Belief #2. I cultivate fond memories and let the bad ones wither (or better yet see the humor in them)

People tend to assume their memories just happen. Some default program just creates them. Actually, you create your memories every time you think of them. You pull up some information and construct the picture and words. If you rehearse the memory often enough, the memory will get burned in. With post traumatic stress disorder the events are so traumatic the memory gets burned in. Otherwise, you are the artist.

Belle Boone Beard’s research with centenarians found that they related twice as many positive memories as negative memories. It wasn’t that they had an easy life. They lived through the Great Depression, two World Wars, and most of the time did not have much money. She found that even when their lives had a lot of tragedy, they often focused on the positive, such as how kind people were to them. She observed, “In general centenarians can recall so many more pleasant memories that I wonder whether they may deliberately have repressed unhappy memories.”

Cultivating memories is like gardening. You need to nourish the good memories by telling the stories again and again with great enthusiasm and vivid details. Eventually, you will get so good at telling the stories that people will ask to hear them again and again.

You can choose to minimize and weed out the bad memories. People say “someday you’ll laugh about this.” Why wait? Most humor is based on painful events. Seeing the humor can take the sting out. Keeping the pain to yourself allows it to fester. When you share it with someone, it is much easier to get perspective and to see the humor. And humor makes for great stories.

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