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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why You Only Remember The Good Stuff of a Bad Relationship


By Sandra L. Brown
Over and over again women are puzzled by their own process in trying to recover from a pathological relationship. What is puzzling is that despite the treatment they received by him, despite the absolute mind-screwing he did to her emotions, not only is the attraction still VERY INTENSE but also the POSITIVE memories still remain strong.

Women say the same thing--that when it comes to remaining strong in not contacting him (what we call 'Starving the Vampire') she struggles to pull up (and maintain the pulled up) negative memories of him and his behavior that could help her keep strong and detached.

But why? Why are the positive memories floating around in her head freely and strongly and yet the bad memories are stuffed in a 'mind closet' full of fuzzy cobwebs that prevent her from actively reacting to those memories?

There are a couple of reasons and we'll discuss today the first one. Let's think of your mind like a computer. Memories are 'stored' much like they are stored on a computer. Pain and traumautic memories are stored differently than positive memories.

Pulling up the negative memories from your hard drive is different than pulling up a memory that is on your desk top as an icon emblem. Traumatic memories get fragmented on their way to being stored on the hard drive. They get divided up into more than one file. In one file is the emotional feelings, another file is the sights, another file the sounds, another file the physical sensations.

But a WHOLE and complete memory is made up of ALL those files TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME such as what you emotionally felt, saw, heard, and physically experienced. Just one piece of it doesn't make it a complete memory such as just the positive memory.

A memory is good + bad =complete.

But when things are traumatic, (or stressful) the mind seperates the whole experience into smaller bits and pieces and then stores them seperately in the mind because it's less painful that way.

When women try to 'remind themselves' why they shouldn't be with him, they might get flashes of the bad memory but strangely, the emotional feelings are NOT attached to it. They wonder 'where did the feelings go?' They can see the bad event but they don't feel much about what they remember.

If you are playing a movie without the sound, how do you know what the actors are passionately feeling? It's the same thing with this traumatic recall of memories. You might see the video but not hear the pain in the voices. The negative or traumatic memory is divided up into several files and you are only accessing one of the files---a place where you have stored the positive aspects of the relationship.

To complicate things further, positive memories are not stored like negative memories. They are not divided up into other files. They don't need to be---they aren't traumatic.

So when you remember a time when the relationship was good or cuddly or the early parts of the relationships which are notoriously honeymoon-ish, the whole memory comes up--the emotional feelings, the
visual, the auditory, the sensations. You have a WHOLE and STRONG memory with that. Of course that is WAY MORE appealing to have--a memory that is not only GOOD but one in which you feel all the powerful
aspects of it as well. 

Now, close your eyes and pull up a negative memory...can you feel the difference? You might see it but not feel it. Or hear it and not see much of it. Or feel a physical sensation of it but not the emotional piece that SHOULD go with the physical sensation. No matter what your experience is of the negative emotion, it is probably fragmented in some way.

Negative and traumatic memories are often incomplete memories--they are memory fragments floating all over your computer/mind. They are small files holding tiny bits of info that have fragmented your sense of the whole complete memory. These distorted and broken memory fragments are easily lost in your mind. 

If you have grown up in an abusive or alcoholic home, you were already subconsciously trained how to seperate out memories like this. If your abuse was severe enough early on, your mind just automatically does this anyway--if you get scared, or someone raises their voice, or you feel fear in anyway---your brain starts breaking down the painful experience so it's easier for you to cope with.

Next time we will talk about one other way your mind handles positive and negative memories and why you are flooded with positive recall and blocked from remembering and feeling those negative things he's done to you.
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9 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this article, but have seen many relationships where it is the woman that is abusive and the guy that sticks around for the wrong reasons. I don't understand why this is written from this perspective.

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  2. Good article! Sandra nailed it all. How do I know? Because this is what I experienced! After some years, it is much easier to remember the bad and actually feel the feelings.

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  3. i stuck around because she said she wanted to get better. & the sex was great. but when it did crash & burn she hated me like i've never been hated.

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  4. Wow!!! I have been seeking answers for months wondering why there is no mention of Men as victims. We need help too in this important area of understanding.

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  5. Although this may have been written from the perspective that women are always the victim, we are all aware that women also have personality disorders and can also behave horribly, but this article is not about what sex one is, it is about WHY some people stay in relationships with people who do not treat them right. vWhat thr author is trying to to say is that we stay because of the way we process or recall memories.

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  6. This article has taught me a lot about myself that I didn't understand. I look forward to the next article, and will seek more information on how to resolve this memory process. I write down the bad memories as they come to me, so that I will not forget them.

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  7. I have spent the last few days telling myself and my friends that I am working on giving the 99% awful treatment the correct amount of space in my memory in comparison to the 1% cuddly, kind, yet completely manufactured treatment.

    Also looking forward to the next article.

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  8. This article was very helpful to me. Because I was raised in an abusive household, my threshold for abnormal behavior was already high when he came into my life. This information will help me sort out my thoughts when the monster in my life starts to look good.

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  9. This was so insightful. I'm a life coach and sometimes work with people who have been abused and wonder why they aren't fully embracing the impact their abuser had on their happiness, self-esteem, etc. This is very clear. I just shared it on my FB page. Thank you.

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