For some, memories fade away with fourth dimension. however, specially if you have an anxiety condition such as social anxiety disorderliness ( SAD ) or a trauma-related disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ), it may feel like you ‘re constantly reliving moments from the past that you ‘d preferably forget. For some, the sudden reappearance of certain memories can be profoundly disturbing or even debilitating .
Reading: How to Forget Things On Purpose
This article discusses some of the steps you can take if you want to forget a memory—or lessen its affect, at least .
How Does Memory Work ?
The basic functions of memory are encoding, storing, and retrieving. encode is the action of learning data. then, our brain stores information, either in short-run memory or long-run memory .
While short-run memories do n’t death long in the mind, some are passed along to our long-run memory, where there is illimitable space. Retrieval is the process of recalling our memories. Sights and sounds in our environment can trigger our brain to retrieve a long-run memory, even if we ‘d quite not remember it .
While we tend to forget mundane information, our brains are more likely to store information that is attached to strong emotions. For exemplify, a series of studies found that participants were more likely to recall information that was tied to either negative or positive emotions better than they were able to recall achromatic information .
Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, FAAN, board-certified neurologist and penis of the Verywell Mind Review Board, explains that forgetting a memory has more to do with processing the emotions attached to the memory .
Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, FAAN
many techniques to ‘forget a bad memory ‘ stem turn from gradually disassociating the memory from its negative aroused basis. — Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, FAAN
Researchers have retentive been seeking ways to help people intentionally forget. While it is not probable that you ‘ll be able to remove undesirable memories from your brain, you can employ strategies to prevent the memory from disrupting your life.
How to Forget Things on Purpose
There are steps that you can take to lessen a memory ‘s emotional impact and make it less intrusive. Remember that it takes prison term and practice to fade a memory, so do n’t become discouraged if it does n’t happen adenine quickly as you ‘d like .
- Identify your memory. It might sound counterintuitive, but if you want to forget something, it’s helpful to first remember it. What are the sights, sounds, and feelings attached to the memory?
- Process your emotions. Instead of trying to avoid any unwanted feelings attached to the memory, let yourself feel them. You can also try working with a therapist to learn healthy ways to cope with difficult emotions.
- Find out what triggers your memory. Maybe every time you see the type of car your ex-partner drove, your brain retrieves a memory of your breakup. Or, maybe it’s the smell of chicken soup that reminds you of your mom, and you become overwhelmed by memories of her funeral. Take note of the triggers that cause your memory to come back.
- Try substituting the memory. Dr. Lakhan notes, “It is better to replace our attention with healthy alternatives than to try to actively push down those memories.” For instance, when you see the kind of car your ex-partner drove, try thinking of a time you drove to the beach in that car instead of focusing on the breakup memory. Eventually, you will train your brain to replace the undesirable memory with the new one.
- Practice a healthy lifestyle. Stress and a lack of sleep can trigger unwanted memories. Be sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and exercising. Maintain a healthy lifestyle that will boost your mental and emotional health. Practicing mindfulness can help keep your thoughts in the present moment.
Coping With Unwanted Memories
As you follow the steps to forget a memory, it ‘s helpful to delve deep into the oeuvre behind forgetting. There are virtual tips you can follow that make your unwanted memories feel less daunting and much more manageable.
Address Memory Triggers
Does the unwanted memory tend to crop up in specific situations ? Or are there certain things, people, or settings that remind you of this memory ?
once you understand when the memory comes up most frequently, you can start taking steps to address the issue. While it might be tempting to just try to avoid those triggers, finding naturalistic ways to cope when you are faced with your triggers is frequently a more effective and naturalistic solution in the long run .
Social Triggers and SAD
Letting go of memories can be difficult for many people, but it can be particularly challenging for people with social anxiety. It may feel as though you ‘ve built up a “ memory bank ” filled with all of the social situations you remember as being black and awkward .
Use Cognitive Behavioral Strategies
cognitive behavioral therapy ( CBT ) is a shape of therapy that works to change the negative thoughts that contribute to psychological problems. You can utilize some of the strategies used in CBT on your own to help change how your answer to your memories .
One form of CBT known as exposure therapy can be particularly effective when you are dealing with a memory. The theme behind exposure therapy is to gradually and increasingly expose yourself to the thing that you fear .
For example, if you have a memory of being bitten by a dog as a child, you may have developed a concern of dogs. By gradually exposing yourself to dogs in a safe and control manner, the memory that triggered your fear will gradually become more bearable .
Utilize Relaxation Techniques
Using easiness techniques can be another effective tactic that can help reduce the veto impact of memories. such techniques may include deep breathe, progressive muscle liberalization, meditation, and guided imagination .
Pairing these strategies with gradual exposure to your triggers can besides help you learn fresh ways to calm yourself in reply to those memories .
You could besides try to rehearse mindfulness when memories come back to you. Mindfulness involves focusing on the deliver moment without worrying about the by or future .
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alternatively of allowing yourself to become engrossed in the memory, try bringing your attention to something in the show here and now such as a spy or smell. Grounding yourself in the present moment can take your focus off of the memory and minimize its effects on your emotions .
perfectionism can sometimes make memories seem more distressing. If you have a need to always be seen as arrant, the memories of past mistakes can make it difficult to move forward .
If your memories center around times you have made mistakes, try making mistakes and doing things wrong on purpose. In time, if you are out there seeking to embarrass yourself, memories of those situations will have a different flavor .
Tell yourself that you deserve acceptance now, at the moment, quite than at some future time when you have become the “ perfect ” person. Practicing self-acceptance can help blunt the affect of those memories .
Develop other Coping Strategies
When past experiences contribute to feelings of anxiety, it makes sense that the elimination of memories of these events would help to lessen your symptoms .
If you tend to have flashbacks or “ fawn attacks ” about black situations from the past, it may be helpful to keep a journal in which you record felicitous or convinced events as well. Anytime you remember a negative memory, try to follow it up with a positivist one .
In response to flashbacks, you could besides have a few phrases that you repeat to yourself, such as “ that consequence does not define me. ” Reminding yourself that your bad memories do n’t control or define who you are now can help reduce their world power.
Above all else, do n’t use negative strategies to forget bad memories, such as using drugs or alcohol.
Why emotional Memories Are Hard to Forget
emotional memories are frequently unmanageable to forget because of the involvement of an area of the brain that plays an important function in controlling behaviors that are authoritative to your survival, including feelings of fear .
emotional memories are more memorable because of a structure in the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala plays an important function in how emotions and memories are processed and encoded. Research suggests that different parts of the amygdala are responsible for convinced and negative memories .
Memories tend to be more memorable because when they are accompanied by intense emotions. Research suggests that the more intense the memory is, the more intense the result memory of that event will be. While being able to remember feelings of fear can be adaptive in some cases, it can become a problem when it leads to lingering memories that make it difficult to function in normal everyday biography.
While letting sound of erstwhile associations can be unmanageable, learning newly ways to control these memories can help you feel less distressed when they come to mind.
impact of a negative memory
negative memories can impact behavior in a assortment of ways. sometimes you might go out of your way to avoid situations that might trigger a negative memory. In early cases, you might experience full-blown flashbacks where you feel as if you are re-living a traumatic event .
Some other ways that a badly memory might affect how your feel, think, or behave include :
- Physical responses: A memory might trigger physical symptoms of anxiety or fear. For example, you might experience sweating, trembling, shaking, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing.
- Emotional responses: A memory can also cause you to experience a wide range of emotions including sadness, anxiety, terror, or embarrassment.
- Cognitive responses: Memories can also affect how you think about yourself and your ability to cope. For example, stressing out over the memory of a negative social experience can make you doubt your abilities to succeed in social situations.
When to Get Help
While there are a act of things you can do to help forget a memory or lessen its impingement, there are times when you should consider seeking professional help oneself. If memories are contributing to early symptoms such as depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or feelings of panic, you should talk to your doctor .
A health professional can make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and recommend treatments that can help. They may recommend psychotherapy to help you learn new ways to cope with your memories. They may besides prescribe medications that can help you manage associated symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder, if appropriate .
New treatments for memory problems may besides be on the horizon. Research has shown that a brain-derived neurotrophic component ( BDNF ) gene variation is related to fear generation. BDNF gene therapy could be used in the future, by altering genes that contribute to fear and anxiety .
In the same direction, the Tac2 gene pathway has been shown to reduce the storage of traumatic memories. As a leave, a medication that blocks the action of this nerve pathway could prevent the storage of traumatic memories in the first locate .
While this approach would be most useful for post-traumatic stress perturb ( PTSD ), this type of research may besides finally inform negative memories in SAD .
You ca n’t erase a bad memory, but you can learn newfangled coping strategies that will lessen its power. Talk to your healthcare supplier if bad memories are affecting your ability to cope.
A Word From Verywell
Thinking back on the past is normal, but when memories disrupt your everyday life, it can impact your genial health. If you notice your undesirable memories are becoming more frequent and unwieldy, consider consulting with your doctor. In finical, meeting with a therapist who specializes in CBT may be helpful to generate strategies to better cope with undesirable memories.
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