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There are memories that are so painful for us that all you want to do is never remember them again. Unfortunately, there is no way to delete memories from our brains completely.
This is worse for bad memories because they are the ones that really affected us and impacted us and therefore the mind is always bringing them up.
While there are no ways to erase bad memories, there are steps you can take to make the memory less prominent and lessen its effect on you. There are also ways to change the way the memory makes you feel and replace them with nice memories.
Bad memories can have adverse effects on us. They cause mental problems such as post-traumatic stress disorders, phobias, depression and more. When the memory starts to affect you this way, we recommend psychotherapy.
But to fully understand why bad memories are so hard to get rid of, we need to answer one of the most asked questions about bad memory is why they are so vivid.
Why are bad memories so clear and vivid?
If you have a bad memory, then you know how clear they can be. A lot of nice memories fade over time and become less and less clear, but this is not true for the bad ones.
Research has shown that bad memories are more vivid due to the connection between negative emotions and memories.
The part of the brain that processes emotions is the same part that is responsible for retrieving and encoding bad memories. The stronger the emotions associated with a memory, the clearer you will always remember it.
The best ways to ‘forget’ bad memories.
Substituting bad memories
A research conducted by scientists in 2012 revealed that the brain mechanisms responsible for suppressing bad memories is also the same part that substitutes memories. A person can suppress a bad memory and force it out of awareness by substituting it with an alternative memory.
This is done by two regions in the brain known as caudal prefrontal cortex and mid-ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. These are the regions responsible for bringing particular memories from the subconscious to the conscious mind. Suppressing a memory shuts down the part of the brain responsible for recalling or remembering.
Avoid bad memory triggers
Every memory in your mind has certain physical and mental connections to them. If you find yourself thinking of a bad memory when you are at certain place or by seeing certain things, these are known as the triggers. Sometimes, triggers can be something small such as a certain word.
When someone says this word to you or it’s mentioned in a movie, it may trigger the bad memory. Observing and knowing your triggers goes a long way in helping deal with the bad memory. If you manage to completely steer away from triggers, you will find that it rarely comes up.
But sometimes, it is difficult to entirely avoid triggers and when this is not an option, there are other ways to deal with this bad memory. The following are some of the ways to deal with it.
Think about it until it loses the power
This one of the most effective yet most difficult ways of dealing with recurring bad memories. It is most effective because it is permanent. And it is most difficult because you have to come face to face with your fears which is not always an easy thing.
The impulse of a bad memory is usually not to think about it and avoid it as much as possible but here, you have to confront it head on.
Let yourself remember what happened in detail and keep recalling it until it loses its power over you. The only reason it keeps arising in your mind is because it hurt and caused you pain.
By thinking about it over and over, the pain slowly dampens and soon your mind will start to treat it like any other thought. You will be able to only control when you want to think about it.
When confronting these memory, there are steps you can take to make the process easier. Always take comfort in the fact that it is in the past and already happened and everything associated with it is also in the past.
Alternative methods you can try
Practice memory alteration
Believe it or not, memories are one of the most inaccurate methods of storing information. This is because memories are heavily affected by our current lives and happenings. Every time you recall a memory, something about it is different.
The brain replaces some of the memory’s information with new information thereby altering it. Take advantage of your brain’s workings and start to change tiny details of bad memories yourself.
For instance, if you lost someone you love on a boat known as the Cruiser, you can change the name of the boat to something else. Continue altering the small details and eventually, the pain of the memory will start to subside.
Dwell on happy memories
If you find yourself in a pit of self-pity and recalling some of the worst memories of your life, train your mind to shift to happy memories. This can be done by looking at images of a happy day such as your wedding day. Do this as soon as you realize you have spent too much time on a bad memory.
Immediately you notice this, change your thinking to happy memories. A good way to start would be to pair a bad memory with a good one.
For instance, if you have a bad memory of embarrassing yourself in front of a large crowd, pair it with a memory of a time you presented so well and everybody clapped and cheered. Positive thinking will go a long way in dealing with bad memories.
Go for psychotherapy sessions
Once the bad memories start getting in the way of your day to day life, there is a high chance you will not be able to deal with it on your own.
This is especially true if the experience was traumatic. When this happens, we recommend seeing a therapist and opening up to them about how the memory makes you feel.
We recommend seeing a therapist rather than talking to a friend or family to avoid feeling embarrassed and therefore not fully opening up.
A therapist will be able to help you identify triggers and learn how to deal with them. They will teach you the best ways to break the hold that bad memories and trauma have on you.
There are no known ways to erase or delete a bad memory. But there are many ways to deal with it and reduce the effects the memory has on you.
By following the steps above, you will be able to deal with your memories and the trauma they carry so that they do not have a hold on your day to day life. Dealing with them also makes you stronger to deal with other awful experiences that may happen to you later.