When I look at the past, I recall with a chilling feeling of apprehension that pleads for indulgence, all the wrong I have endured and a few of the good things that have been done for me. Now wait. Don’t begin to judge. This is not only me, this is the way of the majority of homo sapiens, aka human beings.
Tradition has it that women tend to pick on the worst events and forget about the good things-criticisms are stockpiled and compliments dissolve with the wind. Some go as far as to attribute this phenomenon to the hormonal surges in the female brain. While I beg to differ with this view, I take cue from the concession of a majority of scientists that half of our personality comes from our genes and the other half from our life experiences.
Thus while women are mainly pointed out for being negative receptors, this is not a particularly women-phenomenon. It is a negativity receptacle that is mired in people’s brain that perceives mainly the wrong and discards most of the good. Women being the emotional creatures we are, more prone to recount these ‘wrongs’ than our more restrained other half of the human race- i.e. men. This does not mean men are any less affected.
People are generally bad consumers of positivity. That is because most positive outcomes deal with the person’s happiness, which in most cases go unnoticed. Happiness is fleeting and the fact that we tend to distinguish it as something that should be continuous makes it more difficult to appreciate because it is all but temporary.
Normally we tend to fine-tune happiness to equal achievement because generally, we tend to feel happy when we achieve something. For example, we feel happy when we graduate from school, when we buy our first car, when we give birth to our children, when we are promoted at work etc. We tend to disassociate the work that led to that achievement with happiness and therefore liken it to an objective or a goal rather than a working project.
Even so, happiness is not always equal to achievement. Happiness is waking up sane and energized to live another day. Happiness is being loved and appreciated each day by relatives, friends, children, spouses and other people we meet. Happiness is a lot of things we do not give credit to. Happiness is all the things we give or receive that increase our self-image, self-worth and self-being. Mostly, is being able to sleep soundly, when we lay in bed. It is essentially a contrary of unhappiness.
Negativity is more lasting in our minds because negativity keeps feeding on itself. We remember an unkind word more than we remember a kind gesture because we love to play victim more than we love to be in control of a situation. We remember when we stumble more than when we soar, even when we soar for most of the time. We recall shame more than we do glory etc. etc.
We would rather blame others for our failures than we would blame ourselves for our own failings. We derive motive and/or drive from being wronged to excel our tormentor, to look back with satisfaction. ‘You will not make it’, chides us to ‘make it’ instead. Thus negative remarks in most cases engender revolt and have the opposite effect of putting the person down. It serves to drive the person onwards to achieve, what he/she thought unachievable and when he/she fails that’s another matter altogether…
Growing up, I realized that our society is crammed with persistent cynics whose greatest exploits are intended to inhibit the joy of others. One is never good enough, well-dressed, well-mannered etc. etc. Like my banker cousin would say, “You can never win, when it comes to people perception about you.” With age, I have gained the understanding that people tend to transpose their own shortcomings, jealousies and anxieties to kill ones confidence.
These people, I’d rather call cynics, who may be perceived as friends, including our relations and partners – ‘mbaange nju nuru sopeh’ tend to rob us of the most important values of the human experience, namely trust and love. As trust decreases in a relationship, the threshold for love lessens even further. For trust and love are worthy only to complement each other but not to do the reverse. Love feeds on trust and vice versa.
Truthfully, our views and perception of the moment are shaped by our own past baggage, so we are not entirely blameless. True also, that success is built on failure. But that is only possible when we choose to unlearn our past. To rise up when we fall, is the biggest triumph that many of us cannot bring ourselves to do. Rather, we would prefer to point fingers and begin to enumerate all the reasons we fell when we did, the way we did. But we must acknowledge that in order to rise up, one must fall.
We remained inscribed in a framework of mainstay culture that all the hurting of the past will go once we grow up and can fend for ourselves. Therein lies the biggest mistake because like old wounds leave scars, so do hurtful events in the past. Rehashing the past is like picking on old wounds. In most cases, the pain and trauma is twice more painful. So beware.
Thus, with negativity, the whole idea rests on seeking retribution, which in turn is wielded on the wedge between counter-attack and retreat, both of which have their implications. Counter-attack or pay-back, in common parlance is doing unto them, what they are doing to you, or what they have done to you. Retreat on the other hand, is just shutting them out of your life. Both ways work. It’s up to one to choose between forgiveness and the retribution. Entirely up to one…
Yet, after all is said and done, in order to undo a hurtful past experience, one must learn to understand the root cause of the hurting and reclaim it or discard it as necessary-i.e. get into the mind of the perpetrator and begin to see, think and perceive the way he/she did at that time of hurting you; reflect upon what he/she has said and analyse what he/she meant. By this way, one can shove off his/her criticism or name-calling as made out of spite, jealousy, anger or said in good counsel to guide one, albeit said at an inappropriate way/moment.
In short, in the spectrum of personal growth, age is relative. With time swaying along the thread of perception, we can all begin to be more honest with ourselves. There is no more bearer of truth than time’s swagger in the rising tide of age. When we know death as it should be known, without fear of the dead or the fallacy that we are immune from death ourselves, we begin to recognize that playing the victim would neither vindicate nor gain us anymore sympathy than we already give ourselves. We outgrow our childhood illusions and become adults in our own time.
The enlightenment we gain from knowledge and experience over the years will in turn awaken us to the greater reality of our destiny, that things happen for a reason, and that nothing is in vain – God is in control. This is the basic, most fundamental principle of our life experiences. Understanding this is the core of human fulfilment and the path to eudaimonic well-being.
Rohey Samba is a Gambian writer and publisher of three anthologies of poems namely, Mother Gambia…Beats, Behind My Back and Heart Songs.
by Rohey Samba