Anniversary Issues: How Our Past Influences Our Present Feelings
Today, we are all wearing multiple hats – mother/father, writer/reader, student/teacher, parent/child, and businessman/woman. All of these roles are going to generate distinct feelings. Still, there will be times when we just cannot reconcile the feelings that we are having with what is going on in our life.
For instance, there is sadness that does not correspond to the events in our lives, or conversely, we feel upbeat and yet, the circumstances of our life should not produce happy feelings. What we may be experiencing is an Anniversary Issues; feelings and thoughts that we had about an event in our life that our “emotional system” remembers, even if we have forgotten the date.
Certainly, we remember significant anniversaries – marriages, divorces, and birthdays. Nevertheless, there will be other Anniversary Issues that we do not remember that might influence our life and feelings today.
Types of Anniversary Issues
Awareness of Anniversary Issues helps separate past situations from the present. When these feelings are separated, it is easier to reconcile the conflicting feelings. Becoming sensitive to personal Anniversary Issues is going to help separate past situations from present life; reconcile conflicting feelings, and not be overwhelmed by contradictory or incompatible emotions when they happen today. This awareness can also point to unresolved tensions.
Understanding the influence that Anniversary Issues have on today can be helpful in acknowledging the conflict with past events and current feelings without it adversely affecting your current situations.
What Issues Would Recur?
Anniversary Reactions and Anniversary Issues - They are Different
The United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs describes Anniversary Reactions as reactions to traumatic events that can be understood as an exacerbation of the symptoms that define PTSD. These include re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and arousal symptoms.
Re-experiencing: Perhaps the most common reaction on the anniversary of a trauma is a reactivation of the feelings, physiological responses, and thoughts that occurred at the time of the event. For example, on the anniversary of a rape, a woman might feel frightened, nervous, and unsafe.
Avoidance: Another type of response associated with PTSD is the avoidance of trauma-related stimuli. Sometimes the feelings that are reactivated by the anniversary are so strong that people try to avoid situations, places, or people that are connected to the event. For example, a combat Veteran may choose to stay home on Veteran's Day and avoid parades, Veterans, and other reminders.
Arousal: A third kind of reaction is to feel nervous and on the edge. The reactivation of the traumatic memory might be so intense that it's hard to sleep or concentrate. Some people become more irritable and jumpy, and others feel like they have to be more on guard. Thus, motor vehicle accident survivors might not be able to get in a car on the anniversary of their severe accidents because they are too angry or fearful being hit again.
Even without Traumatic Experiences, There are Anniversary Issues
Anniversary Issues tend to have much milder and more manageable feelings than those of Anniversary Reactions.
Always Seek Counsel If Self-Help, Supportive Groups, Family or Friends Aren’t Enough
There will be times that all of us can use the advice of a professional to deal with particular issues or situations in our lives. If your Anniversary Issues mimic Anniversary Reactions, please get professional help.
If you find that you are puzzled about conflicting feelings, learn to separate Anniversary Issues; these can be the reason for conflicting feelings in your life today.
Feelings: Influenced by Certain Days
Anyone driving by a Post Office on April 15 knows that there will be lines of people sending their returns at the last possible moment. What you may not know is “vehicle accidents spike 6 percent on tax day, according to a study by the University of Toronto, so perhaps we should consider filing taxes online.
So for some individuals, not only is this the day that they must report to Uncle Sam, but they might have to call their insurance rep as well. There are also dates that can have multiple associated feelings: Valentines’ Day, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, and July 4th.
Do you have some Anniversary Issues that Influence your present day feelings?
But I Don’t Remember the Date
Many people do not remember a specific date unless it was exceptionally memorable, but may have feelings based on a time of year. A season – remembering that it was cold when you found out your spouse was having an affair, or that it was spring when you found out a co-worker had an incurable illness.
What tends to happen is that the emotional system remembers these feeling reactions and will generate them on or near the anniversary.
For instance, that anger, sadness and desperate feeling that you experienced when you found out about the infidelity can come back at the appropriate time for the event. However, it does not correspond to what is going on in your life at the present moment.
The sadness, fear, anxiety and an impending sense of doom that you experienced regarding your co-worker recurs in the spring but is not appropriate for the feelings that you are experiencing at your child’s graduation. Still, you have both sets of feelings going on.
Creating an Anniversary Calendar
Learning when you have days or events in your life that have residual emotions from the past event is simply a matter of isolating the date and recording it on your Anniversary Calendar. While there may be some significance to anniversaries by years, as in "I've been married for ten years", for this exercise, it is not necessary to note the year.
Breaking it down by:
- The event
- How you felt
- What you thought about the situation
Isolating the event, feelings and thoughts becomes a reminder of which feelings may be influencing you today when these old emotions bleed into or flood your emotional system.
A simple reminder to yourself, "This is an Anniversary Issue and is not based on something that is not currently happening in my life" can help you put the conflicting feelings into perspective.
My Anniversary Calendar
Isolating Events and Understanding Influences
This simple calendar helps isolate my Anniversary Issues, so I understand the influence on my feelings today.
Clearly some of my Anniversary Issues were exciting and happy, others were sad and produced emotional pain. Ironically, two of the major Anniversary Issues happened on the same day. My father's illness and starting a recovery home. So there are mixed feelings, regardless of any current life experiences.
Review Your Calendar to Know When to Expect an Anniversary Issue
After you have created your Anniversary Calendar, you learn to consider it proactively or if you are experiencing conflicting emotions, check your calendar for a reminder. Some people review their Anniversary Calendars monthly to be a reminder of upcoming issues, others weekly.
With this examination and review, you are less likely to be overwhelmed or confused if you have conflicting feelings in your life that you cannot reconcile with today’s events. Journaling can also help you distinguish the old feelings from present day will help you put things in perspective.
Over time, you will become aware of Anniversary Issues. Then you won't be taken by surprise or let them govern your current feelings. Once you identify the Anniversary Issues, examine them, put them in perspective and move through them will you not be adversely affected by them today.
So, the next time you are feeling conflicted, ask yourself if you might be experiencing an Anniversary Issue.