The term "Bottled Feelings" has always fascinated me, and as I gave it a closer look, two very different meanings began to emerge. The first, and perhaps more common of the two, has a very negative connotation. As we develop as a species, the negative effects of repressing our emotions are now common knowledge. Whether you went to Catholic School and were taught to repress every ounce of sexuality, or dealt with difficult parents who made you feel unsafe sharing your emotions with them, there are many, if not all of us, who as we grew older, put a stopper in anything that might be considered unsuitable to the outside world. And the result is a tightly wound inner monologue that never gets released.
Now for the positive. In a more ethereal way, it seems effortlessly pleasing to be able to take emotions, which seem to come and go at a moment's notice, and bottle them up for later use. And while it's possible to hold onto a great many things in this world - tangible things I might add, you simply can't hold on to the feeling of a summer's breeze in your hair. A memory produces only a ghost of what once perhaps felt tangible, maybe even overwhelming. For emotions color the lens with which we view the world. When we feel joy, everything's coming up roses, and we are living "la vie en rose." In a depressed state of mind, not only can't we seem to muster the energy to leave the comfort of our bed, we simply can't understand how this was ever possible. To bottle feelings at will, to release a droplet of happiness in our darkest moments, perhaps to drink a bit of anger before our role as a villain in a play, would surely open up new avenues, and life would become that much more full of possibility.
Well, as the Queen says "six impossible things before breakfast" and as I began to think about the impossibility of "bottled emotions," I began to consider how it might, under certain circumstances, in some kind of way, be just a little bit possible.
I have learned, from experience, that there is one thing which does have the power to transform my mood, and that is memories. Dwelling on the past can affect the present more than one might imagine. For I might be in the best mood, really on top of the world. And then I remember - that one time in math class that I raised my hand with the wrong answer. It all comes flooding back - the disappointed look on my teacher's face, and I am flooded with this memory, and suddenly feeling the exact emotions I felt when this event first occurred.
Here I'd like to interrupt myself with two pieces of information which have recently been studied. One is the way our memories flow from whence they were stored - ebbing in a slow stream, each memory calling up another and another, until we have even a small collection of memories, all with one thing in common. If we latch onto sadness, then soon enough, we've cried ourselves a river and each of the droplets are memories of sadness which we could potentially collect and cork into a bottle.
The second piece of information is that when we think of a memory, we are no longer dredging up the past event, but remembering the last time we remembered this event. This means that the way we understood the memory the last time, is now our reference point. It means that our memories change every time we remind ourselves of them, and also that we have the power to change our story.
This may seem a trifling matter, a nuisance even. If we can no longer remember what actually happened, whose to say we have any idea what's happened to us? It could all be stories we tell ourselves. And perhaps that isn't such a bad thing. If we are careful, this might even be considered some kind of superpower.
Here is where I introduce Retroactive Pattern Recognition (RPR), a name I coined myself and to be honest, am quite proud of. It doesn't quite roll off the tongue, but once you get used to it, it can be quite fun to say. RPR is not for the faint of heart. And as we delve deeper into the subject, you might want to buckle up, as understanding this concept is a multi-step process.