Thursday, January 16, 2014

How to get over an extremely embarassing memory

Do you have one of those?

It's been years since you've, I dunno, accidentally overstayed your welcome on stage during a speech that went completely off-topic but you couldn't stop even as you were already aware it wasn't going anywhere, which makes it worse because you were completely aware of how awkward the moment is for everyone else and waiting yourself for it to stop but you keep talking and talking and *forcefully pries self away from sticky, personal memory of gradeschool election speech during campaign*...

Let's try that again.

Do you have that single memory, or maybe even a couple dozen if you're more like me, that pops up every now and then in your head while you lie awake at night, seemingly with the sole purpose of making your heart race with embarrassment, rendering you tired and yet too awake now and unable to sleep?

Now listen closely because I have a way to help you, but there is one crucial condition:

It has to be something you consider to be a secret.

Maybe you've told someone before, but it should be one of those cases where you feel that you could have but you can't actually remember it anymore, or if you do, the memory is so vague and you don't really remember much detail.

Oh wait, another thing: It has to have happened a loooong time ago. Something you're not currently suffering some consequences from. It has to be a torment that is completely psychological.

Today I told Beardy an extremely embarassing thing that happened to me in freshman year. At first, I didn't want to tell him. But after realizing that I've never it to anyone before, (I wasn't even aware I've never told anyone before today, it just always felt natural to bury it as deep as possible) I thought that it might help. We might share a couple laughs about it, he might tell me "that ain't too bad" or I could maybe free myself of some guilt I wasn't aware I had by confessing it to someone close to me and seeing them still want to be associated with me.

So after a long build-up to the main story, I had a fully-attentive Beardy on Google Hangout excitedly staring and smiling at our Facebook message window, completely unaware that that was it. That was my unclimactic story. He expected something more embarrassing, I suppose. Or at least something phrased more climatically? And I guess I did expect that reaction. Looking at the story objectively, it actually was, as some people would say, ain't no thang. But it was the feeling associated with the memory, and what it meant to me, that has allowed it to torment me for so long.

To be honest, this is not a sure-fire tried-and-tested solution. In fact, I've yet to test it. But I theorize that in memories like these, the thing that torments us is not the memory itself, but more of our associated feelings with it. We have literally practiced being really good at feeling bad about it that it doesn't need a trigger anymore. We're doing it to ourselves. Look ma, no hands!

How it works is really simple: You take the old, blurry memory which embarrasses you, and de-weaponize the only potent thing about it (yor feelons and mental associations) by replacing it with new ones. Chances are, if you create a new associated memory there by telling a loved one, the memory of you telling it to someone will re-frame the way you see the instance. Because the act of you telling it is more recent, AND has more positive emotional associations. So you will start remembering the memory the way you told it to the person! Which usually is lighter on the heart because embarrassing things tend to draw laughter when shared. Or at the very least, someone will ask "What? That was it?!" and you'll be more convinced that it wasn't really so bad at all.

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