You know how every so often your brain fires a shot across your metaphorical bow with a vivid recollection of some brief humiliating moment? The time you were speaking in front of a conference and sneezed one of those awful snotty sneezes and didn’t have a tissue? The time you made a mean comment, or tried to make a joke about something that was the worst possible thing to say? The list goes on and on. We all have them, those little awful recollections that seem to strike through you someplace between the back of your eyeballs and the top of your brain, at the worst possible time. These reminders of the things you can’t take back are possibly there to stop you from being thoughtless again, but they also undermine your confidence, over and over.
So the article I read (seriously, if you know what article I’m talking about, please let me know) says to sit down and write a list of all those things. All of them. My list covers two pages in a medium sized notebook, and I used a shorthand where two or three words can bring an entire awful memory back. I add to the stream of offenses on the page whenever I recall something bad I did or someone did to me. When I did this list, I didn’t find it so much cathartic as a reminder that I’d inflicted jokes that didn’t hit the mark, or thoughtless cruelties that I couldn’t take back. There were also injustices and betrayals that broadsided me. It felt pretty good to write them all down. There were a lot of them.
Then a funny thing happened a few days later. I was free of these torturous fleeting memories. Along with that came a powerful outspokenness and kindness.
It was as though I’d completely forgiven myself without any conscious effort.
So here’s how you do this yourself: Open your notebook or get a piece of paper. You’ll keep this piece of paper for a while. Write at the top the date and “VERY BAD THINGS.” Start writing all those horrible events in your life, big and small. Don’t list them, just write in a linear way and put commas between the things. Write steadily, really feel it. Mine look like this: That vindictive HR chick, W. abandoning me at airport, stalking that guy, standing up A., not defending that kid, outing G…
Just feel them and write down as many as you can think of. Keep the page at hand in case you have things to add.
Notice after a few days if you feel lighter, freer, more at peace. See if the bad memories no longer lurk in your memory.