This picture intrigued me. I noticed the sweetness of the cupcake with piled-high icing conflicting with the bitterness of the lime. I wondered how well they sell and how quickly the lime is discarded by customers.
As I contemplated the contrast, a thought wandered into my mind that many encounters and experiences likewise have an opposing mixture of emotions. The “sweet cupcake” is the good event, and the “lime wedge” is the bitter accompanying event that leaves a disagreeable aftertaste somewhere in the deep recesses of the mind.
Are some of your memories sweet yet tinged with a bit of regret and sorrowful moments? If you ponder past experiences such as retreats, conferences, or conventions, perhaps you’ll remember the highs and lows you felt. Maybe you had a conversation with another person, and although you felt good about the outcome, you wondered why she seemed offended when you shared your opinion. Thinking about bittersweet moments of the past may fill you with guilt.
Last fall, I made a small, personal mistake when working on a project with a colleague. I apologized and did what I could to make it right, yet he was extremely angry, and we have exchanged few words since. Even though the project was a success, I lament the lime-wedge conflict.
If you are like me, “lime-wedge” moods such as these intrude into your mind and impede your productivity. Holding onto these feelings might cloud your present mental stability and emotional health.
What I’ve learned is that the more we dig memories up, revisit and replay them, the stronger the neural connections become in the brain. As a result, the negative emotions stay fresh and painful. The stronger the emotions you felt at the time, the more detail you will recall and the more often they will surface in your memory. While we do need time to process disagreeable events, there comes a time when you must stop living in the shame of the past.
What can you do to forget the distress over something you inadvertently blurted out when you misunderstood the other person? How do you rid yourself of unwanted emotions of being embarrassed, jealous, angry, guilty or ridiculed?
Here are some strategies I have found useful to lessen the effects of lime-wedge memories that entangle your emotions and productivity:
- Revisit the conversation with the person and repair if possible. Either get affirmation that he was not judging you or apologize if you offended him.
- Send your bad memory packing. Swerve to miss it. Substitute it with the positive memory. Tell yourself not to give into bad emotions again.
- Make a conscious choice to redirect your memory to an alternative pleasant one.
- Use the “Yes, and” technique. Yes, that happened AND ______ (mention a good memory) also happened.
- Accept that you are human, and you will misjudge situations and say things that may not be in harmony with the situation.
- Believe that time heals.
- See the experience as an exercise in learning about communication with another individual.
- Try turning a social gaff into self-deprecating humor. It may be good for a good laugh at the next party you attend.
Use these strategies to intentionally change the context of the memory so you can reduce emotional pain and get your productivity back on track.