Last year, my brother decided to take a road trip back to the small towns where we grew up. During his travels, he sent me pictures of a couple of houses we lived in when we were kids. One has been dramatically renovated, and the other one appeared to be in worse shape than when we lived there. However, both pictures unearthed a mountain of memories that I hadn’t thought of in years. Some were fond memories, but the bulk of the memories were unpleasant to say the least.
Wading through the wave of emotions that accompanied these memories turned out to be both irritating and illuminating.
Irritating because these memories remind me of a very difficult, abusive, and fear-filled time in my life. With help, I’ve been able to process, forgive, and let go of the effects of these events over the years. There are still memories that catch me off guard. They can cause a cascade of emotions if I’m not mindful of what emotions I’m feeling and why. Memories are like that. They can sneak up on you and create emotional chaos before you recognize what’s happening.
But also illuminating, because it helped me to recognize how much I’d grown. Those memories no longer had their haunting influence on my heart or my head. I recognized how much stronger and wiser I’d become. Those past events compelled me to become the man, counselor, and author that I am today.
It also got me thinking of how important mindfulness is to managing memories, both good and bad. For those who aren’t familiar with mindfulness, let me define and explain what mindfulness is.
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of whom or what is trying to influence our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, or our surrounding environment. Mindfulness enables you to tune into what you’re sensing in the present moment, rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
For me, mindfulness is critical for maintaining a healthy awareness of what is trying to influence my beliefs, thoughts, or feelings at any given moment. When I encounter a memory coupled with its emotional baggage, mindfulness helps me to recognize why I’m feeling this emotion. It lets me process before instigating any negative self-talk or toxic emotions.
That’s why managing your memories is vital to your mental and emotional health. Your brain is so complex that it’s almost impossible to forget most memories, no matter how hard you try. However, it is possible to manage your memories and – more importantly – the emotional baggage that comes with them. You can do this by understanding and practicing these principles:
Memories create or cause momentum. Your memories will take you back to a place and time that is either delightful or deadly. Delightful memories are usually great, but even with these, you cannot allow yourself to get stuck there. Getting stuck in the past with delightful or deadly memories halts or slows your momentum toward pursuing future goals and making the most of today.
Deadly memories are the ones that hurt you the most. They’re deadly because of all the toxic emotions that begin to contaminate your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. They cause unending waves of guilt, shame, hurt, regret, anger, and resentment to flood the hallways of your heart, contaminating every corner. Thus, all momentum is stopped, blocking and barricading all hope while often thwarting any attempt to seek help.
Your memories are now managing you, not the other way around.
Let go of deadly memories by forgiving yourself. I shared this in my previous blog post: Letting Go of the Guilt: The Value of Forgiving Yourself. Check it out. Here are some of the key principles I shared:
Un-forgiveness results in the deepest and most intimate part of your heart becoming a “keep out” zone. You fear what your loved ones might think. You barricade off part of your heart. This fear prevents you from being truly intimate and allowing anyone to know you truly.
It darkens the lens through which you see your life! It also darkens your heart! If left unchecked, it will become a self-imposed prison! And YOU will become your own worst enemy!
That’s why it’s vital to learn how to forgive yourself. Furthermore, learning to forgive yourself enables you to forgive others truly. After all, if you can’t forgive yourself, how can truly grant forgiveness to anyone else? You can’t give away something you’ve never had.
Learning to forgive yourself is essential to learning to forgive others and accepting forgiveness from others!
Mindfulness helps you to manage your memories. The great news is that anyone can learn to practice mindfulness. Through mindfulness, you’ll be able to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and the influence of your surrounding environment. When you practice mindfulness, your thoughts tune into what you’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Some of the resources that I’ve found to be helpful in developing mindfulness have been to create a library of inspirational media: apps, music, videos, audio books, or articles, which helps to encourage and inspire in the midst of difficult days. Journaling my thoughts, feelings, and inspirations also help to get memories out of my head so I can see it clearer. Changing my environment helps by looking for small concerts, nature hike/walks, or participating in community events that are encouraging or inspirational.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful. Remember mindfulness is a lifestyle that takes consistent practice and patience, but well worth the effort.
Want more resources like this check out my previous blogs; “Where Do You Draw Your Strength?” and “Principle of Over Seeding vs. Unhealthy Sexual Thoughts.”
I hope today’s blog has encouraged you. Make sure you sign up to receive blogs posted every Tuesday and Thursday. TransformingFamilies.org resources are designed to guide you through the restoration process of developing your heart, mind, and strength, enabling you to become the man God created you to be.
I also provide one-on-one coaching, if you want to improve your relationships, let’s connect through e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. My hope for you is that through these blogs, references, and resources, God will transform you from being bruised or broken to an abundantly blessed man.