Every single one of us have embarrassing moments that we would rather forget but we can’t help but constantly relive the moments no matter how much we try.
Think back on your most embarrassing moment; the time you went in for a first kiss and were rejected, or you made a super embarrassing e-mail mistake—and you probably still get a sinking feeling in your stomach.
And while it’s highly unlikely that anyone else will remember the particular memory troubling you, that fact doesn’t stop you from reliving the horror every time you’re vaguely reminded of it.
According to one study, however, there’s a way to move on quickly whenever life’s most terrible moments float into your mind. The simple trick is to focus on everything about the memory except the way it made you feel.
There are times we dwell on how sad, embarrassed, or hurt we felt during an event, and that makes the way we feel go from bad to worse.
This is what happens in clinical depression—ruminating on the negative aspects of a memory, but researchers have found that instead of thinking about your emotions during a negative memory, looking away from the worst emotions and thinking about the context, like a friend who was there, what the weather was like, or anything else non-emotional that was part of the memory, will without effort remove the unwanted emotions associated with that memory.
Once you immerse yourself in other details, your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won’t be focused on the negative emotions as much.
By doing this, you take control of the memory and let it float out of your thoughts pretty much the same way it snuck into your mind.
The process is different than suppressing the bad memory, which is sometimes effective in the short term but increases anxiety and depression in the long run.
Furthermore, it is also simpler than other emotion regulation strategies, such as trying to recast the negative situation into a positive one. Looking at the situation differently to see the glass half full can be demanding.
The strategy of focusing on contextual details that have no emotional attachment in a particular memory can be as simple as shifting the focus in the mental picture of your memories and then letting your mind wander.
It can also be effective in the long term, and the researchers hope to investigate whether prolonged use of the technique can lessen the severity of the memory.