Emotionally Linked Memory (n.) - An emotionally linked memory is a memory that arises due to its direct link or similarity to your current emotional state or mood. It can also be part of the reaction to a current situation unfolding around you. The more emotionally aware you are, the more likely you are to see the link between this past memory and your present state. If you are still working on being more aware of your emotional state, these memories showing up can feel more like random occurrences than anything else.
Why am I thinking about this right now?
Emotionally linked memories are very similar to environmentally linked memories. The smell of pipe smoke may bring up memories of your grandfather. The sound of beans being snapped may bring back memories of cooking with your mother as a child. Your mind is constantly making connections between your present and your past. Identifying an environmentally linked memory is often easier than identifying an emotionally linked memory for people.
This concept is an important one if you are someone who struggles to identify your current emotional state. When a memory feels like it has randomly returned, it is an opportunity to use that returned story or moment to gauge where you are at currently. It's a question of asking, "What is the link to where I am at right now to this seemingly random memory that has returned? How is this linked to my present moment or emotional state?"
You will often see this occurring in other ways. The person who is dumped not only suffers with the current emotional situation but past memories linked to this emotional state also emerge to compound the damage. A person experiencing a proud moment will often have the current emotional high accompanied by past moments returning where that feeling of pride was similar. When someone is experiencing strong feelings of depression, memories and past situations that reinforce this state naturally emerge.
Emotional States Are Like Keys in the Locks
Think of your mind as a house with your past memories being filed away in different rooms based on the combination of emotions attached to them. Memories can often have a complex series of emotions linked to them. It's not just a simple one-to-one relationship. It's often a many-to-many emotional equation. When your current complex mental state matches the complexity of the contents in one of your mental storage rooms, it functions like a key in that room's lock. It opens the door for events from your past to return based on their similarity to your current moment.
This concept may seem small but if you are someone suffering from anxiety or depression, it's huge. Being able to acknowledge that something is an emotionally pulled thought or memory can be helpful in negating its impact and even turning it off.
When a thought or memory feels random, there is a tendency to entertain it. As you pay attention to that memory and rehash it, it can strengthen the emotional state. Past memories add fuel to that currently burning fire. When the emotion is positive, that is fine but, when it's something that will reinforce your hurt or pain, it can be really self-destructive.
Applying This Concept
Learn to identify your emotionally linked memories as they return. They are a key to your current emotional state. Examine what thoughts should be given space inside your mind and which thoughts should be evicted as they occur.
We will cover thought stopping techniques in future Sunday posts. For now, be aware of this concept and learn to identify your emotionally linked memories when they occur.
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