I don’t think there’s anything more complicated than a human being.

We are all wired differently, yet the workings of our brain go through the same channels.

Our brain tells the rest of our body what to do through billions of nerve cells arranged in patterns. These patterns coordinate thought, emotion, behavior, movement and sensation.

And while all the parts of your brain work together, every single part is responsible for a specific function. It controls everything from your heart rate to your mood.

We can look at this in a pragmatic, professor-teaching-his-students kind of way. But in fact we’re anything but pragmatic beings much of the time. We’re emotional and moody beings.

We might erupt at someone one evening over something fairly petty. But if you trace the origins back to earlier in the day, the emotion now rooted in anger probably began hours before.

Maybe we forgot to pay a bill. Or we received something we really wanted in the mail that morning. Say, a pretty ceramic piece. And before we barely had it out of the box and removed from the wrapping that protected it, we somehow dropped it.

Our pretty ceramic was ruined right from the get-go.

So we kind of started off the day on the wrong foot. Maybe we forgot we set the teapot on the stove and went outside to get the mail and forgot about it. Only to hear the smoke alarm go off and find our teapot ruined.

So later that evening, during a discussion with someone, we inexplicably detonate. That person has no idea what’s gone on before.

We kind of feel bad about getting so upset, but maybe we tell ourselves they deserved the dressing down. It eases our conscience.

But if we’re completely honest and look back over the entirety of our day, that eruption was building from the moment we opened the desired ceramic and accidentally broke it.

Funny how the brain works, isn’t it?

Maybe we have an argument with a loved one. And afterwards we feel bad, but our pride gets in the way and we blame them for the whole thing. It’s easier to swallow that way.

And later, when the memory comes back to us, it became them instead of us at fault. Our labyrinthine thought patterns wound the whole thing into something it wasn’t. But that’s the story we stick to.

Because that’s easier for us to accept than what really happened. Which was that in actuality we were already upset and then took it out on someone else, overstepping the boundary of circumspection.

Friendships can get ruined over virtually nothing. Marriages get split up because we can’t admit the truth.

That truth is possibly that we were already having a rough day and that influenced our mood. But we couldn’t come out and admit it and apologize. So the whole thing gets blown totally out of proportion and ultimately ends in disaster.

Sometimes we can swallow our pride and admit that that was the case. Other times we tell ourselves it wasn’t our fault and the relationship was on unsteady ground anyway.

There’s really a more detailed account of the events. The emotion center is the oldest part of the human brain.

Our moods are transient but influence how we think. Those moods are influenced by events, like how much we slept the night before, hormones and even the weather.

The regions of the brain fundamental to mood are actually buried deep in the most primordial parts of the brain. They’re actually thought to have been among the first to develop in the human species.

If we’re upset or sad that can sometimes be to our advantage. It sharpens our eye for detail.

Which brings us to the limbic system, which is the major network in our brains when it comes to mood. It is a network of regions that work together to process and make sense of the world we live in.

We are rarely proud when we are alone. – Voltaire

Sometimes the demise of relationships come down to recall. Our emotions cloud how we view what happens, and obviously we don’t always remember things exactly as they happened.

We remember things as we think they happened.

Which is why you can seat a jury of 12 people and they will often cast their judgment on how their own unique life frames the circumstances they’re assigned to judge in someone else.

You can ask 8 people at the scene of a crime what happened. And all 8 may come up with a different story. The car was a van. It was white. No, I’m sure it was blue and it was a truck. Not everyone who viewed what happened will have the same memory of it.

All of this, it’s because as human beings we aren’t perfect. We are fallible and we make mistakes.

If we’re smart, we live and learn. Because to make a mistake and not learn from it is a missed opportunity.

Or the die is cast with our emotions and that then seals the deal. Never to speak to that person again. To let our pride be the linchpin that throws away years of love and affection.

Just because we can’t admit that we’re wrong. That maybe that wasn’t the entirety of what happened. Maybe we were already upset over something else and that clouded our judgment.

As we mature, we hope that we can tell the difference and do the right thing. Stand up tall and admit when things didn’t exactly happen the way we said they did. We can fix a frayed relationship with an apology and an admission.

Or we can be stubborn and too proud to say the words. And that person is gone for good. All those fun times you shared become distant memories.

We can cast that final blow. Or we can take a deep breath and admit that maybe we were simply wrong or being unreasonable. And please don’t let this seal the deal on our longtime relationship.

It might be easier to keep quiet and hold that grudge. But our pride doesn’t keep us company or give us warmth when we’re lonely.

Pride is a cold, stormy, barren mountain. – John Thornton

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8 Comments

  1. Wow Brenda, A heavy one today. It hit home for me. I’m going to read it again and again and recall many relationships and missed opportunities to “make it right”. Thank you for this post. Sandra PS I hope to make some right again.

  2. Yes, all of what you say is so true. Seeing the truth in the moment of intense feelings is so, so difficult. We need to take ourselves away, be quiet, get calm and try to decipher what it is we are really feeling and what we are really responding to. And then take a big swig of humility–not self-denigration, just the acceptance of ourself as human, imperfect and subject to making errors in judgement like everyone else. Only then is it possible to resolve a conflict with another, I think.

    Good post, Brenda. Good reminder of what the road to pain is paved with. Thanks.

  3. So very true. I have printed this out to read again and to share with others. Thank you Brenda for such a thought provoking post.

    I hope that you have a great weekend. Happy Summer.

  4. Hi Brenda. This is a good topic. Knowing how to apologize in an honest, authentic way wasn’t something I learned how to do as a child. When I was young, saying “I’m sorry” was something I did to appease my parents and try to get them to quit speaking so harshly. They used a lot of manipulative tactics with my siblings and me to get us to do what they wanted, and made comments that were put-downs, so, I would say “I’m sorry” even when I wasn’t even sure what I was sorry about just to get the tense situation to end. Then later I would feel confused and resentful. I ended up being the same sort of appeasing, then resentful person when I got older and got into jobs and relationships. I didn’t really start to work on better communication skills and understanding my true feelings and wants until after my first marriage ended and I was a single mom. It was among the many things I had to start improving on as I learned to make it on my own. Learning to apologize for times I messed up and needed to correct something was part of what I had to learn how to do, and I had to learn to quit saying “I’m sorry” when someone was trying to make me feel guilty but I hadn’t really done anything to feel guilty about.

    Something I find that is weird is, a lot of people don’t know how to accept apologies. When you sincerely tell them you want to apologize for whatever, rather than being appreciative, they can get all rattled and think it is some sort of a trick. They seem to suspect that you are being manipulative. I guess that they didn’t grow up learning anything about apologies either.

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