Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Good and Bad Memories

A former school classmate posted an old elementary school picture from the 5th or 6th grade on Facebook.  When I look at that picture all I can think about is the bad memories.

When I visit my hometown, instead of remembering the good, I can only think about the bad.

Why do we remember bad memories first over good memories?

I don’t necessarily think of one bad event but just a general bad times thought. That school picture was a time after my brother was born that Mom started to fall into mental illness (with this I have my idea for my I’m Blogging About Mental Health post next week). I don’t remember many specific instances just a conglomerate of many instances. I don’t remember when she told me that I was not her family only her parents and siblings were her “family” but I do remember her saying that a lot.

While looking up why we remember bad memories over good memories, I came across this article from the New York Times that talks about people who overgeneralize memories have a better chance of being depressed.

This quote from the article struck very close to home:

“Without detailed memories to draw upon, dispelling a black mood can seem impossible. Patients may remember once having felt happy, but cannot recall specific things that contributed to their happiness, like visiting friends or a favorite restaurant.”

Lately I am more mindful of what makes me happy – specific music, a good book, seeing friends but going back in time, I have a hard time saying, “Yes, such and such made me happy.” I can’t think of anything.  I just have a general sense of blackness.

Do you overgeneralize memories like me?  Are you more mindful now of what makes you happy or sad?

11 comments:

  1. Hmmm . . . interesting. I don't think I overgeneralize. I can remember specific times of joy. But I have to think about them to remember them, most of the time. Times of pain seem to just come to my memory a lot quicker and easier.

    Perhaps you could make a list of the events that bring you joy. Not a big complicated journal or anything - but just a notepad where you can quickly jot down the date and what the event was. That may be helpful to reflect upon when you are feeling down.

    I am most definitely more mindful about what brings me joy now. After going through CBT and after suffering through my ongoing recovery of my OCD, I try very hard to be much more positive and to add positive, fun things to my life. It takes some effort but it is worth it. It's starting to become more of a habit now, so it's just becoming part of my daily life.

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    1. I definitely use CBT a lot now. Between using it to help with eating and depression, I have gotten a lot out of it.

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  2. I am very mindful of what makes me happy, as they are rare. But analyzing my happy moments too much, makes me sad again. It kind of gets me in that mode of thinking, that this will not last

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    1. For me, over analyzing anything makes me sad. I totally understand.

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  3. I know that general sense of black you talk about. It's one I often feel when thinking of my youth and my home town. I can see how it can be beneficial to focus on individual memories of times to keep the negativity in check.

    I'm going to remember this when I find my mind start wandering negatively.

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    1. For some reason, reading the article made me feel a little better. It makes me realize I am not alone and I can sort of begin to understand myself.

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  4. Very thought-provoking post. It never occurred to me to recall specific events of joy, and what a shame that is. I wonder if painful memories stand out because we're meant to be joyful creatures naturally (that's just a thought). Author Madeleine L'Engle wrote once that we're often not aware we're happy when we are happy, and wouldn't it be wonderful to be shiningly aware of it when we are? I like Sunny's idea of a joy journal...I keep a journal myself, and sometimes it's fun to go through old entries and find snippets of joyful memories in there.

    Great post!

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    1. I always thought of this blog as sort of my journal but maybe I should actually write stuff down as well.

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  5. I think I do overgeneralize bad memories. When I think of my childhood and young adulthood, there's a haze over it, and a sadness. What I have to be careful of is letting that affect how I feel and what I'm doing now. It's an ongoing process for me to stay in the present and enjoy what's here.

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    1. It totally is an ongoing process.

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  6. I just followed over from Jean's blog to yours and am glad I did- this was a awesome post. I overgeneralize bad memories but I have some pretty traumatic ones from my childhood and I doubt if I had a healthy care-free childhood I would be doing that. But I don't want to live in the past or I am wrecking my present and probably my future. Easier said than done though. So I work on it. It's hard because my OCD is really about feeling in control and it's like I wish I could let go of my need for control and yet if I let my natural feelings come through then I am depressed.

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