To feel happier today and in the future, it is important to feel happy about your past as well.
A great way to do this is to write a timeline of your life, so that you can look at negative events and positively change your perspective on each one, slowly and systemically.
It is equally important to be aware of all the positive things that have happened in your life, which should include your achievements, times you have laughed uncontrollably, been somewhere exciting, fallen in love, an amazing date, a fantastic concert, or other memorable events.
You should read the positive events on your timeline regularly to remind you of the great things you have done, seen and experienced.
With regard to the negative list, you can work on just one event at a time, ensuring that you read your positive list before and after. To try and reduce the negative effects of each memory, it is important to find something to help you feel better about it.
This may be acknowledging that you have learned something new from it, or that it made you stronger, more empathetic, kinder, or able to help somebody as a result.
Also consider if it is something that has been and gone, and is now over. If so, you are no longer a victim of that event; you survived it and you became a victor.
Alternatively, you can change your emotional attachment to a negative event by accepting that it was not personal to you. For example, if you have experienced an abusive relationship, this was not instigated by you, nor was it personal to you – the abusive partner would have been abusive in the past and will continue to be abusive in the future. The abuse was not personal to you and it was the abuser who had the issue.
If you continue to struggle to change a negative event to a more positive perspective, try speaking to a positive friend that you trust. Explain to them that a painful memory is affecting you today, and ask if they could offer you any suggestions to be able to see the event in a more positive light so that you can sever that emotional tie and leave the event in the past.
When you are starting to feel better about the event, move on to the next, so that systematically you can work through painful memories to ensure they have no negative effect, or a lesser effect, on you today.
Carrying the past is an unnecessary weight on your shoulders that does not impact your life in a positive way. Therefore if you find it difficult to lessen the negative emotion, you can start by making a decision to remind yourself that what you endured should not have happened, you didn’t deserve it to happen and it is now over.
Create a timeline of your life events, by using this template.
Do not worry about how many pages you fill, as long as it allows you to find the answers you need.
Consider each negative event, and whether it still affects you or causes you any discomfort or anxiety. Score the negative event out of ten (zero means it has no negative effect and 10 means you feel an extremely negative reaction).
If you have scored anything in the negative life event: as a six or above, this could contribute to feelings of anxiety and may have created negative behavioural schemas (beliefs) that affect you today.
These are all events that need to be challenged to positively alter your perception, so as to condition the schema or belief that was created at that time. If you can start to see an event for what it really was and not how it felt at the time, this will allow you to become emotionally distanced from it. You can then become a third party observer of the past life event, as opposed to allowing the memory to play in your subconscious and affect your present. You will notice, for example, that when your friends have a problem, while you may be upset for them, not having a personal attachment to the issue allows you to have no emotional attachment to it. Therefore you are able to soothe them and forget what happened.
To begin to positively condition and alter the negative schemas or beliefs you will need to go through your timeline and ask yourself the following questions:
- Was it personal? For example, was someone mean to you specifically or were they a person who was unkind to everyone? If so, the event was not specifically about you. Perhaps the person who made you feel bad had low self-esteem or had a difficult upbringing, so they knew no different.
- Was it just an unfortunate accident?
- What did you learn? Did the event make you stronger, wiser and more compassionate?
- What good came from that? Did the event make you more charitable and more understanding of others?
- What actually happened? Describe what happened factually and without emotion.
None of us is immune from bad things happening, and we often get trapped in a past event without realising we had no control over it, and forgetting that despite that, we survived it.
Traumatic life events can often feel so personal and make us feel lonely and weak, but please know that you are not alone. We have all had life changes, some worse than others, but take solace in the fact that you’ve got through all your issues. You survived your worst ever day, and therefore you can get over any other issues too.
You may not be able to forget the event, but you can certainly change your perception of it, cut the emotional ties and leave your anxieties in the past you deserve to be happy, and free from the burdens of anxiety.
Take these first steps to start working on improving your thoughts and feelings.
If you are having trouble recognising and challenging triggers or negative events in your past, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, We can help you complete a timeline allowing you to trace and overcome traumas and inaccurate beliefs Read more…
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