Memories have a way of replaying like a movie inside our heads. Yet, it’s not uncommon for the “movie” to be more like a horror or drama film with far too many twists and turns.
These memories can often cause you pain, keep you up at night, or send your emotions spiraling downward. After all, memories are connected to your feelings, making them very influential on your overall mood and wellness.
However, if your traumatic memories make you feel as though your mind is pouring salt into an open wound time after time, it’s time to regain control.
Here’s how you can learn to manage your traumatic memories effectively.
When traumatic memories flood your mind, it’s likely that your body responds to them as well. Often, your heart races and your breathing becomes shallow, as if you were reliving the negative experience in the present moment.
It can be difficult to swing the pendulum back to reality again, because your mind is essentially “living” in another time or place at that moment.
To counteract this physical response, practice deep breathing exercises. Try to take slow breaths, allowing your belly to expand like a balloon.
Doing this will help you feel more in control, mostly because deep breathing deactivates the “fight-or-flight” response and makes you feel calmer. Thus, decreasing the impact of your memories.
Adopt a Mantra
Another successful tool in managing traumatic memories is to find a meaningful quote or mantra. This could be a favorite saying or a phrase that really resonates with you. No matter what you decide on, the mantra or quote needs to be meaningful words that you can hold on to.
For example, what do you need most when you become painfully lost in a memory? Acceptance? Love? Self-worth? Adopt a mantra that speaks directly to that need.
When you experience discomfort or pain from the memories, you can encourage yourself by repeating the mantra.
This works especially well in tandem with breathing techniques. It’s effective to repeat the mantra in between breaths.
Try EMDR Therapy
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is well-known for decreasing the impact of traumatic memories.
It works to bypass and ultimately reprocess the emotions connected to the memory.
Unlike many traditional talk therapy methods, you don’t have to relive the experience during your therapy session. Rather, a trained EMDR therapist guides you in certain eye movements which serve to replace the emotions previously connected with the memory.
Keep in mind that EMDR doesn’t remove the painful memory itself. However, it does serve to reprocess how you experience that memory. Once you’ve learned the EMDR protocol, your therapist can often empower you with at-home techniques to use as well.
If you’ve experienced trauma in your life, it’s helpful to find others who’ve experienced it as well.
For one, it helps you to feel less alone, which is exactly how trauma can make you feel—like you’re facing this hardship and pain all by yourself.
In a support group, you know for certain and can actually see other people dealing with the same type of traumatic past as you are. Furthermore, you can share ways to cope when you’re at home or work (anywhere else but the group setting).
Managing a traumatic memory doesn’t have to be a lone wolf kind of thing. It’s helpful to lean on other people. So, reach out for help and support when you feel the memories starting to take a stronghold.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to address traumatic memories that may be impacting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT