“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.” ~ George Washington
“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” ~ Winston Churchill
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” ~ George Orwell
“Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?” ~ Mary Manin Morrissey
Halloween evokes images of ephemeral ghosts clanking heavy chains, rattling around the attic. Well the ghosts are real, the chains are certainly real, and the attic is your head.
How many times has your past haunted your present? How many times has your future been shackled by past chains?
You no longer have to be haunted by these hungry ghosts who gobble up all the space in your head and scare away your affirming thoughts.
So how do you send these ghostly memories to the light so you both can be released?
Here are three ghost busting techniques:
Untangle the Emotions from Your Memories
Can you remember where you were on 9/11? I’m sure you can – I have a clear recollection of that day. However, can you remember where you were on 9/10/01? Probably not. Why? Because 9/11 is attached to really strong emotions. This causes memories to become sticky. So, the ones that are especially painful are the stickiest, which is why you still recall them with such clarity.
There are many techniques I use with my clients that are able to disengage the active emotions stored in these types of memories. Once you tone down your patterned emotional response the memory is allowed to fade on its own.
Extract What You Can and Leave the Rest
These memories are important to you for a reason. That’s why they stand out from the millions of memories you’ve created throughout your life. We spend most of our time running from these memories because they are painful, which only keeps them locked in the attic. That’s crazy making behavior, like the people in horror movies that always seem to make the worst decisions, such as running into the basement instead of jumping into their car and driving away.
So, start making healthier choices. Since these memories are obviously significant to you, look them in the face and ask them these three questions:
- What can I learn from this experience?
- What did I gain from this experience?
- What can I take forward into my life as either inspiration or motivation?
Memories are Malleable
We often think of our memories as pictures that are frozen in time, like the brain is a Polaroid camera. When in fact that isn’t a true representation of what’s happening.
Elizabeth Loftus is a research psychologist who has spent her career studying memories. She has demonstrated over and over that she can implant “false memories” in about 25% of research subjects. Why does that matter to you? Because it shows that memories are not the clear, static representations we think they are.
Therefore, you are able to take some leeway with your memories. You can rewrite them to create better outcomes. The essence of your memory is really just the story you told yourself about the event. Since it is all story based, you have the power to change the narrative to one that is more empowering.
Is that lying? Maybe not; perhaps that’s closer to what really happened. Since your memories are filtered through your fundamental developmental traumas they are colored by your view of who you are in the world.
If your early message was “you’re not enough” then you will look for and create long memory chains of all the times that seemed true. Once you decide to free yourself from that false assessment of yourself you realize that since the underlying condition for all these memories is false, then all the memories that prove that point are free to go.
When you are ready to unshackle yourself from these ghostly chains of past memories, get help to turn down your emotional triggers encoded in the memories, extract what you can from these significant experiences, and tell yourself a new story. As always, if there is any way I can assist in your journey toward wholeness and healing, please let me know.