Faith and Life: Create new memories to move beyond your past

I have a career in which I have the blessing of helping those who have been wounded. Some have deep hurt that is of a physical nature. Others have emotional scars that hurt just as deeply.

Often, when we are wounded, our mind cannot stop the cycle of remembering, pondering and ruminating on past events. It can be difficult to move on, feel joy and simply stop the repetitive thoughts of past injuries.

These types of wounds, if formed at an early age, are literally hardwired into our brains. If they are from a trauma later in life, often Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sets in. The flashbacks, pain and memories that are literally felt -- “psychic pain” one theology book I read years ago called them -- and cannot be let go of. Thus, the individual suffers at a profound level.

It seems I have had an influx of individuals suffering this specific type of pain lately. Something became clear to me while reading John Ramsey’s biography on his pain (at not only the loss of his daughter, but being wrongly accused, not in the court of law, but by the public for over a decade).  What became apparent is the idea that we must make new memories.

The importance of making new memories -- this is profound. Often, we get caught up on how things “should” have been or “could” have been: we should have been nurtured better as a child; we should not have had an alcoholic father beat us.

We could have watched our child more closely. We could have tried harder to keep our wife and avoid divorce.

We are often tortured by our memories.

These types of thoughts are addicting and once we entertain them, we can be hooked. Our mood or day can be ruined, we can end up feeling retraumatized, lack hope, or enter into depression. At the very least we can feel stuck.

Forcing ourselves to get out there and do things has been proven to not only lift depression, but make new memories. The very foundation for the psychological theory with the most empirical evidence as to its success is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT helps individuals to recognize their thoughts and, or, thought patterns and begin to change them. CBT also has the idea at its core of getting up and taking part in life and activities.

When we find ourselves reminiscing about how we have been repeatedly traumatized in our life, it is possible to get so down or depressed that we just want to stay in bed, stay home, or lay on the couch rather than engaging in life.

While just getting up and doing the dishes or starting a project has shown evidence of lifting our mood or changing our thoughts, I am talking more of the type of activities that are later remembered.

Perhaps you just went through one the of the worst years of your life, experienced the death of a loved one, or are going through a divorce. It may seem like a good idea to stay home and rest instead of going to that party with the new group you wanted to join. Stay home, no new memories to brighten your reflecting moments.

Push yourself, force yourself, just get up and get ready to go and make it there…you most likely will enjoy yourself and have new memories to reflect upon.

Keep up with the pattern of doing things (family dinner at your house, lunch with a friend, walk through a new botanical garden, take up a new sport or language) and -- poof! -- you have new memories in your memory bank.

Take it further: you have new friends, perhaps a new significant other, a new hobby, new skill, the list goes on and on. You are living life. You now have new, happy memories, and have embarked on living a more fulfilling lifestyle.

New memories do diminish the pain of hard wired memories -- they can literally save a person's life and health. Reflect on that for a few minutes.

The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist. You can contact her via email at or by mail at Kimberlie Zakarian Therapy, 2233 Honolulu Ave, Ste 310, Montrose, CA 91020

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