Memories don’t leave like people do, they always stay with you whether it’s anything good or bad, they’re just something that you have. So sang Tom Jones back in 1975. Life is made of memories both good and bad. Unfortunately, the bad ones tend to dominate the mind and are often the basis of deep feelings of remorse, regret and even depression, anxiety and self-hatred. The good news is that none of us need spend the rest of our lives suffering from the painful memories of past trauma or reliving our worst mistakes. How can we help ourselves to heal from painful memories?
Put an end to denial
The negative emotions associated with bad memories are woven into our very lives. To deny it is to deny our history. It only retreats further inside us and becomes more complex to resolve. It learns to disguise itself under some cleverly laid explanations and excuses. It develops elaborate strategies and schemes to justify its continued existence. Therefore decide now to face the monster and unmask it.
Distinguish between the feelings and the will
The question is not what is the state of your feeling, but what is the condition of your will? The will carries the force of actions. I can act regardless of feelings. For example I can make the choice to forgive even when I don’t feel like doing it. Forgiveness heals negative emotions attached to painful memories. Over time practicing forgiveness changes the way I feel about those who may have hurt me and that includes myself. I chose to surrender the anger and resentment to God and receive healing and peace.
Get off the throne
Memory itself is neutral, it’s the emotions connected to it and the meaning we give to them that has an effect. I remember a negative event, I feel guilty, and I conclude this means I am a horrible person who no doubt deserves what happened to me. In this way I not only suffer from the hurtful actions of another but I hurt myself as well thus adding to my misery. To heal this memory I ask God to set me free of self-judgment. I get off the judgment throne. Now I remember the event, I feel the emotion but I refrain from concluding negative things about myself.
Use the power of your imagination
As a painful memory emerges into your consciousness, imagine it like a stone and let it drop into the vast ocean of God’s love. Do not try to fight against the memory since the act of fighting draws more energy to it and makes it stronger. Simply recognize it when it comes, imagine it and let it drop. You will be amazed at the change in your mind and body. Keep doing this each time the memory occurs, over time the healing will take permanent hold.
Cultivate a spirit of gratitude
Painful memories so dominate our lives we hardly ever think about anything else. To cultivate a spirit of gratitude means spending time reflecting on present blessings. A helpful exercise is to actually list say 3 things for which you are grateful today and describe the reasons for your gratitude. Get creative, you will be amazed at the things we take for granted every day.
Healing the painful memories that consumes our time and energy can be challenging and sometimes progress is slow, but its benefits far outweigh its negatives.