Alison's Blog

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My musings, things I've found interesting and thoughts on how knowing more about the way the mind and body work might help us to make the positive changes we want.

Why let the good memories go?

By arison, Nov 28 2012 05:44PM

Memory is important in Cognitive Hypnotherapy. Whether it’s resolving a negative memory or using a positive memory as a resource for the future, these techniques often form part of the hypnotherapy treatment. But as our memory has such a powerful effect on our identity and behaviour, perhaps we could start using it to help us every day.

Recently, I was having a drink with a friend, who was reminiscing about a day out we’d had seven or eight years ago. I remembered the day in question but not much beyond, and certainly not all the amusing details they remembered. As they spoke about it, vague images flittered across my mind but most bits I just couldn’t recall at all.

It made me wonder...

When did I lose that memory? I must have had it for a while. In fact, thinking about it now, I feel I remembered it quite fully once. It wasn’t the best memory ever but it was a fun memory; an interesting memory. I wish I could remember it in more detail.

Why didn’t I go back to it and relive it? Why let it slip away? How many more good memories have I lost?

That made me think ....

Rather than just letting memories spring themselves upon me, I should take more action to remember the good ones. So as not to lose them, of course.

But maybe there’s an even more important reason. If, as a person – in our outlook and character - we are the sum of our memories, then wouldn’t we be more positive and happier if we focused on the positive memories...

How many times do I go back over unfavourable memories and let perfectly good ones just slip away?

If the nature of memory is that every time we recall a memory, we strengthen its place in the memory network, why am I not reinforcing the positive ones more?!

I decided it’s time that I make a more conscious effort to think back over and relive the positive experiences – whether amazing or simply pleasant – to strengthen those memories.

There is an exercise from Positive Psychology ("Three Gifts") which I sometimes task clients and use myself. It involves - at the end of each day - thinking of three good things that happened that day. Its purpose is to re-focus the mind onto noticing positive things.

Why don't I extend this exercise by reliving in detail one or more of those positive memories?

If thinking back automatically over the events of the day, we might find any (evenly slightly) negative memories have more emotional impact - drawing us back to them, mulling them over, leading us to disregard the good things.

But what if instead we sifted through the events of the day to find positive things to remember – however eventful or uneventful they are? (After all, a simple memory of a sunny morning, a funny joke or a friendly greeting are all great memories to store).

What if we log those memories? Then, as the days go by, what if we keep returning to the most positive or enjoyable ones, to reinforce them?

I wonder just how different we would start to feel about ourselves and the world around us...

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