional snapshots are negative–sorrow, regret, fear, or hurt. Here’s the surprise: Even negative memories add to the richness of life. Try asking an older person about highlights of their life. They are more likely to recite hard times survived than good times enjoyed.
Negative emotional snapshots make me congratulate myself for having recovered. Then those memories put my experiences in perspective and make me less critical of myself. They say to me, “Aren’t you glad for your current circumstances?”
A recent article in Aeon magazine calls pursuit of unbroken happiness a fetish. The writers claim that denying negative emotions can result in anxiety or depression when expectations are not met. For example, some fantasize about having a perfect Christmas. Holiday disasters are some of my favorite emotional snapshots . Aeon also makes a good case that failure to balance our emotions also makes us vulnerable to manipulation to buy products in pursuit of happiness.
Regardless, emotional experiences are a large part of our lives–both the positive and negative. All our emotions make life rich. Please don’t discard any emotional snapshots, especially those of Christmas. You may cherish them later.