table frame in mountain

Sue Murphy said, “Do you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in? I think that’s how dogs spend their lives.”

I think we can all relate to this experience. It turns out there is some science behind it. Research in 2006 put two control groups through the same exercise, picking up one object and moving it to a new table, putting the object down and moving another object to a new table. The only difference was that one group had to walk through a doorway to a new room to change objects. The group that walked into a new room war FAR more forgetful about the first objects than the group that didn’t change rooms.

So this is good news. It’s not just you, and you’re not losing your mind. You’re forgetful but sane, like all of us. We all have our battles with memory. Sometimes it’s forgetting, and sometimes the battle is with not fully forgetting. When it comes to forgiveness and moving on, sometimes we get lucky, and time or a poor memory eventually solves the problem for us. But that’s often a slow, toxic leak and it leaves a trail of scars.

What if you could be more proactive? What if you could take steps to actively heal memories and speed up the process of forgiveness so that you don’t waste so much time and energy finding your peace? Life is so short. Don’t you want to live as fully as possible? To live fully, requires a major shift in the way we remember.

Lewis Smedes said this about forgiveness and memories, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

So what does it mean to create a new way to remember? Think about the doorway as a metaphor not so much for forgetting but remembering in a new way. In other words, the doorway is your reframe.

  1. Don’t wait to forget

Have you ever had the experience where you think you’ve forgiven someone, and then a memory dredges up all the old feelings? You run into the person, or go somewhere that triggers a memory, or even just have unexplained memories and realize you’re still bitter. Your first reaction might be disappointment; after all you thought you’d put it behind you. Instead of seeing this as a setback, see it as an opportunity to reframe.

If you wait to forget before you forgive, you will live a life of torment and frustration. Forgiveness doesn’t depend on forgetting. It depends on making a choice to let the past be what it was and not give the memory so much power in your life.

Oprah has a nice way to define forgiveness, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.”

Forgiveness doesn’t depend on forgetting the past or changing the past, but moving on surely depends on forgiveness.

  1. Partial Truth

Memories are part fact and part fiction. Barbara Kingsolver wrote in Animal Dreams, “Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.”

Notice the way memories change, and how over time the details becomes sketchy. With some honest self reflection, you can quickly realize that memories aren’t capable of telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

You are a story teller, and memories are one of your tools. I think all of us wrote those stories as kids where we didn’t know how to end the story, so we took the shortcut, “And then I woke up from the dream. The End.” It’s a very convenient way to resolve the story. And why not take short cuts?

You can do the same thing with your memories. Wake up to the fact that you only have part of the story. Things may not have been as bad as your memory wants you to believe. Or maybe they were, but the ogres in your memory had their own story playing. Give them the benefit of your memory’s doubt. Then choose to take the story in a new direction.

  1. You Learnt More Than You Think

You don’t ever have to be thankful to people who made your life a living hell. You likely stopped all contact for good reason. You also don’t have to continue to let them live in your head. You may not have given them permission to hurt you. But at this point you may be giving them permission to keep hurting you.

It may be time for a reframe of the memory. Would you be as strong as you are today without the experience? Would you have learnt what your friction points are without the experience? Would you have been as wise and mindful, as compassionate and liberated, as you are now without the experience.

It doesn’t take much imagination. You wouldn’t have met your partner, started the new business, moved to a new neighborhood, strengthened your relationship with your kids, etc etc if the trauma from the past hadn’t forced you into action.

Focus on what you learnt, rather than on the pain, and you will quickly reframe bitter memories into memories of how much better you are now.

And if you’re still in the middle of the trauma, use your memory of the future to imagine an empowered life and start living it with every step and decision. This too shall pass. But not necessarily by itself. It might need a little nudge from you, and why wait. Start now. Create memories now that fill your mind with your own power to choose.

Philip Roth wrote,

Each of us remembers and forgets in a pattern whose labyrinthing windings are an identification mark no less distinctive than a fingerprint.

The way you relate to your memories is a reflection of who you think you are. Believe in yourself and your life’s meaning enough to fast track the reframing of traumatic memories. You’re worth it.

You can’t change what happened in the past, and you can only work with memories as they come to you. But you ALWAYS have the power to reframe memories, decide how much power you give them and choose the meaning they have in your life now.

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  1. [...] make sure you don’t repeat it, and reframe your memories in a way that serves you and others. In the next piece I write more about reframing [...]

  2. Nancy says:

    Good morning to you all from where I’m at,  just outside of St. Louis, Mo., east of the great Mississippi River,  in southern Illinois. I’d like to thank you for the article this morning on “Memories”, and your perception of them, and why. I’m 52, and going through a very painful, and drawn out divorce, (separated for 2 years this October), aftwas a now 18 year marriage anniversary on this past Monday the 27th. I had long hoped that for the sake of putting what I thought had been a good marriage, (or even a great marriage), behind me to try to somehow start fresh by myself somehow when all I could remember were good times for me for definitely the first 10 years. Especially, after already having had to failed marriages over the past 34 years. I’ve been seeing these quotes on Facebook and other places in relationship to how our lives may be so much different now, “but our memories will never change”, or that “we’ll always have our memories”. I’ve always felt this to be nonsense! And have brought it up to many different friends who seemed to have never even bothered to think or believe any other way. My memories now of  what I thought to be a great marriage was only my pereception of it. After finding out in such a devastating and heartbreaking way that my husband had been cheating with others prior to my telling him he had to leave in 10/2011 was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do, but I also thought it maybe to be just one isolated case. And we’d been having an onset of problems for the past 8 years. But never once did I not mistrust him. He put on a very good Narcississtic lying show for years it seems). So I kept asking myself how, as I’m all of these “quotes” and sayings that I was reading could that possibly be true for anyone most of the time? Especially when so mamy of our memories contain other people?  It could not for me! And probably likewise for most people. My memories were based on what I believed to be a perfect scenario in my own thoughts. I thought and was positive he was as happy or on the same level as me. But was nowhere near what I believed he was to me for all of those supposed fantastic years. I found out, and it leaves no doubt in my mind by what I’d learned from the first woman he moved in with when I made him leave that he had revealed to her every dirty, disgusting , adulterous affair, fling, one night or a chanice meeting with someone on a trip that I had suspected could have happened, (but did not want to believe it or think it because I had no proof and most likely neverwould. This woman told him he had to leave just shpet of him being with her in her home and took full advantage of her limited resources. He had no intent of ever paying her rent as he’d told her of course he would, but instead played on her vulnerable emotions and made her feel “lucky” that she’d won a prize or something similar with him. He abused her goodness by blaming me for everything wrong in our marriage to extreme fabricated or exaggerated stories making her feel like she almost wanted to take care of and nurture him from his horrible, neglectful wife. (me). She soon saw the other side, and especially after he told her he felt the “need to come clean” with all of his indescretions  over our entire marriage. (Why would ANYONE  do that was my big question to myself!  He also took her for every free meal, groceries, personal items, repairs to his truck, and so much more, along with wanting her to handle the few simple financial obligations he had of his own that he’s never handled in his life. She wanted nothing to do with that esoecially when he wanoted her to out him on her checking account for “ease” since they were together anyway. She was the one that stood to lose just like I did on everything so far. After many other incidents in that shorter than two months she told him he had to leave. He did, but only when he’d lined up yet another one to do the same with. So now he’s with even another woman that has wanted him for years that I knew personally. (her and her now ex-husband, thanks to mine), and morbidly miserable I’m told, (just as I knew he would be), and still dragging out our divorce that he wanted so badly and quickly when he moved in with the first. Doing nothing but causing me to put this nightmare behind me and somehow move on. But it has taught me a valuable lesso.  I did see signs that I believed or had certainly hoped I was wrong about with him and our marriage. Now I can see those “irreplacable memories” in my mind where they belong.  With the perception of what I thought they were but were so very not not, since he was seemingly making other “memories” with others as I thought they were the memories of “our lives” together. I can lose that fairy tale I believed it to be and place it somewhere else in my mind and stop crying over something I gave him credit for and take that back and view him as an “imperfect person” as we all are, but also one that doesn’t deserve the thoughts of fondness and emotions I’ve been crediting him with for way too long. Thank you,  Nancy Symns   

  3. Nancy,You can also revise things further and feel better. Do not disparage yourself for seeing the best in him during your years together.Instead of blaming him for the end of a marriage you did not want anyway (You did not want to be married to a man who was cheating on you–at some unconscious level you knew he was) you can reframe the history to one that says, “I will be guided to a better life. I could not change him. I can put him out of my life. I can look at those years with anger or for appreciation for how I felt as I lived them. Why change memories that were good to ones that are painful? Those revisions harm you. Love is not something anyone has to earn. Once you love, your higher self never stops loving. As you try to stop loving someone you once loved the pain you feel is you perceiving the other differently than your higher self. The pain can be eased almost instantaneously if you give in to the inevitable wisdom that you will always love him but that loving him does not mean you have to be with him or even want to be with him. It does not make sense until you try it and when you try it, and the horrible pain of heartbreak eases, it begins making perfect sense. It is also incredibly empowering because a flash of insight comes that we do not have to fear loving for the pain it may cause because whether it brings pain is not up to someone else–it is up to how we approach that person. Even if the other person does not honor our agreements (fidelity) we can know that as long as we look at aspects of them that are lovable we will not feel pain even as we let them go from our lives.We each have the power of what to focus on. When we make deliberate choices about our focus we have control over how we feel.Your memories were how you experienced those times. By going back and reframing them to feel more painful you do yourself a disservice.It is not about him–not about letting him off the hook–not about what he was doing. No one,absolutely no one, perceives an event in an identical way. Our personal perspective of an event is as valid to us as another’s is to them. You can check this with others–how differently we all perceive the same event. Next time you do something with a friend ask afterwards how they experienced the day. Take a step back. Do not look for who is right. Simply gain the insight about how differently each of you experienced the day. You can do the same with anything (remember the blind men who describe the elephant?). Look at a flower with a friend. Ask your friend to play with you & write down what they experience as they look at the flower. Their experience will be colored by so much of their own history, beliefs, and expectations.If it is a rose without scent they may notice the lack of scent because they expect roses to small nice. Another could pay no attention to scent and notice the tiny lines on each soft petal.You have the power to decide what you focus on. What do you allow airtime in your own mind? Does it feel good? That is good. If it feels bad it is not serving you–not your well-being or in any other way–not even in teaching you a lesson. You do not need lessons. We all have so much untapped wisdom within that we so rarely give ourselves credit for. Blissings to you.  JJ