Negative, shadowy memories get a lot of attention. More than they deserve, but after all, they sell books for half-baked healers and their publishers with most of the bucks going to the publisher. Positive memories, which are even more powerful, don’t get nearly as much attention. Why? Less bucks and more ignorance, in the true sense of the word. A focus on positive memories will heal and restore and increase our resilience.
Did you know that each side of your brain remembers your past in different ways and at different times? The left hemisphere of your brain keeps a list of memories, usually negative ones. It stores these memories out of context and recalls them for a variety of reasons. If you are one of those people who always want to ask “why,” this part of your brain will cooperate and will come up with a memory, whether it’s a correct reason or not. The brain will always fill a gap in knowing, but not necessarily in an altogether accurate way.
If you want an excuse to be ornery, full of self-pity, stuck in “why,” or have some reason to rationalize your anger about the past, your left hemisphere will cooperate. If you want to be reflective, contemplative, contextually accurate, or autobiographical, it will be your right hemisphere that will supply you with the stuff of the maturing brain, especially as it does its work of the developmental stages of the second half of life.
Your right hemisphere remembers “autobiographically.” If you retrieve a memory or memories from your right hemisphere, they will be more complete, more totally in context, and much more of a complete narrative. The right hemisphere is also importantly NOT JUDGMENTAL about its autobiographical recall of memory.
Very simply, if you recall a memory from the left hemisphere, it is easier to experience it negatively and to “act out” based upon that memory. If you remember from the right hemisphere, you are more likely to be reflective and to give the memory new and ever more maturing perspectives.
The research is beginning to show, and we suspect it to be so, that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) recalls memory from the left hemisphere without the benefit of right hemispheric moderation and modulation in a significant and healing way.
How do you recall memory from the right hemisphere in a more autobiographical sense to increase health? Very simple. Ask yourself what benefit there is, what good came from this situation, or what there is to be glad about in any and every memory. In others words, ask of every memory, what is there to be grateful for here, what is there to be glad about, what were and are the benefits? Then feel the positive feelings, like gratitude or love, that begin to match the new perspective you are generating from your right hemisphere. You will find your way to greater resilience and peace.
I am going to be writing about this all week long on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. There are four more parts to using the right hemisphere in order to remember our memories in a way I call “Touchstones,” and it’s our way at ANI of dealing with the negative past.