As the title of Lupe Fiasco’s song suggests, never forgetting sounds like a great idea (and let’s face it, it’s what this site is about, in a way), but there are some memories that you just don’t want to remember.
So this article is in response to the following plea for help we received from Scarlett:
“I believe I have true eidetic memory, I have spent a while studying the topic, and every description was literally describing myself. My memories stay with me for a very long time, I haven’t forgotten many since I was 4. Is there any way to erase the bad memories? To make them vanish. They haunt me. In my sleep i am constantly having nightmares, i cannot wake up from them because i think they are real, some of them are past events. Events that i wish i could forget, ones that i want gone. My head seems full, too full. I seem to “misplace” memories inside my head, other memories slightly similar to the one “misplaced” make me “find” it again. I wish i could simply remove a ton of memories. Please help.“
Most people probably have a few memories they’d rather not remember, and for most of us, the brain naturally sweeps them under the carpet of little grey cells, protecting us from whatever trauma or embarrassment they bring to mind.
But for some people, like Scarlett, those bad memories just refuse to go away – they take on a life of their own, even parasitically attaching themselves to other more pleasant memories, surfacing when you least expect them.
So, how can you do some mental spring cleaning, and throw out the junk while keeping the good stuff?
The two main solutions to this problem are to either learn how to quiet your mind (which we know from first-hand experience is not always that easy) or distract your mind with something more engaging.
I (Rae) am extremely visual, I have a daily struggle with a constant deluge of time-wasting BS images (mostly from my past) always popping in my head, I have to work hard to suppress the crap and tell my little friend (my mind) that these images/recollections of past events/locations are not helping and I need to focus on current issues – now stop it!
This does seems to be more of a problem for women than men, as depicted in this popular humorous meme that’s been doing the rounds of Facebook recently.
And while we’re on this subject, in spite of all the talk about “multi-tasking”, the truth is that the human brain can only focus on one thing at once (other than autonomic functions such as breathing, of course). What people perceive as multi-tasking is actually the mind’s awesome ability to switch incredibly rapidly from one subject to another, but you’re not truly doing more than one job simultaneously.
The good news is, there are several techniques for forgetting that help.
Firstly, meditation is a great tool, not only to help you forget painful memories, but also as a way to find a place of calm in today’s hectic lifestyle.
Meditation can be a spiritual experience for you, or it can be nothing more than a way to withdraw from your surroundings to recharge your mental batteries.
Either way, it is not that hard to do, and in spite of common misconceptions, you don’t need any special paraphernalia – as long as you can find somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed, you’ll be fine.
To get you going, we’ve hunted down a book that gets nothing but positive reviews. It’s called “Secrets Of Meditation“, by davidji, and it’s available in both paperback and Kindle editions.
Apart from introductory chapters about meditation and its benefits, it discusses eight different types, or styles, of meditation, so you’ve plenty of options to find one that works best for you.
The key is regular practice – like anything worthwhile, meditation is a skill that takes time to master, so try to plan a session every day if you can.
Somewhat related to meditation is another ancient technique, also associated with the East, that we recommend – yoga.
And just like meditation, yoga is often misunderstood.
For example, it doesn’t matter how old you are – young or old, there are yoga “asanas” (i.e. positions) that are suitable for you. You don’t have to sit there trying to tie your legs in knots! :-)
Although yoga is about stretching, toning, strengthening and relaxing your entire body, you should never push yourself to the point of experiencing strain or stress.
And of course yoga is also about mastering the right breathing techniques too.
If you want a really great way to start learning yoga, then we can highly recommend the Easy Yoga Series by Wai Lana.
This 3-DVD series includes a Beginners’ Workout, a Toning Workout, and a Relaxation Workout.
Be warned though – these DVDs are so relaxing, with the beautifully scenic backdrops and the music, that you may just fall asleep!
Those are probably the two best techniques for quieting your mind, but what about methods of distracting it?
Well, one way to push unwanted memories or thoughts out of your mind is to focus on something else – remember, the brain can only think about one thing at once.
This can be business- or work-related, or maybe a hobby or even a sporting activity – anything that forces you to concentrate on the here and now instead of the past or future. Examples, which are in no particular order, might include:
- writing (e.g. poetry, a short story, a journal)
- going for a bike ride
- crossword puzzles
- playing chess
- watching a movie
- playing with your kids in the park
- taking your dog for a walk
- learning how to juggle
- cooking or baking
- volunteering (e.g. at a local soup kitchen)
- and even housework.
It really doesn’t matter what the activity is – provided it works for you.
Another way of distracting your mind, especially your subconscious mind (or unconscious, as some call it), is to give it a problem to solve.
How does that work?
We’re sure you’ve had that experience where an answer to a question or problem just pops into your brain from apparently nowhere.
That’s your subconscious in action – it’s been working on find a solution for you for some time, and that moment of inspiration is actually a message coming through to say your search is over.
The knack is to be able to take control of this process – you need to be able to give a job to your subconscious and tell it to work on finding the answer you need and then let you know.
In fact, you need to take control of all your thoughts – otherwise, your thoughts will control you.
I (Mark) used to feel like me and my brain were two separate entities, but fortunately, I conquered that particular issue several years ago now by becoming aware of my internal dialogue and shutting down any negative self-talk.
Part of this comes from the realization that the past is the past – in other words, you can’t change it. All you can do is learn from it so that you’ll behave differently next time. (There is a saying that you can only make a mistake once, because the second time, it’s a choice.)
To be honest, I do often still get music stuck in my head (sometimes for days at a time), but that’s far preferable to conversations with yourself (or maybe a past self) that only end up adding to your torment.
As an aside, there is a book that teaches you how to communicate effectively with your subconscious, although in our experience, the author makes things overly complicated, but perhaps you’ll find it easier than we did.
Finally, one of the most effective ways to cut out those negative thoughts is to make sure you’re never bored, because that’s typically when those images from the past come back to haunt you. And that’s why even something like doing housework can take your mind off things.
Actually, the ZOX Pro course teaches another method for overcoming distractions – one that even the great Albert Einstein used. See, even geniuses aren’t immune to this problem!
So, we hope this helps anyone who’s suffering from Scarlett’s problem.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.