I remember learning about object permanence (OP) in 2011 when I was in my first year at university. It was touched on briefly in one of my lectures – psych 101 if I recall correctly. OP is something all of us acquire when we are very young. Put simply it is the knowledge that an object exists even when it is out of our immediate sight. When we are first born we do not grasp the concept of OP – meaning that when something is gone from our view it seemingly ceases to exist in our minds.
Now, if you take the idea of OP and apply it to emotions you’ll get something called emotional permanence (not an official term as far as I know). I’ve read a few articles that mention the phenomenon so I know that it’s nothing new I’m talking about. My recent efforts – albeit minimal – to try and find it mentioned in any official journal articles have proven to be frustratingly fruitless.
This topic interests me greatly because I often find myself falling into the trap of what I will informally label as emotional impermanence. When I feel good it is all encompassing. The months and months of constant depression fade so far into the background that I question if they even existed at all. This doesn’t happen often – since my euphoric highs are painfully few and far between – but when they do roll around they make me feel like a fraud. Surely it wasn’t all that bad? Surely I made it all up in my head? Surely the constant panic and intrusive thoughts about killing myself are just normal parts of everyone’s life? Surely…
In reality, my depression is very far from made up – despite what my critical inner voice tells me. When I am depressed I genuinely don’t remember feeling anything else. The happy times, and even the stable times, disappear completely from my mind and I feel as though I’ve been in hell my entire life and it’s never going to get better.
This is why I have found it invaluable to track my moods. When I’m in the thick of despair sometimes the only thing I cling to are my mood charts – actual, tangible proof that I can and will eventually feel differently if I can just ride out the current state I’m in.
Aside from screwing with my head emotional impermanence also deeply affects my relationships with others. I am loved and lucky enough to know it, but often I find myself forgetting that if the stimulus is not continuously present. Needing constant reassurance that my friends/boyfriend/family still care and haven’t forgotten me is not only mentally exhausting, but an unreasonable expectation. I hate being as needy and sensitive as I am.
I am still trying to master the ever elusive skill of self-reassurance. Through reading up on the subject and talking to others I know I am not alone in experiencing this lack of emotional stability. By routinely self examining my inner word I have come to slowly recognize when my thoughts, feelings and expectations are irrational. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still fall victim to them sometimes.
Ah, the human condition; what a beautiful fuck up.