The Past is Sticky

The Past is Sticky

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photo by eye of einstein

In discussing some points that came out of the Unbalanced Masculine article, I’ve noticed how sticky memory can be.

For example, when we’ve had a long relationship with someone like a family member, we fall into certain styles of relating with them. We know things they enjoy and things they don’t, we avoid certain topics of conversation, or we don’t ask them to movies. These styles become habits and thus somewhat unconscious.
But if that person changes significantly, these habits can become glaring and clash with how they are now. Perhaps your long-single friend gets married or changes their sexual orientation. Or you break up with your long-term partner. Or you see someone you once knew well after a long absence.

Suddenly, old ways of being with them can be inappropriate and we can make social gaffs. We have to make the patterns conscious so we can change the program. We may have to reboot the relationship entirely. Relationships don’t always make it through such changes.

I can recall how many friends pulled away when we got divorced, for example.

An alternative is to suppress the old patterns and add a new overlay. This may be especially common if we don’t support their change. But if we suppress, the old patterns will pop up awkwardly and in less conscious ways.

Better to make it conscious and let the past go, however sticky it may be.

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  1. Celeste

    Life passages do create changes in friends. I saw all my friends disappear when I got divorced. Friends changed with retirement and it takes effort to keep friends no matter what stage you are in.

    1. Hi Celeste

      Yeah, divorce can seem like poison to some married or they take sides. Yet couples tend to socialize with other couples and singles with singles. So we often see our social life change a lot with change of partnership.

      Some have a lot of work friendships that change with retirement. Or friendships that revolve around an activity.

      And yes I agree. My sister worked hard to maintain relationships with people going back through high school. She used to have open houses with a remarkable mix of people. But at a certain point, if it wasn’t reciprocal, she let them go. My life has had chapters, each with their own set of friendships. Few have lasted through the changes.

  2. K

    This is so true – especially with close relatives such as parents. My mom has a very domineering, abusive, manipulative pattern with me and she does not seem to get that I have moved away from where I grew up. She still tries to push me around in the same ways. At her end she does not realize that I can consciously see old patterns of behavior being played and am able (most of the time) from rising to it. The other part where the past is sticky is with immigrants. When I first came to the US as a student, many other students were judging “are you Indian” – they expected other Indian students (especially women) to behave in certain ways and if you didn’t, they had a judgment (gossip) re: that. Some funny consequences came from that – when I wanted to buy beer at the local grocery store, I would look around to make sure there were no other Indian students around (the guys drank but different rules for women). It seems silly and sad to me now. I was not beholden to them for anything, but still let social opinion control me. There was a definiteimmigrant stickiness for a long time. At this point, I don’t subject myself to such nonsense of course.

    1. Hi K
      Yes, I had to call members of my family out on some behaviour to shift to an adult relationship. It took a little time and their willingness to see it and change. Not all did.

      The mind likes to categorize things, putting people into groups, then expecting them to behave accordingly. It makes the world feel safer and more knowable. This isn’t just true of immigrants, but does play off of appearances. How well we dress, if we dress white-collar or blue-collar, if we dress to memes like gangsta, grrrl, or yuppie, and on and on.

      Sometimes it can be easier to play the game. Others try to break out of the box but often just adopt a different one, like the aforementioned gangsta. Few people are true rebels and fewer still run outside the game.

      The latter are hard to spot as they dress generically and are not out to be noticed. But they are generally very accessible and don’t judge.

    1. Hi Ishtar

      Good point. We’re rejecting who they are now, much as we reject parts of ourselves and parts of our experience. It is a subtle but potent form of violence.

      Not accepting is going to war with it, creating suffering. The opposite of love and acceptance.

        1. Yes, old concepts, stories, and habits… at first, they can make life easier. But in time, life changes. Then they become a resistance to what is here.

          Life then tends to give us a shove to see things have changed. If we’re resistant, the shoves get harder. 🙂

          This can include spiritual teachings. They can serve us well for a phase of life, then may need an upgrade or they can become a barrier. Like riding a child’s size bike. Very good at first. But then it starts to limit us. (laughs)

  3. Guru

    When my spiritual journey began, I lost some relationships. This process of getting out of those sticky pasts was not easy. Every one is on some plane of existence. Our perspectives change. I remembered jiddu Krishna Murthy, a choiceless awareness .Thanks

    1. Yes, when we change or they change, the relationship may no longer serve. And yet our attachments to what was may remain.

      The past is fine in itself but it’s those attachments that make it sticky. When we notice stickiness, its something to look at within ourselves.

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