You know I've read your question and I was thinking about it when I was watching "The Butterfly Effect" later on. That young man dealt with his painful experiences by going back and trying to "fix" things; make the wrongs right. He saw the mistakes he made before, and he tried to act differently next time, creating alternative realities. Granted, we don't exactly have an option of traveling back in time to do things differently, I still think this is a great metaphor for dealing with painful experiences.
If we look at it as a valuable lesson that allows us to act differently in the future and to become a stronger person, it was well worth it. Absolute majority of people who went through extremely traumatic experiences said they wouldn't erase it from their life if they had that option. Why? They said that their painful experience made them who they are. Taught them the value of compassion. Enlighten them in some way. I think it's the best way to deal with a painful experience, rather than trying to forget it.