Welcome to 31Days of Self-care
I wasn’t sure I wanted to take this wellness journey down the path of talking about emotional memory.
It can get quite involved, but following a visit with Janet Nestor, wellness expert, and author, I think that a discussion on emotional memory is essential for a complete look at improving the outcome for self-care. Healing negative emotional memory is for building a solid foundation for our whole being. I’m not a psychologist or therapist, so remember this blog is no substitute for professional care.
Simply put, emotional memory is when recalling the past triggers an emotional response.
Psychology today has a clear description and exploration of emotional memory. Emotional memory can be genuinely upsetting, or profoundly encouraging. Either is healing. When I was interviewing people for my upcoming book, I saw how emotional memory could be instantly triggered. My interviewee was telling me that he had not had any anger during his grieving. Then he began telling me about critical markers on his grieving journey and without warning all of the anger came bubbling up that he had unconsciously ignored. We sat there staring at each other in amazement as he processed what was happening.
Emotional memory is useful in healing, and it’s helpful for simple daily life. For instance, I had a glass of sour milk one time when I was little. I kept the memory of the smell. It serves me well when drinking any glass of milk. It acts as a precautionary tactic. Do I need to remember that scent every day? No, just when I drink milk.
Unexpectedly remembering a traumatic event with my father, indeed triggered an emotional response. Dr. Richard Restak is Clinical Professor of Neurology at The George Washington University of Medicine and Health Sciences. He has designed a series of 30 min lectures to optimize brain fitness. One talk focuses on emotional memory. It explores how emotional memory works and examines exercises that help live the emotional past under safe conditions, rather than the surprise visits as experienced in the interview I conducted, or my own experience.
- Where does emotional memory carry over into our everyday life?
- How does the past color our present?
- How do our emotions fill in the spaces between “here and there”, “then and now”.
A memory of the past triggers a reaction. Reactions trigger outcomes. We can choose to project our emotional reactions onto other people. Or we can recognize we are responsible for our actions. Indeed, we WANT to take responsibility. We DON’T want to give other people power over us! If someone else can’t take care of themselves, why on earth would we expect them to take care of our emotional needs? It’s likely they aren’t even aware of the effect they have on another person. Offer mercy and grace to them AND ourselves.
Withdraw and examine thoughts coming through rest and relaxation.
Now step into self-care. Are there emotions attached to memories that need to be released? It’s is a great lesson to learn BEFORE other people have power over us.
Sometimes emotional memory shows up in disguise. We react irrationally to a situation that on the outside seems minor, but what we’re responding to is something we haven’t addressed previously. I am still working on this for myself. I see it frequently in the roles of caregivers. Address emotions sooner rather than later. They WILL come back. When they do, we want to have already dealt with them.
Here’s something I learned through working with survivors of human trafficking:
WE ARE NOT VICTIMS.
As Dr. John King, founder of Give Them A Voice Foundation taught me, don’t feed blame and anger and be victimized. Own our power and heal our wounded heart. Turn those thoughts around and take responsibility for the outcome. OWN OUR FUTURE.
Healing emotional memories raises our level of consciousness. We are building the life we want and attracting the life we envision. It’s up to us to be the designer of our life and color it beautiful colors!! How we show up is reflected back to us.