We often describe bad experiences or trauma's as leaving us with a scar; 'He's still scarred from...' or 'That scarred me for life!' for example.
And it's often true that this is the case, bad experiences do leave us with metaphorical 'scars' (and actually, sometimes physical scars depending on the experience).
Wounds can be healed, but scars remain. They remain in the part of the brain that reacts emotionally rather than logically, they serve as a reminder or a warning for bad experiences that we've unfortunately had to live through.
Scars can be managed, rationalised and processed. You can learn to live with an emotional scar, accept it for what it is, and not let it interfere with your daily life. It will remain as a bad memory, but you can learn to treat it just like that, as a bad memory, but one that doesn't invoke an emotional reaction.
With negative scars, we re-live the emotions whenever they present themselves. We feel the anger, hurt, frustration or fear that we experienced at the time when the bad experience occurred. This can be debilitating.
However, one thing that not many people consider, is that we also have positive 'scars' within us too. Fantastic, life changing, memorable moments of happiness, peace or love that stick with us too, exactly the same way that a negative scar would.
We react the same way emotionally to positive scars that we do to negative scars. We can re-live those emotions, those wonderful times when we felt our best. We can access those emotions again and take us straight back to that time.
The trouble is that most people don't choose to access those positive 'scars' unless they specifically see or hear something that reminds them of it. Even in those cases, it's often just a passing memory as we briefly reminisce.
Well, I can tell you that you can access those positive memories (I'm going to switch to calling them memories now instead of scars!) any time that you like. You can bring those awesome feeling back to the present as if you were really back there experiencing them again, and it's actually quite easy to do!
So here's how:
1. Take 5 mins. Just 5, and find somewhere quiet where you won't be disturbed.
2. Choose a memory. Make it a good one! It doesn't have to be anything too complex or grand, just a time when you remember feeling calm, happy or at peace.
3. Once there, close your eyes, slow your breathing and picture the scene.
4. Feel what you can feel physically. Are you sat on a chair? What does it feel like? Is it hot, cold, windy? Spend a minute remembering what those physical feelings felt like.
5. What can you hear? Birds singing? The wind in the trees? People talking, or just silence? Again, spend a few moments hearing what you hear, and feeling what you feel.
6. What do you see? Look up, down, left and right. Take it all in. Are you outside? Inside? At home?
Spend a few moments taking in all the sights, seeing what you see, hearing what you hear and feeling what you feel?
7. Now how do you feel inside? Notice how calm, happy or peaceful you feel. Let those emotions come flowing back in. Really feel them!
8. Now that you're here, you should be full immersed in this memory. Enjoying those emotions, seeing what you see, hearing what you hear and feeling how you feel. Spend some time here, don't rush it. If your mind wanders off, that's fine, just bring it back to that moment in time.
9. Finally, while you're still there, think of a one or two word 'label' for this memory. It doesn't have to make sense, as long as it makes sense to you. It could be 'Family time' or 'Camping outside' whatever works for you. When you've decided on your label, say it slowly in your mind a number of times as you continue to be immersed in your memory.
10. When you're ready to leave, open your eyes again and bring that feeling of peace back with you!
11. From now on, whenever you say that label to yourself, you'll find all of the positive emotions come flooding back to you. It's that simple. You've created a trigger, an anchor that will allow you to experience those emotions whenever you want to. It may take a couple of goes of this exercise to fully embed this new behaviour, and each time you do it, the emotions will return more strongly.
So that's it! Give it a try!
Rather than just allowing our negative scars to impact us, bring some of the good ones to the front and let them have their turn too, you'll feel much better for it!