We overlook the power of memories in our day-to-day lives. If we learn how to use them, memories can be tools for positive change.
“Memories can either bind us to the past or link us to the wisdom for living a more enlightened present.” ― Guru Tua
When you deal with memories, you are venturing into the inner world. We don’t realize how important memory is in our lives. Our memories are our identity. Exploring our memories is serious “inner work.” It can be stressful. So we recommend incorporating self-care techniques before and after this exercise to help you normalize.
Memories are often anchors holding us hostage to the past. Memories can color the value of life and relationships. They can be tools for positive change, or they can hold us back. If we recognize their power, we can use them to improve our lives.
Using the Power of Memories
We can spend much of our precious time in places other than the present moment. Don’t let memories hold you hostage. Here’s the process we recommend.
1) Identify your emotional triggers. First, find significant memories, those that are potent emotional triggers. You will discover these hot buttons using The Repeating Question tool and the Enneagram Personality Profile.
2) Break the chain of bad memories. Second, break the links with or between any negative or positive memories. You will need to reprogram your inner critic self-talk to break them. The Enneagram of Personality is the best tool for finding this negative programming and changing the thought process. We’ll give an example of how this works below.
3) Turn up the volume of positive memories. Finally, turn up the positive memories’ volume while and turn down the intensity on the negative. Affirmations are the best tool for this last step.
Tools for Positive Change
Several spiritual technologies provide the catalyst for making positive changes. Any technology which expands awareness, observational, and analytical skills will help you grow. We will show how exploring memories can be a good starting point for your self-discovery practice.
It’s important to realize that our memories are affected by several things. Memory isn’t static. Our memory is infused with emotion and shaped by our imagination.
Time is one of the primary factors that can distort or change memories. The emotions we attach to memory also can change their complexion. Our memories of highly emotional events can change as we do inner work. It is especially true for memories of traumatic events. Our dreams about past events can also change our memories. Our memory is very fluid.
Sigmund Freud built his theory of psychotherapy around our dreams and memory. He understood that these could be tools for positive change if we learn how to use them correctly.
The Enneagram Personality Profile is a system of cognitive science. It’s a blend of both science and spiritual tradition. So, it draws on several sources for its psychometric knowledge. It uses questionnaires to identify your unique personality type and instinctual stack.
The development of this process is ongoing. Testing with the scientific method verifies this system’s underlying theory and outcomes. This system is also deep enough to satisfy the desired details for clinicians. Yet, it uses a common language everyone can understand. It makes the Enneagram a practical tool for self-discovery and inner wisdom. It is one of the first tools for positive change that everyone can use.
This system will help you identify the emotional triggers of your Ego. You may find that this leads to programming that is part of your belief system. Beliefs are learned and often override all other kinds of programming. The following exercise will help identify both levels of harmful scripts. These are your emotional triggers.
The Repeating Question
The use of repetitive questioning is a universal technique that you can use with other inner work processes. It is one most often used with the Enneagram Personality Profile. Here people will work in pairs. But you can do this solo. If you do it independently, use a timer, and record your answers in your spiritual journal.
Repetitive questioning gets below the superficial automatic responses to the core thinking and values. Ideally, you work with a partner who asks and times the session. You can do this exercise independently, and there are only two basic ground rules for this exercise. The first ground rule is to remain non-judgmental. The second rule is to maintain total confidentiality.
We use this repeating question in this exercise. With a partner, you sit facing each other. Your partner asks, and you answer. You jot down a few keywords to help you remember your answer. Then your partner asks again.
You do this for 5 minutes. One question for 5 minutes seems like a long time. However, once you get started, the time goes quickly. Initially, you’ll give superficial answers, but if you keep asking the same question long enough, you’ll pull up some interesting data about your memories and the emotions attached to them.
- Give honest answers.
- Don’t say things you want the other person to hear.
- It’s best to work with someone you don’t know well.
- Each time the question is asked, think of a new answer.
When you use the repeating question on your own, set a timer, be honest. Repeat the question aloud; don’t just repeat it in your head. You will probably need to do this exercise longer than 5 minutes to get anything meaningful.
A suggested list of repeating questions
Here is the list of Repeating Questions we recommend for identifying significant memories:
- Tell me about a memory that always makes you happy.
- Tell me about a memory that always makes you sad.
- What is the oldest memory you have, how does it make you feel?
- Tell me about a memory you associate with hate.
- Tell me about a memory you associate with love.
- What are the memories of childhood that bring you the most joy?
- Tell me about a memory you associate with nature.
- Tell me about a memory you associate with family.
- What memories bring up the emotion of fear?
When you’ve completed the session, review the keywords. Flesh out the memories in more detail. You’ll end up with a memory inventory of positively and negatively charged memories. Some memories you’ve listed may be things you haven’t recalled in some time, at least on a conscious level. Some memories may be on more than one list. The power of memories will make more sense the more you explore them.
Breaking the Link
After completing a memory inventory, you may discover the same memory attached to negative and positive emotions. The power of memory lies in its ability to color our present reality—memory changes over time, especially when powerful emotions are connected. Changing the association with memory is key to our ability to break negative emotional links.
For example, you experience a joyful event like a marriage ceremony. Initially, it is a happy memory as you associate this event’s memories with love. Then you recall a memory from your past. You were married, but it didn’t work out. You felt betrayed. So, the memory of the marriage ceremony taints your experience of all marriage ceremonies.
If you want to change your experience, you must break the “link of negative association.” Breaking the link is a decision. It requires your desire to reduce or eliminate the event’s negative association. When you do this, it will mitigate its effect on our lives.
As with our example above, we will not erase the memory. We can, however, reduce the effect of the memory. We learned that we associate betrayal with the marriage ceremony and understand that it taints our view of all relationships. So, we mitigated the negative effect of our memory. It may take some time, but it is possible. The more inner work you do, the more progress you will make.
We “know” how the act of betrayal taints the ceremony of the relationship. We chose to remove this association. As we attend other marriage ceremonies, we can emotionally check in with ourselves. Ask yourself how you feel. Check to see if the past negative association is still tainting the event. If the association still exists, we can consciously decide to move it away from this responsible party.
Adjusting the Volume
The last step of the strategy to reshape and control our memories is “adjusting emotion.” It can also be the most effective. You have your inventory of memories and those associated with positive emotions. Now make these positive memories a part of your daily affirmations.
Turn up the volume on your positive memories by bringing them to the forefront of your awareness. Use keywords you can say out loud, which bring these positive memories into focus. It’s as simple as that. But it is a compelling way to use the power contained within our memories.
We also recommend the use of another powerful exercise for exploring memories. We use it in our introductory phase. It helps us expand our awareness and find what we value and fear.
The exciting thing is that the more you do this exercise, the more other positive memories will come forward. You will gain momentum, turning the power of memories to your advantage. It will increase your positive outlook on life. People with positive views tend to attract other positive people and situations.
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia