I have an uncanny ability to remember the awkward, embarrassing or negative things that I do or say. It’s not that I can’t recall positive things– I do. The problem is that I remember the less positive with amazing and excruciating detail.
Am I alone in this, or is this just human nature? Do you remember every time you’ve accidentally said something that was taken the wrong way? Do you remember the mistakes more often than you reminisce about the victories?
I’m sitting in a hotel bar in New York (more on that later), and at any given moment I could bring to mind a hundred arguments that went awry, things I didn’t mean to say and things I should have said. In each case, I can still conjure up the feeling of my stomach dropping, a sweat breaking out, and the desperate desire to undo whatever had just been done, or unsay what had just accidentally been uttered.
That kind of vivid recall just isn’t available to me for positive things. I remember them, but I can’t recall the associated feelings. There are no flashes of what I was wearing, or the look on the other person’s face. There is no panic at the imagined “foot in mouth” induced silence that befell once riotous conversation.
Does that mean regret is more powerful than pleasure? It seems like a grim prognosis, but it’s possible. Or maybe it’s because often the regret is directed at my behavior towards others and the positives are directed at me; and therefore frequently dismissed as inconsequential or less valid than the criticisms? Perhaps my own expectations for my behavior are so high that my disappointment at committing a faux paus automatically outweighs a colleague’s “well done.” Perhaps self-flagellation is more comfortable than “thank you.”
I’d like to say that as I grow as a person this will change, but, currently, the cringe-worthy responses have a starring role. For the moment, I can only hope that the people I think I’ve wounded don’t have the same clarity of memory, and that missed opportunities come around once again.