Dealing with Unpleasant Memories

In the early 2000s I developed Tourette’s Syndrome as the side effect of a medication I was taking. I stopped taking the meds, but Tourette’s has remained. Now I’m sure you’re picturing me swearing uncontrollably in public! Actually, TS mostly just gives me annoying tics, especially when I’m tired or very relaxed. I always have to warn massage therapists and dental hygienists that if I give a little start, I’m NOT reacting to pain, but am showing how RELAXED I am! It’s quite counter-intuitive.

Then a few years ago I noticed that I’d developed a bit of TS vocalizing — again, NOT swearing, but a little yelp. This action was different from the tics; it wasn’t associated with being tired or relaxed, but happened when I had an unpleasant memory.  It was as if I was yelping in emotional pain.  I figured I could use these yelps to help me deal with some of my past.

When I hear myself “yelp”, this is what I do:

  • I look for what thought triggered my outburst.
  • I acknowledge the memory, usually something that I’ve done in the past that I’m not proud of.
  • I admit what I did wrong and what might have motivated me to do it.  Was I being selfish, frightened, prideful, thoughtless?
  • I imagine what I could have done differently at the time.
  • I assess my current life:  do I still do these things?  If yes, am I doing them less often?  What can I change in my current behavior?
  • I let the memory go, knowing that having learned the lesson, I no longer need to dwell on this particular memory.

This method of dealing with painful memories has been surprisingly effective!  I’m yelping a lot less often, and I don’t recall having had any “repeat memories”, so I’ve stopped the old habit of dwelling on my past mistakes, making my present a lot more enjoyable!

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