<img data-attachment-id="6282" data-permalink="https://workingresilience.com/6281-2/image-bad-memories/" data-orig-file="https://workingresilience.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/image-bad-memories.jpg" data-orig-size="736,490" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"unknown","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="image bad memories" data-image-description="" data-medium-file="https://workingresilience.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/image-bad-memories-300×300.jpg" data-large-file="https://workingresilience.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/image-bad-memories-1024×1024.jpg" class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-6282" src="https://i1.wp browse around these guys.com/workingresilience.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/image-bad-memories-300×300.jpg?fit=300%2C200″ alt=”image bad memories” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

I was driving down the highway the other day when an old memory popped in my head. I’m sitting in an office with my boss and a powerful employee. Everyone is looking serious and I’m wondering what is about to happen. This employee is a manipulative troublemaker that bullies for sport. Up until that point, I haven’t been her target, but things were about to change.


She starts the conversation by explaining how “everybody” is complaining about me. My first reaction is shock and hurt but I quickly find my footing and remind myself who is “sharing” the information— someone that I don’t trust. I listen to all the negative complaints, not showing any emotion. All in all, I handle the situation perfectly, asking for specific proof for each judgment made about my behavior. I ask, “When did I ever demonstrate that?” She really can’t answer.

Now, back to today. I find myself becoming fixated on the negative statements that she had shared about me that day. I start running through the list and pondering whether they are true or not. I “feel” the emotion that I felt the day it actually happened. I become stuck on these thoughts and as you can imagine, nothing about this experience is productive or helpful.


We all know that it’s not healthy to look back and dwell on the past. In fact, Social Media is covered with quotes telling us not to partake in this particular behavior. For example, “The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come.” Or, how about this one: “Don’t look back with regret, look forward with hope.” However, no matter how many times I read that quote, it doesn’t help me stop myself from doing this now and then. Telling me to think positively just doesn’t change my behavior.


So why do I do this?


Ray Williams, an executive coach and author says, “In our brains, there are two different systems for negative and positive stimuli. The amygdala uses approximately 2/3 of its neurons to detect negative experiences. Once the brain starts looking for bad news, it is stored in long-term memory quickly. Positive experiences have to be held in awareness for more than 12 seconds in order for the transfer from short-term to long-term memory.”


Our brains like to hold on to negative experiences more than positive ones.


Not to mention the fact that from the earliest times, being aware of and avoiding danger has been an important survival skill. That ability for your brain to instinctively jump to “what’s wrong” instead of “what’s right” is wired inside all of us.



So what are you going to do about it?


Well, one thing that you can do is force yourself to acknowledge your own behavior. “Yes, I’m focusing on the negative. Yes, I know why my brain is doing this repeatedly. Yes, I feel the anger, hurt, frustration that I originally felt when it happened.


However, NOW I CHOOSE to think about something else.“


When you try too hard to not think about that negative thought or memory, you will accomplish the opposite— your brain will never let go. So instead, acknowledge your feelings and thoughts and then make a decision to think about something else.


For example, you can say, “I CHOOSE to think about what I’m going to make for dinner tonight”.


Accept that you will always have past negative memories and thoughts that pop up into your present life. However, you can learn to control your thinking by understanding why you take part in this behavior, acknowledging your emotions in the situation and working hard to distract your thinking.

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