Moments of regret and shame are maybe the longest lasting, most indelible memories that I carry around, and yet they are also some of the most futile in many ways. So why are they so strong? Why do they never go away? Shame me once, shame on me...forever! And they do inspire fear of future shame. (Again, see THIS ENTIRE BLOG to see what the fear of shame influences).
I actually tried to consider what evolutionary purpose these memories might serve, and the best I could come up with was that they'd keep us from repeating mistakes. But why are they mistakes with such emotional weight? Why am I not struck with unbearable pangs of "Oh God!" that make me shut my eyes to escape my own mind's images when remembering that time I burned my tongue on hot coffee, or fell off of something too high. Shouldn't there be ridiculously intense misgivings every time I sip a steaming cup of coffee because I'm too impatient for it to cool off a little? Shouldn't I not overwater a plant when I leave town because I am shattered by the image of the plant that drowned the last time I left town?
Nope. Tongue is scalded every time. Hope you can swim, house plant!
The other thing about these memories - immune to rhyme and reason. In addition to practically being video footage of these shameful or unfortunate events in their clarity, they pop up completely unannounced at completely unrelated times. The self-imposed indignities of my past appear at the most random of moments, without any seeming likely trigger. But the intensity of the emotion attached to those memories is ridiculously sharp. Nothing about the soup aisle at the grocery store connects to me peeing my pants on a fishing excursion, but there it is. BAM! Shame. Regret.
Why would I do that? Why wouldn't I have just gone to find a bathroom? And why is that thought haunting me on aisle 4? I'm not even near clam chowder.
I thought maybe these thoughts could be so significant in our memories and of use to our survival because if an act is something strong enough to be associated with shame so deep, we'd be sure not to repeat it. And maybe those shame memories are only for actions or outcomes so ingrained into us as culturally acceptable or unacceptable that, were we to repeat them, there would be a chance we'd be cast out of our human cultural group. Which, if we were depending on it and its members for communal survival and resource sharing (FOOD), might mean that we'd be cut off from what sustained us and therefore, have less chance of making it through with our genetic material passed on to someone new. I dunno. Maybe sociopaths never burn their tongues. I'm just speculating, but if anyone has anthropology info. - let the crock know!
While this theory seems fine and all, I also wonder why there are moments of shame in my mind that are so clear, yet do not seem to have any feasible say, genetic consequence. Like I remember, with shame, throwing one hell of a tantrum when I was about five. Which true, I do shudder in shame at that memory, but why have I held onto that for so long? Why can I not, as an adult, now let myself off the hook for having an unfortunate emotional outburst when I was five? Why do some things stick worse than others? How do our minds earmark things? And why?
These are questions that even the ramblings of this fishcrockpot probably cannot answer.
And tonight, without shame, and because I really do have to do dishes before I attract a raccoon infestation based on the amount of food bits that are accumulating in my sink, I am going to call this entry complete!
(Also, my memories of shame tell me that, if I were to attract raccoons, I might be forcibly removed from my human circle of acceptance and shared resources [evicted from my apartment] and then I'd REALLY have some shame to deal with and food bits for which to forage. And as my five-year-old self tells me every time she visits, I need accessible indoor plumbing).