You can’t ‘erase’ bad memories, but you can learn ways to cope with them

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Memories of trauma are unique because of how brains and bodies respond to threat


One way to reduce the chances of relapse is to confront irrational fear at every opportunity and create new safe memories in many different contexts. Anticipating contextual factors that are trigger points for relapse, such as changing jobs or relationship break-ups, can also be adaptive. Strategies can then be used to manage the re-emergence of distressing thoughts and memories.

While erasure of negative memories may be the goal of the characters in Eternal Sunshine, the film also emphasises the importance of these memories. When processed rationally, stressful memories motivate us to make better decisions and become resilient. Being able look back on unpleasant memories without excessive distress allows us to move forward with greater wisdom and this is the ultimate goal for all therapeutic frameworks.

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