Shall we get real for a minute? How often do you compare how your present boyfriend/girlfriend touches you to the way your ex used to? Or how they treated you? It is easier to acknowledge the memories you have of your family or your friends and how these affect you because these are the most obvious. From the way you were taught to tie your shoelaces to some of the opinions you picked up at school, these are the kind of memories whose root can be traced to the source.
There are stories of grown folk who are afraid to swim because of a memory of being forcefully thrown into water as a kid. These are stories we are all familiar with. There are, however, more subtle influences in our lives that may be rooted in memory but we are yet to unearth the connections. These emotional attachments may not seem too bad, on the surface. Take your taste in men for instance. Are they usually a lot like your dad or brothers? This may seem quite Freudian but that does not make it any less true. Science has recently shown us that memories are formed by physical connections between neurone but psychologists have always known about the connections between memories and emotions.
It has been shown in science that stronger memories are formed when either positive or negative emotions are involved as opposed to when the emotions remain neutral. Our flight or fight survival instinct can kick in when we are confronted with a situation that dredges up negative memories. A good example of this is the first time you had your heart broken. You may find that whenever you have a suspicion that your heart will be broken again, you react because your survival instinct, the need to protect yourself, kicks in to keep you from that kind of pain again.
The problem with this is that you may develop instinctive reactions in particular situations because you were hurt in a similar manner in the past. Hence the growth of unhealthy behavioral patterns in your life. The situation may be similar but the outcome could be a lot different if you gave it a chance. Yet your emotional response keeps you trapped and therefore you are unable to make progress in relationships because of your reaction, which is almost automatic.
Research studies have shown that negative emotions may affect memory stronger than positive emotions. The implications of this are that if you find yourself being affected by a pattern of behavior that is disturbing, the explanation for this may have its root in a memory of a negative experience. Isn’t it interesting, though, that most folk who had negative experiences with their parents and grow up saying to themselves that they will never be like their parents, usually end up displaying the exact behavior that they abhorred in their parents? This pattern demonstrates how memory has the power to not only affect our behavior but also our emotional state of being. A negative memory affects the emotions and the emotions affect behavior in a usually unpredictable way.
If you think that you are able to identify these kinds of patterns in your own life, or even if you feel like you could use some help in the form of therapy, these few tips can help bring a sense of clarity to your own emotional behavior.
Look Backward to Move Forward
You are not an island. This means that your thinking patterns, emotional states, and behaviors were not developed in isolation which makes it more than likely that you are being influenced by a memory especially if your life seems to have a lot of negative behavior. Did you learn this from someone or are you reacting to a previous experience? Look back at the significant points in your life to find the answers which will give you the freedom to move forward.
You are trying to Protect You
Whether you know this or not, you are always your first form of defense. Your psyche always finds a way to protect you and to keep you safe from harm or hurt and if it senses that you are about to encounter a harmful situation, it will cause you to act in a certain way to ensure your survival. This is seen in people who have experienced different levels of trauma. They may lose their memory of the event because they are being protected by their psyche which knows the memory might harm them. These protective behavioral patterns may take years, and a lot of therapy, to identify and break but freedom is possible for those who try.
Claim Ownership of Your Emotions
No matter your past, your emotions are your own. It is absolutely vital to understand that when we refuse to understand how the past might affect us through our memories, we might be handing over the control of our lives to whatever trauma is trying to exert power over us. Yes, only dig into your memories when you want to because no one should force you but are you capable of seeing the connection between your behavior and your memories on your own? Especially if you are in a situation where your behavior is negatively affecting the lives of those around you, friends, family, and colleagues?
The Blame Game Gets Old
Who made you like this? Your parents? An old lover? Whoever may have caused you hurt and trauma in the past, eventually you have to understand that you have the power over your memories and it’s time to stop passing the buck. This may seem harsh but there is freedom to be had in the realization that you are now old enough and knowledgeable enough to take responsibility for your emotional behavior.
See yourself as a person who has the tools to break free of unhealthy patterns of behavior. You are not helpless neither are you hopeless. Your life is your own to live, no one else’s.