Photo by Octavio J. García N.

Life brings many painful moments we want to erase as much as possible. How do we live with the burden of haunting, unforgettable memories?

Many people prefer to erase moments that trigger negative emotions and trauma. Erasing them is impossible, as it has become a part of our core memory. Science fiction even delved into ways to erase people’s memories. It’s part of our wishful thinking to lock away everything that causes us pain.

The Memories and crazy dreams in the Insomnia book are a testament to the effect of crazy dreams on a person. In the book, the protagonist dreams about his wife, along with mixed-up thoughts that mess up his sleep at night.

For people with crippling insomnia, having unforgettable memories haunt them at night is difficult to deal with. Even the scientific community tried to look into this phenomenon. There’s a bigger picture hovering over memories affecting a person’s well-being.

The Effects of unforgettable memories

Human brains are adept at alerting us in a threatening situation. We all feel an electrical impulse that pings our brain’s fear circuit. Those natural processes result in the well-known fight or flight response. Not only that, but the brain is also good at making judgments when something is harmless.

But when this natural system fails, it can have lasting consequences, especially when we encounter horrid instances that will remain in our minds for a long time. That detriment can also be associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Just like how emotions, in general, are complex, so are fear and anxiety. Possessing painful memories was never part of one’s plan. However, it feels like a thorn, hindering our confidence to lead a happier and better life.

When unforgettable memories weave into the fabric of our system, they might turn out for the better or worse. Sigmund Freud was curious enough to delve into traumatic memory and researched how patients cope with such memories. Those suppressions, instead, brought severe mental and physical tolls.

Softening the blow of painful moments

Knowing where these unpleasant memories come from, we can understand them better. those memories usually arise from what we call an ‘Episodic memory.’ It is a conscious recollection of personal experiences. Episodic memories contain information on everything that transpired in those moments.

The intensity and impact of those episodic memories come with various levels of mental anguish that translate into the physical aspect. That’s why a child’s first experiences are crucial in their development. They also influence their identities and how they view life as a whole.

Subduing the thoughts at all cost

To curb the unforgettable memories, especially the negative ones, we force ourselves to tuck them away. No matter what, they can never come out and affect the present. But remember that memories change each time we try to remember them.

That’s why when we recall something, there are different versions we can come up with each time. One of the brain’s complex abilities is to change itself in form and function, especially when we try to dwell on memories that substantially impact us.

Our subjective tendencies strengthen when the brain sends mixed signals in our subconsciousness. Different sequences are inevitable because of our efforts to suppress negative unforgettable memories. They incorporate themselves as various elements, becoming a new version of those memories.

Reassociating unpleasant memories

We can’t move past our lives’ most haunting moments if we don’t take action. It’s crucial to note the context of our painful memories and how we can transform them in a positive light. Memories, when triggered, can still be modified in a second. And the memory becomes equally vigorous every time it results in intense emotions.

By using the modification ability of our brains, we can reconnect those painful and unforgettable memories. We can shape how we remember things as long as we assign them positive meanings. Next thing we know; they’re not as haunting as they were anymore.

The challenge of changing a painful memory

No one can stop those negative experiences from resurfacing. Time and again, present circumstances trigger the deepest and darkest parts of those moments. It can be challenging for some to get over it, and there are no clear answers as to how.

If there’s anything we can do to at least deal with them, shift to a ‘creative focus.’ We can distract ourselves with productive hobbies and activities, replenishing our mental state. As there are two sides to every experience, we can’t just invalidate what others go through.

Sometimes, what complicates the process is our negative bias. Our tendency to focus on the bad, weighing it, and prioritizing it seems leisurely most days. Mindfulness may also be an excellent way to cope with the unpleasant feeling of having those memories resurface.

We are the authors of our destiny, and sometimes we can never take it back. However, we have the chance to rewrite what happened by believing that we can change the chapters of our future.

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