think about it," "let it go," "it's water over the dam," "go on to
something else," "not now," "don't waste my time," "STOP!" etc., etc.
This takes some intention to attend to and manage your thoughts--
some people do that all the time, others don't. It isn't magic--give it a
try for a couple of weeks, then evaluate (using pre and post-ratings?)
the frequency and the harmfulness of the memories or
Note: I am not implying that your should forgive the person who
has hurt you. I am not even suggesting here that you try to
understand the harmful situation through determinism. Those may be
good ideas, but here I'm simply suggesting trying to avoid the
unpleasant thoughts so you can possibly feel better and use your time
more profitably. Maybe you can gradually put the incident behind you.
Note also: This bit of advice about "forgetting" assumes you no
longer need the energy aroused by vividly remembering the wrongs in
the past in order to build up the drive necessary to correct any still
existing wrongs. As a source of determination to change some
situation, the upsetting thoughts may be serving a good purpose (for a
while, not forever).
(2) If forgetting hasn't worked in a couple of weeks, then I'd try
some other cognitive methods to reduce the harmfulness of the
repetitive or upsetting thoughts. Rather than repeat myself, please
refer to chapter 14 for many cognitive methods. Also, much of
chapter 6, while focusing on depression, discusses many cognitive
approaches to reducing sadness by increasing rationality--the basic
ideas underlying the change methods are the same, regardless of what
emotions are upsetting you.
Simply learning more about the nature of memories can be a
cognitive approach. For a person suffering a serious wound based on
memories he/she believes to be totally accurate, just developing some
doubt about the validity or completeness of those memories might
radically change their emotional impact. Contrary to our usual
assumption that our memories are accurate, scientific studies have
consistently found that memories are almost always inaccurate, often
in minor ways but sometimes in major, completely untrue ways. If you
have highly upsetting memories or assumptions about causes, it might
be healthy to question the accuracy of your memories. Daniel Schacter
(2000) in The Seven Sins of Memory provides well researched
information about our highly fallible and deceptive memories.
Here is a glimpse of some more research findings: many parts of
the actual experiences are simply left out of our memories. At the
same time, many totally made-up details are added in our memories.
These additions are often immediate embellishments that "complete
the story" or provide us with an explanation--a "cause"--of what we
saw. Our unique additions, deletions, and distortions usually conform
with our personal beliefs and, thus, meet our emotional needs. Faulty