Do You Use Memories to Empower You, or are you simply Allowing them to Take Control of your Life… Robbing you of Forward, Positive Movement?
The other day I read a lovely quote by Deepak Chopra:
“I Use Memories, but I will not allow Memories to use me.”
The wisdom of these words runs very deep. Memories….we all have them and we all have good ones AND some not so good ones…the question is, do you spend more time thinking about moments in life from your past than you do planning and focusing on your next step forward in life?
There tends to be three levels of interaction with our memories;
1/ Remembering and reminiscing every so often in a thoughtful, reflective and positive way;
2/ Remembering and reminiscing frequently, still attuned to the emotions you felt during and surrounding the experience but with increasing detachment and less intensity.
3/ Feeling the raw emotion that you may have felt during the experience like it was happening now, or still reacting with emotional judgement of actions taken whether it be you OR someone else; having feelings of regret, guilt, blame and difficulty reconciling issues.
As you can probably relate, as time passes we normally move through these three “stages” of healing and come to a point in our life that we resonate more with the first stage, enabling us to remember past experiences, but without all the negative emotions like bitterness, regret, guilt, blame, sadness or anger.
We are only human, we are not always going to be proud of our chosen actions or behaviour. If we can admit this weakness, then we can also understand that to be a better person, we need to simply reflect on what we have done and use that knowledge to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. The power of insight and reflection is a force to be reckoned with, but the stagnation and negativity that comes from wallowing in regret causes our life to grind to a halt and prevents us from acting in different ways, ensuring that life is simply on replay mode all the time.
So what do we do if we realise we ARE stuck on REPLAY…retreating to memories and bashing ourselves up over past actions, decisions, lost opportunities and behaviours?
- Acknowledging it is a good start- actually being as detailed and honest with yourself as you possibly can helps to clarify exactly where you believe your shortcomings have been, or who it is that you blame for your feelings now- admit to the raw emotions you still have and why they might still be there. Know that we DO tell ourselves white lies at times…we make out we have come to accept what has happened in the past, when really we just deflect its effect on us for a while, only to be overwhelmed by it’s presence popping out of the woodwork when we let our guard down. Regular ‘Worry’ Journaling is a good way to cope with recurring worries or memories- simply write down your worries or emotions you are feeling and why, in a notebook as you feel them. Then come back to exploring them at the end of each day. This can be really useful for a couple of reasons- firstly it helps you to stop interrupting your day with negative thoughts, as you ‘allocate’ a better focused time to think them through productively; secondly it helps to externalise your thoughts on paper, so you can read them back to yourself and reflect, rather than keeping them inside your head where they are more likely to torment you and not get solved. During ‘Worry Journaling’ try to think about your problem (worry) objectively and brainstorm ideas to solve it-don’t need to constrain this with time or fix anything in one session; or if you are dealing with memories- ask yourself what happened and why and whether you really had any control over the experience anyway? If you feel you did or you blame yourself, ask yourself how you could have behaved differently and commit to choosing to act in that more positive way when faced with similar difficulties again in the future. This means you don’t have to be in replay mode anymore, but can create a new model of taking action in your life.
- Make the decision to change this reality and STOP regurgitating old news. You may think your thoughts make your memories very real and so far as emotional triggers go, memories are indeed very powerful, but only because we let them overwhelm us. They have happened in the past, you certainly cannot change them and therefore they should no longer have direct power over us, it is only our focused thoughts that bring them into our field of awareness and ALLOW them to start dictating how we feel in the present moment. The more they effect our emotional state, the more they prevent us from focusing on positive change to ensure we do not let history repeat itself. Do you recall the famous song lyrics of John Lennon that say- “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Well spending a lot of time thinking about how you could have done something different in your life (busy making other plans), actually prevents you from living the life you now want. If you are having recurring thoughts about something negative from your past, try using a positive affirmation to let it go and take your mind away from it. Really feel the emotion of releasing old tensions as you say these affirmations, allowing feelings of happiness and renewal to replace them…
“Tuning into old realities, beliefs, emotions and memories no longer serves me…I now recognise them and let them go.”
OR “I Let go of emotional attachment to my memories…that was then, this is now…my life is now positive and happy.”
- Consciously choose to move forward with your life, by giving yourself permission to start afresh and LET old memories GO- by this I mean of course you don’t forget…you simply don’t let them control your level of life enjoyment any more. This does not mean we are denying our past, it simply means we know we have made mistakes, experienced loss, felt mistreated by someone else or vice versa. Admit to the fact we cannot change what has happened in our past, we can only ensure that our future is better, happier and more positive than our past. To maintain that attitude, we need to attune to that aspect of our psyche that is an optimist and who starts to appreciate the power of living in the moment….one way to do this is by making a habit of searching for all the good things we are grateful for in our lives- gratitude is wisdom which will always overpower negativity. Consider starting a Gratitude Journal– all you need is a notebook and pen- at the end of each day, simply write down as many things that you can think of that you are grateful for. Start with 5 and build up to as many as you wish. Take your journal with you wherever you go during the day, that way if you find yourself rehashing old memories or feeling negative, you can quickly choose better thoughts by reading through just some of the things you are truelly happy and grateful for.
Do you really want to let bad memories and experiences use YOU? They will continually rob yourself of experiencing true happiness in your present and future life! OR worse still…rob other people who are close to you, of experiencing and spending time with the happiest version of you… Instead, use memories to empower you, as fuel to change your life for the better and to get a clearer picture on who you want to be and how you want to spend the rest of your life!