Recurring bad memories are a horrible thing to experience. While life is full of many great moments, it also has those traumatic, painful, frightening and frustrating moments that we are all unfortunately familiar with. Living through these once is bad enough, but to have to relive them countless times as they play over in your mind is tantamount to torture. So what can you do to stop repetitive bad memories? Here we will look at a few things you can try.
Face Up to It
The first thing to do is to face up to what happened and to deal with it. If every time the thought comes into your head you try to distract yourself with other things, then this might in fact be the reason that the memories keep coming back. They are emerging because you haven’t dealt with them, and because it’s important that you do. Facing your darkest memories can be a painful experience, but it’s also a healthy one. Don’t deny or avoid the grief, but instead feel it for a while and you’ll find it gradually subsides.
Get Them Off Your Chest
If you are having difficulty working through your emotions on your own and overcoming your memories then you might need to externalize them in some way. You can do this either by seeing a therapist and talking to them (and they will likely have some very helpful things to say on the matter as well) or you can do it by just writing your feelings down onto a piece of paper. This way you are getting them ‘out’ and dealing with them rather than bottling them up. Talk to friends too, and don’t pretend things are okay.
One part of accepting something is to change the way you view the events – which is called ‘reframing’ if you subscribe to the ideas of NLP practitioners. This is a transformative process than can be liberating and enlightening in equal parts – and there’s a positive spin you can put on even the worst seeming memories.
If you had broken your wrist for instance then you might play back the occasion when you were lying in hospital and were unable to do anything. You might relive the pain, and you might relive the frustration. Instead though, why not try reliving the positive things that came out of it – because there probably were some things. For instance perhaps during this time you found yourself focussing on your work uninterrupted? Or maybe you enjoyed the way everyone crowded around you and cared for you.
Losing a loved one is a more difficult occasion to reframe. If you have had a parent, a friend or another relative die then this might have no obvious silver lining. That’s true, but you can focus on other things – for instance you can focus on how much you loved that person in life. It’s the very fact that you loved them so much that will have meant you were this sad when they died – and that’s actually a beautiful and rare thing. Again you might also want to focus on how your family and friends banded together, and you might want to think about how they helped shaped you into who you are today.
Replaying repetitive memories is an act of living in the past and looking back rather than forward. Of course this is not a matter of choice and it’s not easy to turn around, but it is possible to consciously look to the future some more. Try to focus on the things you can do now to feel happier and how you are going to make some good memories to outnumber the bad ones.
Spend Time in Company
Finally, when the time has come on when you should move on, the best way to take yourself out of yourself is to spend time with friends and family. They will help you to feel more normal again and serve as the best possible distraction. If you need to then ask a friend or family member if you can visit and stay round for a while.