The Curse of Memory and How to Move On

It is near impossible today to avoid feeling panicked at times, overwhelmed with daily stressors, or out of control in our emotional reactions. — Laura Palisin LPCC

When Memory Is Not Our Friend


Often, what is holding us back from achieving our dreams is not lack of money, lack of talent or even a shortage of opportunity, but simply the way our own thoughts betray us. Everybody fails at something they’ve set their heart on at some point in their life, or loses something or someone important to them. To some, this happens in such a traumatic fashion, or so many times, that they begin to think that luck will always be against them, or that the world is inescapably filled with people who will always act against their interests.

It’s true that the world we live in can be a cold-hearted place, and that nobody gets what they want every time. However, it is equally true that circumstances sometimes work in our favor, and that there are many people out there who would be happy to help us achieve our goals. The problem turns up when emotional aches originating from past events skew our thinking into refusing to accept facts like the latter.


What matters in such a case is not the event itself, or its consequences in the outside world, but the effect it has on the mind and memory. While it’s natural for people to replay painful memories in an attempt to make sense of them, doing so constantly actually trains our minds to relive painful events and see the world in those terms whenever possible. The good news is that it is also possible to reverse this cycle, let go of the past and take on new life challenges without feeling that failure or disappointment is inevitable. This is a process that takes effort and time, but our past experiences only define us to the extent that we allow them to, and there are certainly some things anyone can do to speed up healing.

Authenticity as a value and goal presents a lifelong aspiration and challenge for every person to pursue. — Joshua Nash, LPC-S

Accept Responsibility for the Pain, if not the Actions of Others


When something bad happens to us, our first instinct will probably be to find someone to blame, preferably someone we can yell at who will apologize to us. In most cases, however, this is not going to happen.


Blaming others for your own feelings takes some of the power needed to alter these away from you. If someone hurt you without cause, you can certainly hold them responsible for what they did, but your emotions are your own, only. Embrace them as such, even if this is uncomfortable, accept that moving on is your own choice, and then make the choice to go through with that.


Express Your Feelings


There may be a friend or therapist you’re able to discuss what you’re feeling with, or you could try keeping a private journal. In any case, it is highly beneficial to get negative feelings into the open, and indeed to allow yourself to feel them fully. Quite possibly, part of the pain this process entails will be the result of realizing that the situation was partly your own fault. Some guilt might remain about things left undone or words that were said in haste, and acknowledging this is part of getting clear of these feelings.


Involve Yourself in Present Actions

Even if you don’t feel like taking on the whole world, throwing yourself into fun and productive outlets for your energy will restore not only your sense of joy, but of self-confidence too. Doing small things a little way outside our comfort zones helps prove to us that we can indeed succeed at what we try – not necessarily totally or in every case, but often enough to make the effort worthwhile. Whenever you are actively engaged with the present, memories of people and events in the past no longer seem to matter all that much.

No matter how much you coat it with colors to please the world, you will always be what you are at the core. Your core is your truth. — Jacqueline Pearce, MSEd, LMHC

Practice a Sense of Gratitude


Even at the worst points in a person’s life, they will likely still have much to be grateful for. Whether this is family and friends, nice weather or the kindness of strangers, there is usually something; and dwelling on this and the positive emotions associated with it is a great pick-me-up. Alternatively, do something nice for someone else. This shows your mind that you still have a great deal to contribute to the lives of others, as well as the power to make this happen. Many people have started to do volunteer work after a divorce or other painful event, with many having found this to be a great help.


Consider Therapy

If a negative event was especially shattering to someone’s self-confidence, talking to a therapist is one of the best ways to gain perspective on its memory. Cognitive behavioral therapy in particular is helpful to people trying to escape the echoes of past life episodes.