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How to stop dwelling on the past?

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stu1970s

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Dec 10, 2018
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Does anyone have any tips on how to start looking forward rather than being constantly obsessed about things that have gone wrong in the past? I have this ridiculous memory for everything that's gone wrong in the past and these memories can be triggered by the most seemingly inconsequential things, things that weren't even central to whatever the problem was but just happened to be there at the time so my brain has logged them as something associated with a negative. It's that extreme. They're not even big, significant events. Quite often they're just little embarrassments or irritations too. I know in theory it should be easy to say forget about these things, you're wasting your time, there's nothing you can do about them etc but I just can't seem to shake this thing about dwelling on every little negative that's ever happened. Any tips?
 
jajingna

jajingna

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I dunno, but I have similar obsessiveness. Would be nice to let the old stuff go.
 
JessisMe

JessisMe

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I suffer with these kinds of triggers and ruminations also. I’m not sure what to do about it as the pull seems natural and is very strong. Possibly something to see a therapist about if you find it intruding too much on your life. xo, j
 
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Ian Haines

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When your present is dismal and empty, and your future is completely unknown, your mind forces you to live in a village called "The Past", because...while not dead, you have to live somewhere!
 
hicks

hicks

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The human brain is hard wired to be negative, and remember the bad things that happened to you. It's a defensive mechanism that's supposed to protect you from repeating those mistakes.
But you get into a cycle of rumination. I do it all the time and also want to stop.
Driving home tonight I was listening to a Spotify playlist called 'Daily Wellness'. It plays a mix of music and inspirational podcasts. Anyway someone was talking about this cycle of negativity and rumination. She said try to be grateful for the good things you have. Make a journal, which can be therapeutic to get things out. I think she was talking about diverting your mind into a more positive state.
 
OCDguy

OCDguy

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Those thoughts are probably still raw. Every time you talk about them in positive surroundings, the raw memory becomes less raw. Also by talking to someone about them, you are allowing someone to show you a different perspective on things, which will allow those memories to be less potent etc. Setting yourself targets aimed at creating a better future, will allow your mind to somewhat focus away from the past. If you have a passion/interest give it some dedication and hopefully your focus will shift a little. Hope this helps :)
 
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MissyK93

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Nov 4, 2020
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I am the queen of this and it seems like Everyone around me can let things go! But I feel so hurt and angry by past situations that I don’t even want friends anymore. I really want to let go of past hurt and move forward
 
OCDguy

OCDguy

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These are just my thoughts, so please draw your own conclusions... I associate hurt and anger as taking things personally with a possible view for revenge/justice. If you are able to talk things through with a trusted individual with a sound mind, you might be able to find closure etc. and move forward from them. Hope this helps :)
 
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Ian Haines

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My angry and painful history clips are accompanied by harshly imagined shoutings, or harshly whispered aloud things that I wish I'd said, back then, and back then, and back then, etc..

Sometimes, I can come up with ingenious, much better things that I could've said that I never did at the right time.

Times of loneliness and lack of activity around/involving me is the most likely time for these practically prehistoric angries! Mine just never truly go away and I have started using thought "Stop" processes to remind me I'm doing it, again and again, and to stop doing it! I don't think that this thought-stopping is in a hurry to work, for me. I've always had these "trailers" running within me, even when I was a child. By now, it should have been recognised by therapists and there should be methods lined up, for us, to help us get rid of these ancient mental loiterings.
 
jajingna

jajingna

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I guess the reason is psychological. There's something wanted that wasn't attained, or something unwanted that occurred. It's all baggage to carry around, and I guess everybody has some.
 
Bizzarebitrary

Bizzarebitrary

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Dec 17, 2018
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Hi @stu1970s I can to relate to what you've written about, I live with major depressive disorder. The shortest answer to your question about tips is, yes it certainly can be overcome--and it takes a lot of work and maintenance. As you were so courageous in sharing with us the battle going on in your head, I'll share some of what helps me resist negative thinking patterns about my past (plus I included the therapies at the bottom).
It's a lot of info. I suggest you skim and self-reflect, then take anything you find helpful. Questions gladly answered.


Stories I tell myself
The human brain is splendid at detecting patterns, it's "helping" me avoid threats in the present and future. Those excruciatingly embarrassing and painful memories seemed to fit a narrative about who I am and why I'm unsatisfied. But I was only telling half the story, always painting myself as loser and a failure. I tend not to credit myself for the positives, the successes, my strength and my survival. I'm re-writing faulty narratives into more accurate, compassionate stories that include what I've learned and how I've grown.
Tell the whole story of you--write it down if it'll help you to remember.
CBT, DBT, Narrative Therapy


Acceptance
I live with a mental illness that contributes to chronic, every day negative thinking. I thought this would just go away, and when it didn't I blamed myself. This improved once I accepted that I, like many others I know who suffer with depression, have to practice feeling good. A way I practice is by "putting my thumb on the side of the scale" where I mentally measure all the positive qualities I possess, because depression is weighing down the negative side.
I practice thinking about my painful past by reframing memories using and/also: sometimes I felt like a fool in front of others when I was hoping to impress, also there were times when I was adequate, even successful.
With help from the good people of this only community and of people in my depression support group, I see how I've taken some risks and I can list achievements of worth in my life--because I made the choice to try. We cannot measure only in outcomes, efforts matter too.
CBT, ACT, group therapy


Neuroplasticity
Repeating patterns of thought become ingrained, making them easier to recall. I spend time each day remembering occasions when I didn't disappoint. I do this whenever I catch myself reliving painful memories. I have failed on many occasions and I normalize this (everyone experiences failure) and I consider how failure is an important teacher. Gradually, my habit of muck raking my past has become a habit of recollecting my resilience, how I've bounced back.
ACT, Yoda from Star Wars, meditation


Learning to laugh at myself
I can take myself and life too seriously. Some events in my past (when told a certain way) are more hilarious than embarrassing or sad. Laughing at oneself is a learned behavior and I think it helps to exaggerate past events and details of them such that it becomes absurd. The brain eventually associates these memories with pain and humor. And that's improvement.
DBT, Gestalt Therapy, group therapy


Wishing you some relief from fighting those battles in your mind.
 
Foxjo

Foxjo

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Jan 2, 2012
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Teesside
I use the same word technique @Ian Haines "STOP" when my mind starts drifting off to the bad stuff i shout it in my mind to refocus myself back to now.

Loneliness and boredom also plays a part i do believe. So keeping your mind active with other things can help.
Hugs
Fox
 

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