This is something that NLP practitioners have known through experience decades, so it’s nice to see scientific research in this arena.
Traumatic or debilitating memories have long been scientifically acknowledged as an underlying trigger for several types of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Researchers have been working to unravel the mystery of how memories are stored and retrieved. They want to discover if harmful memories can be changed to reduce their negative associations on the human mind.
A person’s recall of past events plays a powerful role in their current day to day functions. Traumas from the past often push a person to avoid the unwanted memory and anything in present life that could possibly be associated with the memory. Meanwhile other memories, such as the euphoric feeling that results from drug use, can drive a person to repeat harmful behaviors.
This classic association of repeating behaviors due to memory recall is what makes a drug addiction so difficult for a person to overcome. While the logical part of the mind is fully aware of the dangers of such self-destructive behaviors, it is the emotional recall from the memory of the high that compels the user to continue with their drug use.
Memory reconsolidation may indeed be the key to unlocking those significant memories and modifying their negative effect on daily activities. Starting with tests on rats, scientists have been able to harness the mind’s ability to retrieve stored memories of a particular event and alter their significance and impact.
After successful testing on rodents, human subjects became part of the research demographic to see if the complexity of human memories could also be revised. The results have shown that memories are not cast in stone, but pliable and open to change. This ability to change memories is the cornerstone of new research to develop methods for treating memory related mental and emotional issues.
There are literally hundreds of way to alter a memory for the better. For example, try the following steps:
1. Identify a mildly unpleasant memory that still makes you feel bad (remember – mild, not a traumatic memory).
2. Notice the image itself. Where is it? Up close? All around you? In color? Just notice the qualities of the picture in your mind above and beyond the content of the memory. This is an image in your mind’s eye – that’s all.
3. Now, imagine moving this image off into the distance – say 10-20 meters. Make sure to see yourself in it, as if you were a neutral observer.
4. If you can allow the image to stay in the distance and adopt the observer role, then your negative feelings should diminish significantly.
5. From here, you can ask yourself a variety of helpful questions. What can I learn from this? How can I handle future situations like this? And so on.
Just like that, you’ve modified a memory by taking an observer’s perspective. Very useful!
Your stored memory is subject to change once it has been retrieved. This discovery makes it possible for retrieved memories to be altered or reconsolidated to a certain degree, thereby lessening their impact on your psyche and current behavior.
Again, this is not a new practice. We’ve been doing a thousand variations of this kind of work in NLP for many, many years.
And it is important personal work, as consistent negative memories form negative psychological attachments. These attachments to negativity make us miserable. Yet, because the negative states are so familiar, they are very difficult (if not impossible) to let go without becoming consciously aware of the pattern, modifying memories to suit a present-day understanding of the past and making new choices that reflect a more mature perspective.
For more on psychological attachments and self-sabotage, watch this free and enlightening video.
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