Emotional Memory

By: Megan Muñoz IMH

Sophia was upset. She felt hurt after an argument with her husband that had left her feeling misunderstood, frustrated and small. It had helped a little when she and her husband talked through the misunderstanding, but somehow she could not shake what felt like a rollercoaster of emotions building inside of her. On her way to work, Sophia played the argument over in her mind to the background tune of emotions that had been triggered earlier that morning.

As she drove, her thoughts began to move from the argument with her husband to past negative relationship experiences. She began to think of all the times she had been misunderstood and felt small. “Why does this always happen?” She thought. “I’ll probably always feel small and misunderstood. What is wrong with me?” As she continued to drive, her thoughts drifted further back to arguments with her father that had left her feeling misunderstood and small. Memories of loud arguments and subsequent verbal abuse played like movie clips across the screen of her mind. By the time Sophia reached her destination, her emotions had pulled her back to when she was a little girl being shamed and mistreated.

Have you ever experienced something similar? Have you noticed that when one emotion gets triggered inside of you, it feels like that emotion opens a box of memories and experiences connected to it?

At some point, everyone has felt something similar to this because the connection of memories and particular emotions are part of how our brains are wired. This experience is called mood congruent memory. Memories we make tend to get stored together in emotional categories. That is how our experiences in the present get connected with similar experiences in the past.

So what do we do when this happens?

·         Identification: Take a minute to identify the emotions you are feeling in the present moment. Do this without judging or criticizing the emotions you identify. 
·         Reflecting: Once you have identified the emotion, take a minute to think about other significant times you have experienced these emotions. When else have you felt like this?
·         Curiosity: Be curious about what these emotions are trying to communicate to you based on your past and present experience. Your emotions are an indicator that something is happening inside of you that needs your attention.
·         Action: Learn what you need. Do you need to take a walk, process how you feel with someone else, remind yourself what is true about yourself and your situation, read words that are encouraging and life giving to you?
·         Seek Professional Help: It may be necessary to seek professional help from a trained therapist. Counseling can help you identify areas of struggle triggered by your emotions and can walk you through the process of healing.

Knowing your story and the impact of your experiences is deeply important in understanding how you think and act today. Understanding how your experiences have impacted you can empower you to choose how you respond to situations in the future.

To schedule an appointment with Megan Muñoz, call our office at 407-647-7005 or contact us via our website, www.lifeworksgroup.org.

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