Changing a Painful Memory


. I’m not talking about traumatic memories. This is a memory from an occurrence like being flipped off by another driver. The memory takes up space in my head, interferes with my mind and crowds out my peace of mind.


Tom Hartmann has written over 20 books, is a progressive talk show host and has a Ph.D. in herbal medicine. He is a change agent in this world. In his book, Cracking the Code: How to Win Hearts, Change Minds, and Restore America’s Original Vision, he walks the reader through an exercise on changing a painful memory.


Below is what I experienced using this exercise:


I was walking peacefully through a parking lot in a local town and was surprised by a large black pickup truck with souped-up mufflers and revving engine backing up into a parking space. The noise was intolerable and I freaked. I found myself yelling at the driver that his truck was too loud. The young man chose to yell back telling me to get out of his space and took no responsibility for the noise nor his presence in his truck. I was furious.


I came home with inflamed cheeks and pissed off mood. I felt violated and angry, stewing about the incredible lack of respect for others people have in this world. The heat of my anger was blowing through my veins and I couldn’t relax.


My wife pointed out this exercise to me. I could have pushed it away getting madder for her attempt to placate me but I chose to walk through the exercise instead.


Hartmann asks the reader to see the picture of the experience and decide whether the picture is in color or black and white?


It’s in color.


Can I change it to black and white? I did.


Describe in space where the incident happened, in front of me, behind me, where is it? Five feet? 20 feet? To my left, to my right?


It was within ten feet of me.


Move the picture, push the picture to about 50 feet away.


I looked out the window and saw a neighbor’s house and I moved the black and white picture to the house across the street.


Describe any sound I heard which of course it was all about sound.


Was it a moving picture or a still picture?


It was a moving picture because the truck was moving.


Freeze frame the picture to the very end of the scene which I did.


Now play it backward; “and you know how you play a movie backward, everybody moves like in the old Charlie Chaplin movies and everybody talks backward like Donald Duck. And I want you to right now play it backward all the way back to the beginning with everybody going, everything going backward.”


I imagined myself walking backwards and my arms flailing – everything moving backwards on high speed.