Memory and Forgiveness
How we choose to use our gift of memory is a key to our happiness. That's right, our thoughts and memories can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on how we choose to use them. Regret, guilt, and anger are three of the more common emotions that can result from thinking about the past. Negative events or experiences can keep us trapped in their grip unless and until we take action to change it.
4 Actions in Dealing with negative memories from the Past:
1. Forget them. This is fine if it actually happens, but very often a memory is just too powerful to simply erase it from our memory (which isn't really possible anyway, although reframing them is...which I will talk about in a bit...). Simply telling ourselves to forget something that has already happened is pretty much impossible, and the more you try to force yourself to forget something...the more powerful you make it! Which leads to
2. Repress them. Repression is also not a healthy long-term strategy for dealing with negative memories. Repression leads to disfunction in other areas since the repressed energy will eventually make its way into expression in other unhealthy ways.
3. Hold on to them. This is the most commonly used strategy, and it becomes toxic when we use it to constantly remind ourselves how imperfect and unworthy we are. If we have a negative memory about someone else we may use it as a weapon against them...using it to try and manipulate and control them in the present. Holding on may seem to serve us in the short term, but what we get is a lame substitute for real happiness.
4. Forgive them. Forgiveness is the only voluntary choice we can make to release negative memories of the past. Forgiveness is the choice that leads to freedom. Forgiveness is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Forgiveness is a gift that we give not only to others, but most importantly we give to ourselves.
Releasing toxic and tired emotions from our memory banks and freeing up our memories from this unhealthy bondage is a vitally important skill and one that can be learned with conscious awareness and practice. You can begin with simple gratitude.....when you bring the memory to mind, instead of allowing the negative emotion to come with it, simply observe and re-experience the details with an attitude of gratitude towards what happened. Grateful for the opportunity to learn from our past. Grateful for the opportunity to reframe and respond differently. Grateful for the opportunity to taste a little more freedom by forgiving ourselves and others for the past, and living mindfully in the present.