Per an earlier entry on remembering things we never noticed, another place where we struggle remembering reality is during conflict. Because we as humans tend to feel and remember losses far more than we remember gains, we are far more apt to remember the negative things in a relationship rather than the positive things. Incidentally, the asymmetry between gain and loss is why it’s a really bad idea to keep looking at how your stock is doing all day long – every down will be weighed much more heavily than every up, leaving you feeling overall down even on an up day.
In relationships, there is a natural give and take. Every once in a while, especially during a conflict, it is very easy to recall all of the give-times (when we gave or sacrificed) and much more difficult to remember the take-times (when the other gave or sacrificed). We notice when we are consciously choosing to give, and therefore remember. When we receive, we are thankful in the moment but that memory does not carry as strong of a significance.
When we are in conflict and feeling emotionally negative, we find it easy to put the gives and takes on a balance and find the other party lacking. Our ability to judge this properly is construed both by the quality of our memory and the state of our emotions. Recognizing this fundamental inadequacy and help us not make conclusions in conflict that result in further conflict and ultimately further hurt the other party.
If it really is important to get the scales right on this for some reason or another, then you’re better of not relying on your own memory at all, but using some other measurement. Better though is to question whether or not a scale is really the way to solve the problem.
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