Timestamp. It’s complicated.
I’m in the line of work that talks about feelings. The good, the bad, the ugly. How often do we just want to get past the ugly ones and focus on the pretty shiny ones? Wouldn’t it be nice? Whenever we experience a difficult event in life, there is a reckoning to be had with it. Some people push through like nothing ever happened. Some people let it consume them, some people try to heal. It’s hard not to push through- life continues, there is work, child-rearing, a life to be lived, it can’t all stop just because something happened. Right? You are expected to be “on” and some life events can’t keep you from continuing with everything you are held responsible. That event is a timestamp.
So, what some people do is they deal with the event, but with a condition. The emotional reactions and thoughts about it can only last “X” amount of time. After that period is up, the emotions and thoughts associated with this event are resolved and will vanish into thin air. Just like that. Magic! We put a timestamp to these feelings because who likes to feel bad anyway? To grieve the what-ifs of a relationship that ended, to rehearse what you couldn’t say before someone died, to replay how it all went down and how you could have stood up for yourself or kept your mouth shut. It’s not fun to live in this world and let the feelings of despair and sadness consume you. Sometimes, well-meaning people will say, “But, its been six months, and you’re still not over it? Maybe you should talk to a … therapist about it.” As if talking about it means there is something wrong with you because you aren’t strong enough to deal with it on your own. Instead, could it be that this event took such a toll because you care that much that it rocked your understanding of the world and you need to regroup and make sense again of it all to find some kind of grounding?
The funny thing about life is that it continues. New situations occur and as humans, we like predictability and patterns. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, big events will remind you (perhaps) of that lost loved one or the what-ifs. We use past events as anchors to help us decide (sometimes we do this very unconsciously) how to react to a new opportunity. This can be quite helpful when we have connected to our strengths and efficacy in resolving situations – that can only come about when we do the work to resolve – it doesn’t happen miraculously or just by letting time go by. This can be quite deleterious if we haven’t resolved past issues and all we see is pain and suffering.
With time and working through it, each timestamp event will carry less weight, the cycle of milestones will become more predictable. You gain meaning from it and hopefully grow from it. You will learn to accept that you may feel a certain way about a certain thing and that it’s okay. I think that if you come to terms with it, you avoid overcompensating by pretending everything is fine when it’s not, or overdoing it by engaging in self-harm or self-sabotage.