[NOTE: This is Part Two of a 5-part series: “To-DON’T List: 5 Things To NOT Do If You Want To Be Happy.”]
You’ve got your To-Do List. But what about your To-DON’T list? Those are at least as important as the “Do” ones. Today we cover the second one on the list…
“The longer you live in the past, the less future you have to enjoy.”
Breakups? The worst. Being criticized by someone close to you? The worst. Someone telling you that you look tired? The worst. Your mother-in-law telling you that you look “healthier”? The worst. (Is that a compliment or an insult? Nobody knows).
Negative memories come in all shapes and sizes: From a huge, painful heartbreak, to a backhanded “compliment” from someone you know. No matter how major or minor the event may seem, negative events are all valid and can all result in sending you straight into Mind Loop Hell.
Ruminating on these memories is one of the top Mind Loop behaviors we engage in. It stinks to feel rejected, put down, embarrassed, cheated, and judged… and then instantly question if maybe that person was right… triggering our old insecurities and critical inner voice.
Replaying pulls your energy and emotions back into the space you were in when they occurred. From a neurological standpoint, you are literally strengthening the neural pathways that lead to that memory – including all the anger and embarrassment and upset it caused.
Do we really want to strengthen those neural networks so we can keep going back to consume yet another helping of those rotten emotions? It’s a lose-lose proposition from the get-go.
But Wait – Isn’t It Worthwhile To Replay Past Experiences?
Concerned you might miss something constructive in succumbing to the movie-marathon of cringe-worthy moments and failures from your past? We certainly don’t want to miss out on the goodies.
Well hopefully you DO learn something from the difficult or embarrassing experience (“Note to self: Next time I get a job, do NOT start a food fight at the company holiday party.”). Once you “get the lesson,” you can move on.
The problem is: we replay the memory, long after it’s over, and long after we’ve received anything constructive from it. So despite the excuse it may give you to dig into that pint of Ben & Jerry’s, replaying a crummy memory is a habit you need to kick, strongly, and to the curb..
How do you stop yourself from replaying a negative memory?
Here Are 5 Strategies To Interrupt That Mental DVR:
1) Tap It Out
1) No, I’m not suggesting you rush off to join a Riverdance troupe. (Although I’m sure tap dancing would help kick the old memory out too – in a rhythmic sort of way). I’m referring here to EFT-Tapping.
EFT is short for Emotional Freedom Technique. It’s also called Tapping because you’re literally tapping on specific acupressure points on your body that calm the amygdala, which is the fight-or-flight part of your brain that gets triggered when you’re stressed.
Over 20 clinical trials have been published in medical and psychology journals, demonstrating its effectiveness of releasing psychological issues (ie, mental movie replaying!), as well as physical pain. And I can personally vouch for it as I’ve used Tapping with great success to let go of old resentments and release those nasty Mind Loop memories that were driving me nuts and bringing my energy down.
Tons of free articles and youtube videos are available online describing how to do it. So tap away!
2) Express The Pain
Talking about a painful time with someone you love and/or trust can help turn the negativity into something positive. Keeping things bottled up isn’t healthy. (The only bottles we like around here are the occasional ones filled with wine – not displaced emotions). Getting another person’s perspective on your situation, having them help you find the jewels hiding in the mud, and reminding you of your gifts and strength can help heal the wound.
Just be careful to ask yourself: Is this just another bitch-session to strengthen my burgeoning Mind Loop and get support in sending spit-wads of mental venom at a fellow human being? Or is this truly a therapeutic release with a trusted friend or professional (even if venomous outbursts are part of the experience)?
A minimal amount of dwelling is fine and healthy but only for a short allocated time frame and with the aim of releasing the memory, not strengthening it and giving birth to yet another Mind Loop you’ll later have to de-loop.
3. Forgive (ie, Release the Grudge)
In my experience, many people I’ve felt angry and resentful toward didn’t even have a clue they did anything I felt hurt by! That can be a shock to discover. Apparently they moved on. And apparently I hadn’t.
Know that when someone puts you down, snubs you, criticizes you, shames you (ETC), it often has little or nothing to do with you; it says much more about that person’s own internal negativity. (If they’re that critical to you, just imagine how critical they are to themselves in their own heads).
Non-constructive criticism is a form of projection on the perpetrator’s part, and if you can acknowledge this and forgive them (at some point) for attempting to subject you to their unhappiness, their words will no longer hold power over you. After all, we’ve all got “issues.” Revenge is best served with a slice of moving on.
The 4th Step of the De-Looping Method I teach is De-Story. This is all about reframing the “story” you’re telling yourself about a situation, to something you can live with – or better yet, something you can fully accept and release altogether.
Every one of us views the world through our own, very particular lens of family history and genes and sensitivity and bodies and hormone levels and… you get the picture. We can’t even agree on whether that dress is lavender or white – it depends on whose eyes are viewing it.
So what if the story you’re telling yourself about that past situation isn’t even accurate? As an example: How can we know the deep, inner motivations of someone else’s behavior when we aren’t in their shoes (and family history, genes, bodies, etc)? And yet we think we know EXACTLY what they meant by that cryptic text or why they ignored you on the entire flight to San Diego.
So whenever a past memory comes creepy-crawling into your mind to set up shop as a Mind Loop, ask yourself these 2 questions:
“Does the story I’m telling myself about this awful memory make me feel happier, more peaceful, more confident?”
“Is it at least possible there’s another version to this story? What is a better story?”
5. Focus On the Present – and EXPAND!
Whatever happened in the past… is PAST! So unless you need to make an amends for your part in the situation in order to feel “closure,” you can’t do a ding-dang thing about it. It’s over! Life is way too short to dwell on something you can’t change.
And consider this: Holding onto those old “horror movies” and “relationship dramas” CONTRACTS your energy instead of EXPANDS it. Is that really how you want to use your precious life energy? You’ve got things to do! Dreams to fulfill! Exciting adventures to be had! Let’s not let another ounce of your gorgeous energy be drawn into focusing on some old past experience you can’t do nuttin’ about.
Give Yourself a Break
And finally, no matter what you do, when you find yourself replaying, ruminating, looping on some god-awful memory… please remember first and foremost to be compassionate with yourself. Give yourself a break. Take a moment to literally notice how awesome you are. Dwell instead on your strengths, the creative, loving, successful things you’ve accomplished, and all the wonderful memories you have. If you look for them, you’ll find them. Then… shift you focus to the future, and what is possible…
Feel free to share this article and even bookmark it for yourself to re-read on those sleepless nights when negative memories seem to be on an endless reel.
Here’s to your happiness!
Author of the #1 Amazon Kindle Bestseller, How To Stop Negative Thoughts
Contributing author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, The Transformative Power of Near-Death Experiences