Do our experiences shape who we are?
Human feelings are the most eccentric as well as most basic signs of human existence. Without feelings humans are incomplete, they form the core of our psychology and circulate emotions within. Some numerous human feelings or emotions can’t be categorized but a few are the most initial feelings that human beings carry around the world- sadness, anger, happiness, fear, disgust, and surprise. Apart from these, few additional ones are pride, shame, embarrassment, and excitement. Psychologist Robert Plutchik introduced the new idea of the “wheel of emotions” which in easy words works similar to that of the “wheel of colors”. According to this theory emotions if combined with another can form a different type of emotion just like how colors show different shades when mixed with each other.
And by carrying this wheel of emotions, humans form experiences that are not only related to physical understanding but also psychological development. When we talk about experiences, the experiences of disappointment remain central to those occurrences that help us understand the gist of an experience. It is the most integral emotions that define our experience as negative, positive, or somewhere in between. But do these sole experiences shape who we are?
Experience is a Key to Psychological Development
Experiences alone do not result in a conclusion, in fact, the memories we keep from these experiences are more important in shaping who we are. But if memories define our character, why do we judge others when we do not know their memories and experiences? Memories are important in shaping our identity and it plays a crucial role for defining our future, but memories alone do not define us. Some scholars believe that there is a core identity each individual has that is unchanging, the very root of one’s existential identity.
An experience is deemed well or bad depends upon the meaning we assign to it. Two people can experience the same thing, their memories too would be similar to one another but it is the meaning they hold from those memories that would be different for both of them. One could extract positivity while one could hinder over the disappointment yet no two individuals ever carried the same meaning to any event. Now the meaning we shape out of those occurrences does have a logical reason behind it. Our brain works in a way that helps us understand an occurrence possibly the best for us. It collects the crucial data points from every emotion we suffer and creates a spreadsheet of those data points. These points further create a pattern easy for our unconscious brain to decode. Thus, in the future when we experience a similar situation our brain knows how to respond through a process called statistical learning. For example, once you got burned by hot milk, the possibility is whenever in the future you are served with hot milk, your brain will respond to it as a danger and our body will automatically react in a protective gesture.
But these are the experiences that naturally happen to us not those that we voluntarily choose. When we voluntarily choose by picking up one experience over another we hold the power to create our own identity. For instance, you got the option to study at one of the most prestigious universities in a new city or to stay with your family. In such a situation you have a choice of creating your own experience and that’s much more liberating and empowering.
Additionally, how we act during our childhood is a great indicator of how we behave in our adulthood. In a study conducted, four years old kids were locked in the room with one candy with each of them. They were told that if they don’t eat the candy until the researchers return, they’ll be provided with two more candies. Some of the kids couldn’t hold back for the researchers and ate the candy, while others resisted themselves by putting hands on their eyes or by looking away. The kids who didn’t eat the candies were seen as more patient when grown up and did great in their future, it doesn’t mean that the ones who ate them were not successful, it’s just that the percentage goes up with the second group. Our behaviors as a kid strongly shape up our future attributes.
Experiences Sort by Disappointments
The experiences sort by disappointments is core to our understanding to perceive reality through the lens of our emotions. Statistically speaking, the bad experiences mostly give us the most wonderful answers to our everyday issues. Disappointment is a feeling of sadness when something falls short of your expectation. Disappointment gives us hope and a chance to recognize our emotions and feel them. Be those emotions good or bad, it helps us connect with our inner selves. Every time there’s an expectation not met, you become disappointed. In these situations, your emotions are generated from the mismatch between real life and the expectations you set. The reality didn’t change but our discovery of truth was the opposite that triggered the feeling of disappointment. But it is a good thing because it helped us understand that experiences of our world of origin differ from the reality of the world at large.
In essence, we are nothing more than the characters we play. In every moment, experience, be it good, bad, grief, loss, or disappointment almost everything helps us shape our identity. You will be gone one day, but your story will remain behind. And that’s what is important.