How can one move past bad memories?

prettyndsweet12 asks: Sometimes I tend to think about the bad and embarrassing things that have happened to me in the past, and it makes me sad and sometimes mad. How can I keep myself from thinking about my past and focus more on my present and future?

Hi prettyndsweet12 –


That’s a great question.  People always tell us to move on past the bad things in our pasts, and live life in the present.  But how can we do that when those bad memories just won’t let us go?!


Well, here’s the deal – those memories are there for a very good reason.  They’re there to protect you from making mistakes again.  Now if the memory is that your hand really hurt the last time you put it onto a hot stove, that’s great and will truly serve you forever.  But let’s say the memory is something more like “I went on a date with a boy and he treated me horribly.”  Well, your mind might tell you that going on a date again would be as dumb an idea as putting your hand back onto that stove.


The trick with memories like this, ones that argue things that aren’t completely true, is to have a talk with them.  They mean well, so just sit down and close your eyes, and take some deep breaths, and let them take over your whole mind.  Using my example, really feel just how horrible it was when that boy was mean to you.  And think hard – what was it about him that made him do that?  When did you first see that quality in him?  And when, if you knew then what you know now, would you have seen him for what she was and stopped contacting him?


Do you see how specific that is?  It’s so different from “Dating is awful.”  Instead, you have gone into that memory and figured out a bunch of things that will really help you in the future.  And then, in most cases, you’ll find that memory starts abating, bothering you less, because you’ve learned what you needed to from it.


But what if it doesn’t?  What if someone once stepped around a dark corner and beat you up?  And even though you know that the odds of that happening again are almost nil, you still have trouble walking past dark corners, even on a crowded street in daytime.  Well, then your job is to answer some of the fears’ wishes.  Maybe you could take a martial arts class, so if anyone jumps out at you from a corner again, you can give them a gigantic whooping!


And if that’s not enough, or not appropriate to the fear, then I think you’ll really need to seek professional help.  There’s nothing wrong with hiring a therapist – they’re the best people in the world for working with this sort of problem.  And a good therapist can work with you to help you deal with the parts of those bad fears that you’re not even remembering.  And get you to where you’re happily walking down sidewalks with corners, happily dating, and becoming a great cook who spends hours next to a stove without ever getting hurt again!


Good Luck my friend,


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