The Movie in Our Minds – What’s Playing?
Think of a favorite scenes from a movie; preferably one with a lot of emotion. One of mine is towards the end of Forrest Gump when he visits Jenny’s apartment and finds out she is a Mom. Jenny tells him that the the little boy’s name is Forrest, after his Daddy. As he realizes this child is his, his face shows deep concern and fear. He finally asks, “Is he smart or . . . is he like me?” He is so happy to hear that his son is very smart. I just watched that scene again, and again my heart was full of emotion and I cried. It’s just a movie, but it feels so real!
The same thing happens when we replay a past drama, hurt or frustration in our minds. We get caught up in the emotion, feeling it all as if it were really happening right now. But it’s not. It’s just a movie playing inside our heads. Sure, it may have really happened in the past, but we relive it again with every frustration or pain. When we physically hurt ourselves, like cutting our finger or stubbing our toe, it hurts once and the pain is gone. But as humans, when we experience an emotional hurt, we replay it over and over, sometimes hundreds of times, sometimes for years.
The trick is to catch ourselves doing these replays. Then we can remind ourselves that it’s not real, it’s just a scene from a past part of our life and dwelling on this memory isn’t helping us. We can CHOOSE a different thought, something that will benefit us instead of making us suffer. I suggest focusing on gratitude, a favorite good memory, or even a favorite song. Sometimes, it’s helpful to distract ourselves by calling a friend, watching a funny video or exercising. Whatever works for you. A great antidote is to think of something you can do to help someone else. What is your favorite way to switch scenes?
Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is founder and owner of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures.