The Movie in Our Mind – What’s Playing?

 In Better Life, Focusing on the positive, Negative emotions

Think of a favorite scene from a movie; preferably one with a lot of emotion.  One of mine is from Forrest Gump. Towards the end of the movie Forrest visits Jenny’s apartment and finds out she’s now a Mom. Jenny tells him that the the little boy’s name is Forrest, after his Daddy. As he suddenly realizes that this child is his, his brow furrows in deep concern and fear.  

He finally chokes out the question, “Is he smart or . . . is he like me?”  He smiles in relief to hear that his son is indeed very smart.  Every time I watch that scene my heart fills with emotion and I cry.  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 as if it was happening again right now.  But it’s not.  It’s just a movie playing inside our heads.  Sure, it may have really happened, but that was in the past.  So why do we choose to suffer through it again?  When we physically injure ourselves, like accidentally cutting a finger or stubbing a toe, it hurts for a little while and then the pain is gone.  But as humans, when we experience an emotional hurt, we replay it over and over, sometimes hundreds of times, and 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’t change what happened.  We can CHOOSE a different thought, something that will benefit us instead of making us suffer.  Some ideas include 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.  Another great antidote is to think of something you can do to help someone else.

What is your favorite way to switch scenes?  Think of a couple options so you’ll be prepared the next time you catch yourself replaying a bad scene.


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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association.

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