The residue of negative emotions after a significant event happens in your life can become consuming and controlling. They can affect your perspectives, the decisions you make, the people you connect with, and even your health.
So why do we hold on to negative emotions of an event from the past? What keeps something like anger, sadness, and other negative states around for weeks, or even years? The answer is:
There is something you haven’t confronted yet.
Lingering, negative emotions are unresolved conflicts in your subconscious mind.
Something about the event is traumatic enough where letting it go is simply too difficult. It’s as if you still have a decision to make, or an action to take, to get it resolved, but you don’t take it. So it sits inside you, like unfinished business, waiting for a resolution.
When you think back to a situation that upset you in any way, do you still get upset thinking about it now? If so, those emotions are caught in a “feedback loop”.
A feedback loop is caused when you feel bad about your past, and feel bad because you feel bad about your past! The feelings from the past intertwine with the feelings you are having today. So every time you relive it, it gains intensity. A feedback loop helps keep old, unresolved emotions “alive”.
What really gets people down is that when they recall the memory, they feel the emotions as if the event were happening right now. Not only do you remember what you saw and what you heard, but you also remember the way you felt because the memory of the event is linked to the emotions of that event. If whatever needs to be resolved is not resolved, the negative emotions linger in the background. And they become the foundation for every action you take, and every thought you have.
The good news is you can easily let these emotions go, if you want to. They can be “un-linked” from the sights and sounds of the memory. As if the emotions were represented by a balloon, and what you remember seeing and hearing is the string tied to that balloon. You can simply untie the string and watch it float away.
The following process walks you through how to untie that string, and release the emotion. You won’t actually stop remembering it, but your perspective of the memory will change so that you feel differently about it.
It’s a brain hack, and one you anyone can do!
Are you ready?
The first thing to do is recall something that makes you feel bad when you think of it. Maybe someone yelled at you when you were a kid. Maybe someone looked at you weird. Or maybe you were hurt in some way. I will say that the following technique can work with highly traumatic memories, but I would rather you find a professional to help you with the trauma first, as there are many layers to that kind of memory.
Do you have something in mind? Let’s begin.
When you remember the event, are you looking through your own eyes? Or, can you actually see yourself, from a third-person perspective?
Whichever perspective you have, switch it around. If you are looking through your own eyes, step outside yourself and look at you, and the situation around you. If you are already outside yourself, step in to yourself, and look through your own eyes. After you’ve tried both, stick with the one that feels better to you.
Next, keeping yourself in the perspective that feels better, look around. Is there movement? Or, is it more of a still image? Whichever it is, change it. If there is movement, as if you are an actor in a movie, change it to a still image. If it’s a still image, turn it into a movie. When you’ve tried both, stick with the one that feels better.
You with me so far?
Now, what do you hear going on around you? What noises are you tuning in to? If you hear people’s voices, imagine their voices are cartoon voices, or even funny animal sounds. You might even want to add some some silly carnival or ragtime music.
You are doing great. I know, you’re using a lot of imagination here, but we’re almost there.
In this memory, you are now looking at things and hearing things a little differently. How do you feel about this memory right now? Is it the same? Has the emotional impact of the memory decreased in intensity?
Last step. Step out of your memory altogether and see that memory in front of you as if it were in a box. And you were looking down into the box, seeing yourself, and everything going on around you. Put a lid on the box, and place it on a conveyor belt. Watch the box get smaller and smaller, as it is transported to…
And that is the one part that you must do on your own. This is where you take control of where the box goes. And after you’ve created that scene, come back to here and now.
Take a moment if you need to. Sometimes a deep breath helps integrate the exercise.
When you think about what that memory used to feel like, does it feel any different now?
Can you even picture it the same way anymore?
When you are triggered by a negative memory, you have the option of working with that memory, or repressing it. What you choose at that moment is one of the major components that define your quality of life from that point on.