Our ability to remember and recall information is incredible.
Often, the most powerful memory triggers are sensory.
Smell, sound, and emotions are huge sensory triggers for memories.
It is almost impossible to recall a memory with exactness as it actually happened.
What’s worse is that, over time, our brains can actually change the memory.
That’s why it is possible to remember something that didn’t happen.
That’s also why it’s possible to forget things that did.
Our memories are untrustworthy and prone to error.
It’s just the way our brains work.
That’s why our own memory can actually be what stands between us and getting closure we need over past hurt.
Here are 3 ways our own memories prevent us from getting the closure we need:
- Processing shock with replay.Things happen that can catch us off guard.
Even if we suspect something is going to happen, we can still be left in shock when it does.
The surprise of the painful event will cause our brains to replay it over and over again, searching for some sign or clue that could have clued you in that you missed.
You’ll replay the event over and over, analyzing every little detail and looking for more.
Anything that will help you process what happened.
It could have been a break-up when you thought things were working out, or an accident, or a failing score at work on a project that you put a lot of time into.
No matter what it was, you were unprepared for the blow and you cling to the memory in an attempt to make sense of it.
This is problematic for lots of reasons.
Replaying the event over and over—looking for every detail—isn’t helping.
No matter what you find (if anything) it won’t change your current standing.
Not only that, but the more you look at all those little details, the more your memory is altering the actual events.
That little thing you missed the first time, your memory has twisted into a big deal and now you feel stupid for not having noticed it.
That little thing, which probably was just a little thing that had little to no impact, has now become a crutch and thing to obsess over.
Now, you’re holding onto that little thing as if it was singularly responsible for what happened.
Obsessing over any part of the memory isn’t going to help.
Replaying it over and over is only distorting it further and keeping it fresh.
By replaying it over and over in an attempt to process your shock, you’ve actually made it worse and have created a tie to it that will be very difficult to break and overcome.
Instead of processing the shock and moving forward with dealing with the pain and healing from it, you’ve allowed yourself to remain in that state of shock through your memory replay.
It’s okay to replay what happened once or twice to process how you got to where you are but then you need to stop, acknowledge that this is the current situation, and get to work healing and moving forward.
- Creating stories to fill in gaps.Part of what makes it difficult to move on from a painful situation or event is not knowing all the pieces to the story.
We only know our perspective and that is limited.
So, our minds create stories to fill in the blanks of missing information. The problem with that is the more we create a story, the more we think about it, the more we start to believe it.
Eventually, our memories will merge the story and the recall of the event from our perspective. We will get to a point that we don’t remember that we made up that story to fill in the gap.
This can make it difficult to find forgiveness or reconciliation later on.Whatever story we’ve made up, we’ve convinced ourselves to be truth and it merged with our memory of the event so it’s nearly impossible to separate the two.
As hard as it is, you have to learn how to stop yourself from creating these stories and filling in the gaps.
You have to accept that you don’t know those pieces and might never find out. You have to heal with what you have and move forward.
Maybe one day those gaps will be filled in by someone else contributing their perspective, but you can’t wait for that to find closure and you can’t make something up to fill what’s missing.
- Omitting details we don’t like.One of the best features of our memories is how they try to protect us.
This can also be a great hindrance when it comes to closure.
Our brains are naturally wired to protect us from trauma as a means of survival.
This is how people can repress or forget significant moments.
Similarly, this kicks in when something happens that we really don’t like.
Even small things.
You might forget the things you did or said that contributed to a break-up and only remember what the other person did to you.It’s an ugly detail about yourself and your actions that you’d prefer not to remember, but it inhibits your ability to get closure and move on.
Similarly, you might forget all the wonderful things an ex did for you just because you are no longer together.
To find closure and heal from pain, you have to remember all of it.
Splitting up memories and only remembering the parts that serve your cause won’t get you closure.
Our memories are a complex system.
It’s completely unreliable, and once we know that, we can work with it to overcome the pain we’ve been holding on to and finally find closure.