How to Let Go of Negative Memories

21 January, 2016

Throughout our existence we experience painful situations or circumstances that remain in our memories. We can’t seem to forget them, and they determine our behavior and our way of life. These painful situations can be anything from the loss of a loved one to a broken heart or a job failure.

But, if you stop to think for a second, you’ll realize that on a daily basis you experience many beautiful and pleasant situations. A kiss from a child, a call from someone you hadn’t spoken to in a while, eating your favorite sweet, reading a few pages from your favorite book.

“If it’s not up to you to change a situation that’s causing you pain, you can always choose the attitude with which you face this suffering.”
-Viktor Frankl-

Life goes by at an astonishing speed, and that speed makes us forget some precious daily moments. It’s good to treasure these moments and try to remember the sensations they produce, to feel them again when negative memories take us by surprise. 

knocked over ink bottle

How can we forget negative or sad memories? 

Various scientists from the universities of Birmingham and Cambridge published a study in March of this year in Nature Neuroscience magazine. In said study, they explained how they managed to isolate the brain mechanisms through which we remember and forget things.

An MRI was used to measure the brain activity of a group of volunteers. They were asked to remember images that had been previously shown to them. Through this technique, they were able to establish at a neuronal level the images that would  and wouldn’t be forgotten.

Dr. Michael Anderson, one of the coauthors of the study, affirmed, “People are used to thinking of the act of forgetting as something passive. Our investigation shows that people are more involved than they perceive in the shaping of what they do or don’t remember. The idea that the act of remembering can cause you to forget something is surprising. This could tell us more about selective memory and even self-deception.”

Therefore, we are actually the ones that control what we remember and forget. For this reason, we urge you to follow these three easy steps to control your bad memories.

1. Accept.

We must be aware that we can’t change the past. But, we can change the present and the future. So live the present by accepting your past and leaving it behind if it hurts you. Prepare a future free of all guilt in order to enjoy each unique moment.

2. Learn.

However negative it may be, our memories always hold lessons. Reflect on these lessons provided by our past. You may even write about it to remember it. This will help us relate negative or sad memories with useful lessons for our future.

“Sometimes you win… Sometimes you lose.” 
-Robert Kiyosaki-

3. Forgive.

Forgive others and, above all, forgive yourself. We always have new moments to experience. So, forgive and move on. We all make mistakes and it’s useless to martyrize yourself over them.

Up next are three easy techniques to help you forget those negative memories that sometimes attack you.

One of the simplest and most useful resources is writing. Writing is something profoundly therapeutic. You can get all of the negative things going on in your mind out in the open by writing about it. Write in an automatic way, everything that crosses your mind. Don’t stop to think, and let the letters flow out to the paper. You’ll realize that by the end, you’ll feel better.

paper and pen

The Argentinian psychologist Walter Riso suggested in his book, The Manual to not Die from Love, a technique to forget your ex called, “The Stop Technique.” This consists of saying “STOP!” out loud every time memories of your ex come into your mind. This will allow you to put a stop to those thoughts. They’ll become disorganized and give us a breather. It’s not infallible, but, just as Riso says, it helps.

Finally, a pretty useful technique to help us relax and control our thoughts, memories, and feelings is mindfulness. Mindfulness can be defined as a meditation technique that consists of paying full attention to the present moment. Without judgment, with acceptance and curiosity.

On the other hand, meditation is an intellectual exercise by which we aim to achieve a state of concentration. Be it on a thought, object or on ourselves through breathing, for example. There are different techniques of meditation. Some exercise concentration, while others, such as mindfulness, exercise full consciousness.

The practice of mindfulness shows us that a state of full attention and consciousness can help us reduce stress. It can make us be more creative and value situations with more objectivity. This in turn helps us further enjoy what we do and exercise our resistance against our emotions.

Therefore, leave your bad memories behind. Follow the path your life is on, and enjoy it to the fullest!