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I used to be a big fan of soap operas growing up.
No kidding, when I was 4 years old, I knew all of the characters and plot lines of Days of Our Lives. To this day, even though I haven’t watched it in years, I could still tell you all about Hope and Bo and John and Marlena and the villainous Stefano.
I loved how ridiculous they were … people “died” on a regular basis, and just as quickly came back to life. Shocking pregnancies were par for the course. Dramatic cases of amnesia happened every other day. And no one ever worked! They just looked fabulous and had intense conversations over lunch.
And while I definitely wouldn’t recommend modeling your life after most of those plot lines, there’s something about the regular bouts of amnesia that’s worth considering.
I HEAR CERTAIN STORIES ON REPEAT
Humans are pretty reliable. If we get programmed a certain way, we’ll continue spitting out the same results, over and over again, until the programming changes.
Our “programming” is the stories we’re intent on telling … the beliefs that we think make us who we are:
“I hate my job. I’ve never had enough money. I’m not athletic, so I’ll never be good at exercise. I’m not a confident person. I’ve always struggled with anxiety. It’s so hard to find a job that you love. No one will ever want to marry me. I’ve never believed I was good enough.”
I’ve told myself every one of those things at some point in my life. And I’ve heard countless clients share the same exact worn-out stories. Most of us think because something feels true, or because it’s always happened the same way, that it’s bound to continue.
BUT WHAT IF YOU JUST … FORGOT?
Though Days of Our Lives would have you believe that amnesia is an everyday occurrence, it’s obviously pretty rare. But! Humor me for a moment, will you?
Let’s imagine that 2 years from now, you’re walking down the street and you slip and fall. You hit your head, hard. Lights out.
You wake up in the hospital, and the last 2 years of your life are a complete blank. Everything that happened between today and 2 years from now is gone.
Your best friend is there, and she tells you some crazy stuff:
“Oh, you love working out now! You totally got over your issues with exercise. You’ve got all this energy, it’s insane. And you make so much money now … it’s totally normal for you to ask for what you deserve, and you earn a lot. You go on vacation all the time. You’re so much calmer lately, too. You hardly resemble that anxious person you used to be. You’re so fun to be around because you make everyone else feel so good. You’re probably the most confident person I know.”
Hot damn! Why didn’t I have amnesia earlier??
But seriously … you would very likely accept this as true, because you have nothing else to go on.
How exciting would it be to wake up and realize that you’d been completely wrong about the negative, sad-sap stories you’d been telling yourself? That everything you feared would never change, did?
YOU DON’T NEED TO FALL AND HIT YOUR HEAD TO CHANGE THE PLOT OF YOUR LIFE
I hate (actually, I love) to break it to you, but … the only reason the disempowering story you’ve been telling yourself continues on is because you insist on telling it over and over again.
After all, a belief is a thought you just keep thinking.
If every day you wake up and say, “I’m not a confident person,” then you will continue to feel like crap, you’ll act accordingly, and your story will continue to be “true.”
Same goes with, “But I’ve never gotten a good result before, so I shouldn’t expect one in the future.” If that’s your assumption, then of course it’s going to keep happening.
Now, I wouldn’t want to hit you over the head and bring on massive amnesia. The downside to having a blank slate is that all of the good memories would disappear, too.
But how about selective amnesia? I can get down with that.
What if you woke up every day and chose to “forget” about what you told yourself yesterday? What if you conveniently forgot that you’d ever believed you were insecure or lacking in confidence? What if you failed to remember all of the times you’d been unsuccessful?
I’m not saying any of this because I actually believe that it’s possible to forget the old story. More so to emphasize the point … that what you give your attention to matters, and for that reason, we should soften our focus a bit on the old stories we tell.
NO, THIS ISN’T DENIAL
A lot of people, at this point, will ask something along the lines of, “But if it’s true and it happened, then I can’t pretend it didn’t. Isn’t that the same thing as being in denial?”
And to that I ask two questions:
- But IS it actually true?? What’s the definition of “true,” anyway? Just because you insist on believing something doesn’t make it true. And just because you think you have “evidence” for something doesn’t mean you actually do. A lot of the time our “evidence” isn’t factual. It’s just confirmation bias that we’re unconsciously seeking out in order to prove ourselves “right.”
- Regardless of what’s “true,” what’s the point of focusing so sharply on your old story if all it does is make you feel lousy and prevent you from getting what you want?
No, it’s not “being in denial” to ease your attention from the things that feel disempowering. It’s actually the smartest thing you could do for yourself.
Because when you don’t remember all of the times you failed, or everything that made you feel uncomfortable or insecure, or all of the jobs you’ve hated in your life … then you’re free.
You’re no longer trapped by the same old tale and using that as your justification for not doing anything different. You’re free to focus your attention on what feels good.
There’s no point to having a fantastic long-term memory if you’re going to use it to remind yourself of how powerless you are and how much things suck. So please, go ahead and forget. At least a little. Wake up and remember something better, and way more true … I’m not the story I’ve been telling myself. I’m much more, and I’m free.
So what do you think? I bet you never thought “forgetfulness” would be good thing to have, huh? I’d love to hear what you think about selective amnesia, in the comments.
Rachel (& Kristen)
NEED HELP FORGETTING YOUR OLD HABITS?
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