It’s Not What You Experienced, but How You Assimilated It

· June 22, 2017

Various studies have proven that that memories are not unalterable. However, there are distortions and creations of their own within them. In other words, this means that what you experienced in the past leaves a mark on your that you don’t exactly remember. However, understanding what happened depends on how you interpreted it.

In fact, the main thread of most of your memories are not the facts themselves. They are actually the meanings they had for you. 

Let’s take a look at an example.

Two children were abandoned by their parents when they were very young. Both are greatly impacted by this, but one of them decides to understand a process to understand why it occurred.

Years later, this person remembers everything as a sad event. However, she knows and understands the circumstances. Instead, the other person, who hasn’t digested the experience, simply has vague and imprecise memories. However, he also a strong sense of pain and anger.

In the end, it’s never about what you experienced, but how you managed to assimilate the situation. Many of the causes of feelings of sadness or anxiety come from past experiences that still negatively influence life. This is because they haven’t been properly digested.

“Experience is not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.”


-Aldous Huxley

Your experience and its interpretation

Humans aren’t computers that simply accumulate data to keep it available. Memory plays a very special role in the life of human beings. The past is actually a complex concept. Even though it’s something you’ve already experienced, it can have a very significant influence on your present. This happens even if you don’t realize it.

Man and Mirrors

To understand this, we can use the old metaphor of the building. 

First, you build the foundations and each floor must be built on top of them. If the foundation wasn’t well made, one of those floors will probably begin to crack for no apparent reason. Or, the building as a whole may start to crumble or collapse in the event of an earthquake.

This is exactly what happens with a human being. The basis of who one is is built in the first years of life. These are, in general, the years we have almost forgotten. From then on, each experience is added and interpreted according to that basic consciousness that is already formed. If the foundations are affected for some reasons, it’s possible that a crack or instability appears in adult life.

The good thing is that, even though this building metaphor can help us to understand this concept, the human being is both much more complex and much more flexible. What happened in the past can be read in a more constructive and helpful way thanks to understanding. That is to say that what you experienced can lead to making you better or worse, depending on how you interpret it.

Woman Running Through Field

You can reinterpret what you experienced

By nature, we tend to avoid and try to forget negative experiences. If you experienced abandonment, rejection, or a traumatic experience, you’re more likely to try to put it aside and not think much about it. You do this so you don’t have to immerse yourself in a chain of thoughts that don’t positively contribute to your emotional well-being.

However, when you don’t give yourself time to assimilate what you experienced, instead of truly forgetting, you keep that experience alive in your unconscious. This translates into the sorrows or anxiety for which there seems to be no explanation.

More than what you experienced, the important thing is the way in which you have structured the memory. If you choose a victim perspective to interpret what happened, you will see your past experiences through a lens of self-pity. If you choose a defensive vision, what you experienced will transform into another reason to distrust others or to seek revenge. This may happen even if they haven’t done anything to you.

It’s important to learn how to deconstruct what you experienced. This means that you must consider the events that occurred and adapt a point of view that will lead you to understanding. It’s not just about taking into account what happened, but trying to put yourself in the position of those who may have hurt you.

You may find that what motivated them wasn’t cruelty or selfishness, but their own limitations and frustrations. You may also understand that the best way to do yourself justice is not to forget, but to see yourself as someone who has had a negative experience but who deserves to overcome it and be happy.