Remember when someone humiliated you? Perhaps your spouse treated you badly. Are these experiences still as clear as day? Are you still pained by them? As a result, did your relationship with the person stagnate or atrophy? Has your behavior toward other people changed?
Would you like to be relieved of these wounds?
The more important a relationship, the more crucial it is that you develop a selective memory.
Throughout my ten years of marriage, I have made it a point to forget the hurtful things my wife has said and done to me. All pandering aside, I am fortunate that they are few and far between. Nonetheless, early in our marriage. I became convinced that storing up these pains would destroy our relationship. Now, when we have an argument that relates to a past hurt, in most cases, I am forced to deal only with the situation at hand. Here are ways to condition yourself to forget:
- Whenever you find yourself dwelling on a painful incident, refocus your thoughts to something positive but unrelated to the person and incident.
- Play some music that you like and that puts you in a good mood. (See why I love swing? How can you be unhappy when listening to such peppy tunes?)
- Exercise causes so many positive physiological changes in your body it will be difficult to retain negative thoughts about a loved one.
- Develop a counter mantra for the incident so that when you think the negative thought follow it with a positive one.
If you find you cannot forget what happened this is a good indication that the issue was not resolved. You either need to re-engage the person to do so or determine how the relationship needs to be permanently altered so you can move on.
But this is only one-half of being selective about memories. Of at least equal importance is that each day I write in my journal something good that Melanie has said or done, or a good quality she has. By doing so I keep my mind focused on the positive aspects of my bride and our relationship.
According to the Harvard Business Review, it takes five positive comments to outweigh one bad one, so when you daily journal favorable and constructive characteristics and behavior about your loved one you build up a reserve against a negative incident.
You can control only two things in your life: what you say and what you do. But with practice, you can achieve some discipline over your thoughts. For living intentionally there is no more important skill to work on.
Question – How do you accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in your relationships?
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