Our past events can and do, influence our emotional reactions and responses to present situations. Our experiences color everything. Past events can profoundly affect how we see our lives now and what we believe about our world. Our past experiences can also influence our emotional reactions and responses to present events. Each of us reacts to stimuli based on what we have learned in life. There is no right or wrong to it; it is simply the result of experience. Later, when our strong feelings have passed, we may be surprised at our reactions. Yet when we face a similar situation, again, our responses may be the same. When we understand those experiences, we can come that much closer to understanding our reactions and consciously change them.
Between stimulus and reaction exists a fleeting moment of thought. Often, that thought is based on something that has happened to you in the past. When presented with a similar situation, later on, your natural impulse is to regard it in a similar light unconsciously. For example, if you survived a traumatic automobile accident as a youngster, the first thing you might feel upon witnessing even a minor collision between vehicles may be intense panic. Suppose you harbor unpleasant associations with death from experience. In that case, you may find yourself unable to think about death as a gentle release or the next step toward a new kind of existence. You can, however, minimize the intensity of your reactions by identifying the momentary thought that inspires your response. Then, next time, replace that thought with a more positive one.
Modifying your reaction by changing your thoughts is difficult, but it can help you see and experience formerly unpleasant situations in a whole new light. It allows you to stop reacting unconsciously. Learning the reason for your reactions may also help you put aside an adverse response long enough to respond in more positive and empowered ways. Your replies and responses then become about what’s happening in the present moment rather than about the past. As time passes, your negative thoughts may lose strength, leaving only your positive reviews to inform your healthy reactions.