It started with a simple question...' So, whatever happened with you and Mary (name changed) all those years ago?'.
I was on holiday with my new girlfriend of now almost a year. The previous evening we were laughing until our sides split about something silly. Then this simple question the following day opened up a soliloquy from me. I talked and talked. With every word the memories came flooding back, not just of the disasters of that previous relationship but the disasters of every relationship and all the other disasters along with it. The more I talked the more upset I became. Eventually I cried. I felt horrible. It stayed with me all day, all night and well into the following day. I felt it in my body, the wretchedness, the unhappiness. I watched it, didn't battle with it, just let it pass and gradually it dissipated. Trying to play golf helped shift it.
A simple question (activating agent) triggered a chain of events that resulted in very definite changes in my physiology, my emotions and my thoughts. Yet, just a day earlier, a different activating agent triggered a totally different response.
'I' am neither the one nor the other. 'I' can try to develop awareness of how different conversations, people, places, memories, music, foods, drinks, trinkets, tv programmes, affect me. I can learn that I have choices. To learn that I need to understand pattern matching. And that's another story.