Build a Stronger Mind with Flashbulb Memory (Overcoming Traumatic Memories)

To build a stronger mind its important to remove misconceptions. There is an old saying, “we need to forgive and forget”. It’s so popular you have probably used it yourself. Now, I agree that the first part is extremely important, and we all have the ability to forgive. However the second part is not so easy, especially when the hurt runs deep, and we need to overcome traumatic memories.

When it comes to deep hurts and violent acts, forgetting is nearly impossible. Recently, I found a very interesting theory called “the flashbulb memory” which helps support this point.

Build a Stronger MindBuild a Stronger Mind with Flashbulb Memory

The term “Flashbulb Memory” was coined by Brown and Kulik (1977), who found highly emotional memories (e.g. hearing bad news) were often vividly recalled, even some time after the event. According to Wikipedia “A flashbulb memory is a memory that was laid down in great detail during a personally significant event, often a shocking event of national or international importance. These memories are perceived to have a “photographic quality”.

For example, a great many people can remember where they were when they heard of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 or the assassination of U.S president John F. Kennedy, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., or musician John Lennon.

Some biologists believe that the hormone cortisol, which is released in response to stressful incidents, cooperate with adrenalin to cause the formation of flashbulb memories by the brain, functioning to help remembering things to avoid in the future. Another theory proposes flashbulb memory is an artifact of synaptic plasticity tagging, whereby memory of unimportant events share or ‘steal’ some of the strengthening synaptic tag of the important event. (quote taken from Wikipidea)

stronger mind with flashbulb memoryBuild a Stronger Mind with a Lesson from the Darkroom

My father was a professional photographer, and I had the chance to live in the back of his studio while in college. We would spend days in the darkroom. I was always amazed by how we could manipulate the image, by adding or taking away the light while it was being projected through the negative and onto the photographic paper. However you could never tell the results until you put the paper into the developer, stop and wash trays. I would eagerly await the image as it slowly reveal itself while in the development process.

Our brains are kind of like the film and our eyes are the camera lens. We experience many things and take many pictures, but typically it’s only the significant events that get processed on the paper.

That is one of the significant points of the flashbulb memory because it’s the “photographic quality” of these memories.

Build a Stronger Mind by Not Hanging Photos All Over Your House

The point of these memories being ingrained in our minds, like a photograph, can be most problematic when they begin to be a constant reminder of these terrible past events. If we continue to dwell on, and walk in these hurts, it’s like having photographs of our negative experiences hung all over the walls of our home.

Then every morning and evening, as we walk through our house, we are reminded of these past events day in and day out. We can try to imagine they are not there, try to ignore them, or pretend they never happened, but if we don’t deal with them, we will be haunted by these memories through out our lives.

Sometimes we have to remove all these photos from our house. We do this by dealing with these memories, and accepting them for what they are. Past events, that although difficult, can help us become better people with the strength to handle the same kind of problems in the future.

Proper Perspective Is the First Step in Overcoming and Dealing with Negative Experiences

There are many ways to deal with flashbulb memories – forgiveness, counseling, spiritual awakening, finding a new purpose, mental exercise, confronting fears etc.

However, sometimes the only way is to acknowledge that these terrible things happened, forgive all parties, move on, and let time soften the hold they have on us. We can also learn from our memories, and begin to use them to help us avoid similar situations in the future.

Build a Stronger Mind: Conclusion

We can all benefit from being firm believers in avoiding past mistakes, and learning from our past experiences. As the saying goes,“if we don’t learn from past mistakes we are doomed to make them over and over again.”

Now say with me. We can all build a stronger mind using flashbulb memories to deal with our past, and overcome the traumatic memories that haunt our halls and hinder our lives.