Your memory is like a location. It is back in time. It is the recollection of events in the past. To remember is to do something. It’s a verb. You are remembering. So it might be now, but you can use now to recall then. Of course your state of mind now will certainly impact your recollection of then, so memory is never trustworthy. But the important thing to remember is that remembering is an activity. It is something you do.
Let us say you have experienced the searing pain of a broken romance. You loved the person and you even believe they loved you—but it just wouldn’t seem to work on a daily domestic level and it breaks your heart. At night you say the breakup has given you insomnia, but what you really mean is that at night you are recalling your romance rather than remembering what it’s like to sleep. One leads to the chemistry for sleep, and the other to anxious chemistry that would be more inclined to keep you awake.
If a person is heavily cross-wired into your brain’s central idea of relationship happiness, then it makes sense that you’ll immediately compare everyone to them, but because of your lovelorn perspective your comparisons will be focused on finding reasons to reject each suitor because a part of you doesn’t want the new person, it wants the old person.
Of course if you’re looking for reasons not to like someone you’ll find them. This means the broken-hearted often have difficulty recognising motivated suitors. They don’t pay enough attention to them because they assume they’re a bad fit. And they only do that because the suitor can’t possibly match the person they think about all the time in lovelorn patterns—and those thoughts therefore falsely associate love and happiness with only that one person when that’s not actually true.
Trying to forget someone won’t work either though. Thinking, okay I won’t think about that person IS in fact a form of thinking about that person. All you have is acceptance. They’re gone for whatever reason so there’s no point in thinking about it. Those thoughts will only blind us to the present moment in which we actually live. Happiness is not dependent on who you’re with. It is dependent on what you place in your consciousness—hence the importance of using memory wisely.
You do not need to return to happier times. You’ll have those again when you do the same things you did back then—you created that fun. You were open to it. Your idea of where joy came from wasn’t so limited and conditional. So you don’t need to change anything but your perspective. But you can’t start looking for what’s great about today if all of your time is invested in either wanting the past to return, or in remembering it as though people only have one route to happiness.
Do not live in the past. Do not talk about it, re-live it or re-imagine it. Your memory is good for finding your way to the store or the beach, but it’s not useful when it comes to creating happiness in the present moment.
Forget then. Be Now. Happiness is created here.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.