How to erase bad memories? A strange question, isn’t it? Yet confusing. Seeing a butterfly and a snake tends you to remember the fear of the snake bite rather than the colourful joy brought by the butterfly. Logically, the opposite should be true. Is it a problem – physiological or psychological? And if yes, we should train our brain to focus on the positives rather than the negatives to be happy even facing the hard times.
The character of Julia Roberts as Vivian in the film Pretty Woman says it is easier to believe the bad stuff. It was a touching and unfortunately a psychological truth. To begin with, we are more inclined to negative information other than the positive one. It’s an evolutionary hand-me-down ancestral cave-dwelling tendencie. During those times, danger aka ‘the bad stuff’ was a matter of life and death. To dispose off the negative aspects of our environments harmful to us, our bodies’ sensation of pain keeps on working to keep ourselves safe.
The little almond shaped grey matter in the brain called amygdala is the ‘emotional alarm bell of the brain’ that uses its neurons to look for the bad news. Negativities not just imprint more quickly but they linger on more. This is what is called by the researchers as negativity bias. For a numerous biological reasons, we register negatives rather than take a compliment or details of a happy event. Even if something positive is present, the negatives will perturb you that may end up remembering and classifying the whole day as negatively sad even if it was actually positive.
Difference in perspectives between men and women
In a study where individuals were asked to imagine losing $50 or gaining the same, the emotional response was huge for the individuals imagining what it would be like to lose the money. Losing is far greater than the goodness of gaining something even if that ‘something’ – lost or gained has equivalence. It’s how the emotions are manifested. Like, women are more likely to internalise in the form of sadness or depression; whereas men seem to be more casual as being outward with the danger.
The good news is the degree with which it can be overridden by default and avoiding to fall into a void of sadness, anger, bitterness, or other negative emotions depends on a slew of factors such as upbringing or the opinions we receive and value or how what we’ve been told is interpreted. The underlying factor is how we think about our experiences, how we display them – as a challenge to yourself or truly valuing all the good and important aspects even if you are facing the multitude of negative solutions. Appreciate the positives as well as the negatives regardless of how big or small they may be.
Remember how much you let the bad comments or things or thoughts stick with you. The former US first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said: ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ That said, refuse to consent to make yourself feel inferior.
Jashan Jot Kaur is a researcher at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.