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Negative memory - how to erase negative memories

Updated on April 3, 2012

Negative memories

Negative memories are thought to have a stronger impact than positive memories. Though this fact is not adequately substantiated by studies, negative memories do hinder and reduce one’s enjoyment of life. This gives reason for people to want to erase their negative memories as quickly as possible. Not all negative memories are bad and need to be erased. Negative memories could serve as great lessons for life. A child knows that a fire burns, and the pain that follows the experience creates an impactful lesson that tells a child never to get too close to a fire. There are other negative memories that tend to lessen the quality of life. Paralysing fears from a negative memory could prevent you from doing those things that you may want to do. Negative memories tend to play back like a movie on peoples mind frequently, overwhelming them with emotions. They find it impossible to get over the feeling even if they think it irrational and unnecessary. Negative feelings like grief, shame, pain of rejection, fear, etc, arising out of a memory preventing you from moving ahead and enjoying life to the full, needs to be erased. You may ask, “How could I erase the negative memories or bad memories that limit me?”


Why negative memories become harder to erase?

Craig Stark, an assistant professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins University who studies memory says that the more we try to suppress negative memories the more we consolidate the memory by reinforcing it. Stark also says that deliberate memory suppression is hard work. This clearly explains why our efforts at trying to forget things do not work. Studies have revealed that memories with strong emotions attached to them are stored by the brain as important for future learning. The hippocampus, a region of the brain that is used for storing long term memory, stores those memories with strong emotional content. Emotionally charged memories are accessed more often and used in the process of human contemplation, problem solving etc. This is a possible explanation why these memories tend to be stronger and stick around longer.

How negative memories get stored and retrieved?

Not all emotionally charged memories are recalled accurately. These emotions tend to get more colored by the present mood and emotions and get stored back that way. We even bend or contort our memories to suit our moods or the person to whom we recount them. So your latest memory is how it was retrieved the last time and not how it happened during the actual event. Negative memories tend to get more negative with constant rumination and bitterness. This suggests that memories can be permanently changed or altered.

How can I erase negative or bad memories from my mind?

Well, if you can train your mind to remember good things, like math formulas, quotes and stuff from your subjects at school, you can do this too. The mind works the same way. It may take as much time and effort on your part to deprogram your mind as it takes to program your mind. Studies have shown that positive and negative memories take just about the same time to be erased or fade. What we need to understand is that the mind is skewed towards the positive and tends to remember the positive memories more than the negative. Although this may not be true for those who have a history of depression. Negative thinking and depression tend to go together.

Techniques for erasing negative memories

One excellent way to erase or modify bad/negative memory is to use the technique of minimization and amplification. All of our memories have good and bad components to them. For example even in our grief we have good memories of people who stood by us, who helped us heal or were with us in our time of crisis. You could minimise the negative aspects of the moment of grief by focusing on the positive ones associated with them. In addition you could focus on the good memories you had with the person, re-living them until the negative is washed out and faded. Make the positive memories bigger and better and lessen or negate the impact of the negative memories.

Distancing - This is another easy method that involves the power of your mind. Here you think of yourself as a third person, watching the event from a distance as if it is happening to someone else. This principle works on active suggestions to the mind. You constantly tell your mind that this is happening to someone different. You start seeing things differently and the emotional content of the memory is reduced to a considerable extent.

Another effective method is to use the power of visualization. Visualization is an effective technique, easy to use and easy to follow through with.

In this technique we change various aspects of our memory with active visuals. We change the color scheme of the scene to black and white and let it fade into sepia giving it an older and aged look.

We also need to replace certain aspects of the picture. You could replace the sadness and pain on people’s faces with smiles or better times. You could fill it with hope and positive anticipation. In other words slightly alter the content and affect (emotions) in the picture and always retrieve this memory when you think of the event.

We also use the other two techniques mentioned above i.e. distancing and minimisation and amplification to reduce emotional connect of the memory, so as to enable it to be erased more quickly. This technique would be more effective than the other because it combines all aspects of the mental process to help erase the negative memory.

Various pills have been suggested to erase negative memory. My argument against this is twofold. One, if memory retention and fading is a natural process why should mind altering pills be used? Why use a pharmaceutical product, which may have harmful side-effects? ?

Cultivate the habit of positive thinking. With positive thinking you are more resilient and better prepared for life's eventualities.

The techniques mentioned here at least do not harm you in any way. . You could easily use them to fight your inner demons and erase the negative memories to live a full and rich life.


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    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Thank you for these wonderful suggestions! I will use them.

    • profile image

      Nick Arrizza M.D. 

      5 years ago

      There is now a powerful new way to completely and permanently erase negative memories (and not just suppress them) called the Mind Resonance Process.

      Nick Arrizza M.D.

    • profile image

      Nick Arrizza M.D. 

      5 years ago

      Negative memories can now be erased easily and effortlessly with a new process called the Mind Resonance Process (MRP)

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      honeybee2u, Thank you and wish you success.

    • honeybee2u profile image


      6 years ago from PNG

      Hi Sofs, thanks for sharing this - very interesting indeed. I am trying it out.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Algerveview, Most of these techniques are easy to use. I have only good reports from my clients. I hope it helps you.. it does take time to practice, but with a little effort you would see changes. Best wishes to you and hope you learn to forget those memories which are just a hindrance to your growth.

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 

      6 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hello, Sofs, great hub and very interesting techniques. I'm definitely going to try some, there a few memories I sure could live without... And I don't seem to forget anything, ever, which is quite annoying... Voted up, useful and sharing! Take care!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Rosemay,Thanks for that up vote an positive comment. The replacing techniques we follow basically helps people change what is negative into a positive vision and thought process. Thanks for bringing that up.. I appreciate that very much. Have a great day!

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      6 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      You have my vote. I found this both useful and interesting, very informative. Your explanations are very clear. These methods do work, But one has to allow the good memories through. It is too easy after a bad experience to allow emotions to push aside the good memory, you have to learn to let that good one come to the fore in order to lessen the bad one.

      Great hub Sofs

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Denise, thanks for the endorsement. I appreciate you sharing this. Have a lovely day! God Bless!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Very useful and interesting information, Sofs. I've used both visualization and distancing personally and professionally and it works. Thanks for sharing. Voted up/interesting and useful. :)

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Goodlady, I use most of these techniques for positive living. You are right about the willingness, we need to be open enough to try something out. I am glad that visualization has helped you through tough times.. It is a powerful tool provided we use it well.

      I am also equally excited and looking forward to know you better :) God bless. Have a wonderful day! Appreciate the comments and votes.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Helpful suggestions that are quite possible to take on board, thanks so much. Each suggestion reads simply well. The important thing is to be willing to take them on board and then to remember to want to have a full and rich life.

      I found 'visualization' a helpful way to think well during cancer, so I do know how it works!


      Look forward to reading more of your Hubs over the next few months and getting to know you more.

      Voting Up.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Eddy, Thank you... I appreciate the comment very much. Glad that you liked the hub.. Have a lovely day.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Haikutwinkle you have indeed spent quite some time reading some of my articles.. thank you. No I have not written about Homeopathy though I use those remedies when ever I need them... I love to write about healthy eating and natural medicine... I have a couple of hubs here.. you could check them out. Have a wonderful day. Thanks once again.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      Another brilliant hub sofs and you certainly understand your given subject.

      Another gem from you for me to award my 'Up up and away 'to.

      Take care and enjoy your day.


    • haikutwinkle profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a very nice hub ;) have you written about homeopathy or alternative medicine too?

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      RTalloni, thanks for that positive take on this hub. I appreciate your feedback. Have a great day!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Docmo, Having worked in the field of mental health for years as a therapist using CBT techniques I can vouch for their effectiveness. I did mention that these techniques do not work with people who have depression or have a tendency towards it. The pill that is used for erasing memories is not the happy pill serotonin this is a new pill being tested... I do agree that serotonin is indeed the first line of treatment for depression. I appreciate the explanation and the discussion that you have brought up here...I still have to say that I am not in favor of pills to help a person deal with negative memories. Thanks for stopping by and adding so much information. I appreciate that very much. Have a lovely day!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Acaetnna, thanks for stopping by to comment. Appreciate this very much. I am glad you found this hub informative. Have a great day!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Prasetio,Thanks for stopping by. Sorry about this late acknowledgement of your comments. I appreciate them very much. Yes, bad memories do have a way of showing up and spoiling our mood and our ability to perform.. I am glad you found this hub useful. Have a wonderful day.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      Such an interesting read you've given us in this look at erasing negative memories. You've outlined the topic in a helpful way and it is generating comments worth reading--always a good sign! :)

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      6 years ago from UK

      Wonderful hub sofs and certainly very helpful and illuminating. The concepts of distancing, amplification, minimizing and positive re-inforcement all form strong foundations of Cognitive behavioral therapy.

      I agree all too often people tend to rely on pills when the process of natural attrition and positive visualization would be all that is needed.

      However, there are around 20% of cases where the negative memories pile on, reactive depression sets in and the mind gets stuck in a circuitous loop of negativity that will be hard to escape from even with all those techniques. Here it has been noticed that the problem is a depletion of a naturally occurring hormone called serotonin - which is a kind of a happy hormone the brain makes. Serotonin gives us a sense of balance and keep us on the straight and narrow. Loss of serotonin makes us feel bleak, negative, lose judgement and view the world as a pointless entity.

      this is where the medications come into play. Most of the drugs used have minimal side effects if used appropriately and for the right person. They seek to help restore our serotonin ( that's why they are called SSRI's- they inhibit the destruction of serotonin due to negative memory and builds the stock back up- so they don't put anything in us)

      such drugs if used for 3-6 months can really restore balance and positivity in those who need it.

      Great hub- voted up/awesome.

    • acaetnna profile image


      6 years ago from Guildford

      What a great, inspiring and informative article this is. Voting up and of course pushing your buttons too.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very inspiring hub and useful for us. Negative memories can influences bad mood for us to be remembering back. You came up with solution. I learn many things here. Thanks for writing and share with us. Good job and rated up!


    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Ruby, distancing is useful and easy if you could constantly remember to keep the distance and couple that with visualization. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Have a lovely day.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Pamela99, I agree with you pills are not the answers to every question. I am glad that you brought the subject of forgiveness here.. it works like magic, to forgive is to replace your memory only the positive...Thanks for the comment and bringing up that all important quality of forgiveness. Have a wonderful day.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      MsDora, You have summarized the hub so well in a few words, my dear. Thanks for the visit and comment. Have a lovely day.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Very interesting article, I especially liked the distancing..Thank you..Voted up and useful...

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Very interesting hub. I am not for pills are you are just suppressing the memories. I think the methods you listed would be more effective. Also, I have found when I consciously make a decision to forgive another person for something they did to hurt me that it helps to take the sting out. Great hub! Rated up and useful.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Sofs, thanks for this very relevant article. Minimizing, Distancing and Visualizing. Very clear. Voted Useful.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Tim,Thank you. I enjoy writing on this subject, it is fascinating to understand the working of the mind. Well a person who is depressed is not seriously in a position to work with his mind..yes, it will not work for them or even for those inclined towards negativity. I appreciate this very much. Have a great day/night!

    • timorous profile image

      Tim Nichol 

      6 years ago from Me to You

      Fascinating hub, sofs. Yes, it is curious how we let our minds and emotions alter our memories, good and bad. I think the important aspect is to minimize or remove the emotional reaction, or the unrealistic importance you're putting on the emotion. Most of these techniques will work, as long as the person isn't in a severe depressive state.


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