Anyone who has been reading my writings for a long time knows of my struggle with issues like rumination. Rumination is considered to be a “silent mental health issue.”
For me, the past once ruled over everything. It was so powerful that the present looked horrible and the future appears to be unlivable.
Nobody can function in this mode. However, thanks to therapy work and medication adjustments, today I could not ruminate if I tried.
Today, I’m in a relatively healthy place with regard to mental health. In thinking about the problem, I had an idea. Is it possible to surgically destroy specific memories from the past?
In late 2019, I had a girlfriend from 1982 come out. We spent most of the pandemic in 2020 doing what we’d always wanted to do, and basically enjoying life.
But this did not last long, and I won’t get into what I think happened. The bottom line was that she was having some difficulties. She eventually walked out one day and never came back. This is how I want to keep things, to be clear.
What happened here is that her very presence, her attitude, and other elements served to destroy any and all good memories that I had of her. The dates we went on, the music we listened to, the movies we saw… ALL of it was destroyed, forever.
What this means is that I will never again think back to the “good old days,” and wonder whatever became of her.
At first, I felt kind of sick to my stomach at the idea that one of my cherished memories had been taken away from me by this situation. But then I realized that we just went out a bunch of times, and never went beyond that summer in 1982.
Dating was about getting to know each other, and that got interrupted. We were forced apart by her father, and so I was left wondering what could have been.
It was wishful thinking on my part, as well as hers.
As part of an experiment, I compiled girlfriend names from the 80s and chose one at random. This was a real eye-opener, as I had a decent number of girlfriends back then. The problem was they went to another school, so you wouldn’t know them.
Kind of like the nerd who has an imaginary girlfriend, except these girlfriends were very real.
The one I picked was perfect for the experiment. We had some passionate times and shared some amazing music. My memories of her are probably in the top 0.5% of my memories of girlfriends from the past.
In other words, she was no slouch.
First, I thought about our experiences together analytically. How did we meet? How long did we talk? Were we intimate? When did we part ways? And what were the saucy details?
I pondered all of these aspects of the relationship. Then, I went to Google and searched for her.
Without getting into detail, what I found completely destroyed my image and memory of her.
After I did this, I sat with the consequences for a while. Was I going to miss these memories? Yea, a little.
But then I realized that the memories were only as good as the person with whom I shared them.
While she was a good, light-hearted person back then, people change, and most often not for the better. The older they get, the more jaded, angry, and aggressive they get. This is why I’m not really looking forward to making new friends, but that’s a different topic for another time.
Then I asked myself, “Do I REALLY want to keep a memory alive, when the person with whom I shared the memory is effectively dead?”
The hard reality is that who she was back then is NOT who she is now. That person is effectively dead and gone. She no longer exists. That fun young woman had turned into something horrible.
WHY GOOD MEMORIES ARE EASIER TO KILL THAN BAD ONES
This could also be subtitled, “Why I Crave Photos of the Good Times.”
When we have good memories, they get stored in the front of the left hemisphere of the brain. These memories are saved in “text” form. These memories are relatively weak, because they give you nothing in the form of information that might be essential to survival.
Conversely, our bad memories get stored on the back of the right hemisphere. These memories are saved as images, and are therefore more robust and detailed. They stick with you longer, because they might contain information that you will need later in life, to avoid repeating a situation, or maybe not get eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger.
CONNECTING TIME TO SPACE
The Earth travels 584 million miles through space in the course of one year. Where we were in space at that time is a place where we will never be again.
For example, if I think back to 1982, I realize that Earth has traveled 21,608,000,000 miles since that time. Just as we cannot conceptually go back, we physically cannot get back to that place if we wanted to go there.
Considering situations in these terms, it makes it easier for me to let go.
GROUPING FOR A SITUATIONAL DUMP
Evaluating a situation and drawing an honest conclusion can sometimes deal with multiple memories at one time.
A great example is my memories of college from 1983-1985. I had some bad experiences, and those were easy enough to deal with. However, there were some good experiences. These good experiences are directly attached to a very specific group of people.
First, I acknowledge how they treated me in current times. For the most part, the way I was treated on Facebook was indifferent, at least, and bad, at worst. There is little in the way of positivity. Some of the things that have been said are abusive and toxic.
Next, I think back to those memories. Yes, I did enjoy doing those things and hanging out. But were these people ever really my friends in the first place? I have serious doubts that they were, and suspect that the “friendship” was purely situational in nature.
We were in college, and were enjoying some off-campus parties. There was depth to these connections at the time, in my mind, but I’m now fairly certain that my mind made up those deep times.
I think of things that they’ve said to me in recent years. This makes it easy to write them off, instead of wondering what happened, or being upset about why we weren’t “still” friends. I don’t try to insert myself where I’m not enthusiastically welcomed.
The memories can then be re-framed in a different way. For example, I could have a memory about “that one time I went on a road trip with Joe.” I didn’t really know anyone named Joe. It’s just an example.
I remove Joe from the equation, and then recognize that there were other people in the car whose names I didn’t know.
The re-framing takes the memory from “a road trip with Joe,” to “some awesome road trips.”
I retain memory of the event, but remove the people.
There were some good times in college, and I perceived that I had a good time back then. But I must be under NO delusions that ANY of these people were ever my friends in the first place.
CURRENT PLAYERS FROM THE PAST
There are people from the past, where I have good memories, and they are still connected and active with me today. I appreciate these people more than they may ever be able to understand.
I know that there are people reading with whom I became friends in 1998, 1992, or even as far back as 1975.
The further back I go, the less important it is that we were friends then. It has NO bearing on being friends now. However, it IS important that they never caused me any harm, stress, or grief. I’ve encountered those people, and I need to stay far away from them if I value my peace of mind.
What is most important, above all else, is who they are RIGHT NOW. Are they decent people who have the ability to express sympathy, empathy, and Humanity?
Yes, most definitely. I don’t run with monsters.
IN THE END
Can I really surgically strike my memories and deal with them in this way? So far, it appears that I can do this. As I ruminate less, and as my Major Depressive Disorder becomes more manageable, this activity becomes easier and more effective.
The thing that I must remember is that I was NOT clinging to any memories at the time that I made these old memories. This means that if I want to make some new memories now, then I need to have empty hands to capture those memories.
The problem with new memories is that they’re few and far between, thanks to the pandemic. Stress is high, so it is more desirable to think back to a time when things were so much easier.
Or so it seemed. If we are honest with ourselves about the “good old days,” then we will be able to find bad experiences, difficult times, and stressful events.
They certainly weren’t as solidly and purely good as we might want to believe. Trust me when I say that it is so VERY easy to romanticize the past, and we can do the same with people, too.
Before my recovery started taking hold, I was romanticizing lots of people from my past. I’ve had to recognize the hard truth, that they do not see the past as I saw it, because they experienced it differently. Maybe they enjoyed it, or maybe they were glad that it was all over.
I don’t know, and I don’t care. Along those lines, what other people think about me is absolutely NONE of my business. I don’t care, and don’t need to know.
I made it. I survived. That’s enough information. Time to move forward.
Move into the RIGHT NOW; this current moment. For everything that time has touched is dead.
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