On Tuesday I wrote about the power of story telling and how it is ofter the telling of the story that we remember, rather than the story itself. I also touched a little on the emotions of memories, but I wanted to go more in depth with my own experiences of that today.
Memories are funny things. We all have things that stay with us long after they have happened. I can barely remember what I had for dinner last week but I can remember in vivid detail that exact moment of embarrassment which was over 10 years ago. I wonder if it’s the marker of low self esteem that it’s those moments that stick with me.
In ‘We are all completely beside ourselves‘, the main character, Rosemary ponders that we hold onto memories that we can attach emotions to. We remember things more easily because of the way that they made us feel, and the things that remind us of that feeling.
I know for myself that something as simple as a song, a smell or even the way something feels will send thoughts rushing towards me of moments from my past. It’s interesting to sit back sometimes and watch how the thought patterns emerge. Almost like I am watching myself on a movie reel.
Before I started therapy with my current psychologist I would often react to this thoughts by trying to push them down. I would mentally try to run away from them. Of course this never worked. The more you try to not think about something, the harder it is to forget it. My psychologist often reminds me of this, in order to to not think about something, you have to remind yourself not to think about, which makes you think about it. Don’t believe me? Don’t think about purple elephants…..
I still think about those things that make me uncomfortable from time to time because there are things everyday that remind me. Sometimes those thoughts will still stop me in my tracks, sending my heart rate through the roof and that’s OK. The difference between how I once reacted and now is the action.
I have learned that thoughts are simply that, thoughts. A thought cannot hurt you. A thought or a memory only has the power I give them, so I cut it off at the power source…..me. I use a mix of distraction techniques and ACT. It’s proven helpful, especially with coming to terms with realising that I will still have those thoughts.
Are you still thinking about that Purple Elephant?
Do sometimes find yourself caught up in your thoughts?
Flogging mah blog with Grace!
Oh yes Tegan – I often get caught up in my thoughts and they’re rarely logical.
And as for the reminders, I like the positive ones… perfumes which remind me of people or places. Food which can take me back to a time / place. Of course, getting past the negative memories is problematic. But as you said – they’re just thoughts though it’s hard to remember that sometimes. I do try to remind myself that only I am responsible for the way I react / my thoughts and feelings but….
You’ve still got me thinking about purple elephants! I have too many thoughts running around my head and would love to learn to switch many of them off. I do love the ones that make me think about great memories – music and smells work especially well. There is one particular brand of sunscreen that instantly takes me back to childhood family holidays. It’s one of my favourite smells!
I used to make myself shudder when thinking of an embarrassing moment or something stupid I had said. But you’re right – thoughts are just that. And they can’t hurt you.