A friend recently shared an article on her Facebook page: Your Brain Has a ‘Delete Button” And Here’s How to Use It!
Could this be true? Is this actually a thing?
Apparently, this is a thing. If you have an ex who has already taken up too much of your time and energy, there’s a way to hit delete. Backspace. Erase. If we want to make an ex get the hell out of our memory banks, science has helped us figure out a way.
I should preface this by saying that I’m not a scientist, but I’m going to try to break this down for people like me.
My understanding of the article is that our neurons respond to the things that we focus on or do regularly. When we practice, we get better. It’s how our brains work.
There’s also a mechanism for our brains to get rid of information we’re not using. While we’re sleeping at night, our brains work away to decide what information to keep, and what to discard, from all the stimuli we’ve taken in during the day.
So how do we go about deleting that ex from our brains?
We have to stop giving them our time and attention. Think about it: We’re keeping the information that requires our focus. If we’re not focusing on something or someone, our brain gets rid of it to make room for more incoming information. It’s a very efficient system. We simply have to stop giving our time and attention to the things we want to be gone.
When it comes to old relationships or difficult memories, we need to use a couple of cognitive behavioral techniques. First, we need to practice thought-stopping, where we make it a habit to stop indulging in unwelcome thoughts. When thoughts of the ex come up, we simply choose not to go there.
The second technique involves substituting a new, more positive thought in its place. Instead of focusing on the ex or on a bad experience, we can focus on what we want for our lives, or what we have to be grateful for—basically anything that we deem important.
Our focus on something negative tells our brains that this is important information and needs to be stored in our long-term memory. In other words, the ex isn’t being deleted because we’re hitting save rather than delete.
If we keep hitting save by focusing on that person, we need to be honest with ourselves: Do we even want to get rid of those memories? Are we ready to let go? Do we still have things we need to work through?
I spent almost a year after a failed relationship trying to process it. I would start to let go, and then I would tighten my grip to hold on. Back and forth over several months. It was easy to spend time inside those memories, even when they hurt. But I was unwittingly putting them in long-term storage when what I really needed to do was move on.
In another situation, I had moved on, but I was pulled back into conflict and unpleasant memories by unwanted messages. It took reading the aforementioned article to realize that engaging with that person by responding to those messages was putting my focus in their direction, resurrecting all the bitter memories and adding them to an archive rather than the trash can.
I realized that if I wanted to stop revisiting those memories and those experiences, I would need to stop focusing on them. If I get a message, I may need to delete it rather than read it or even block the number if that’s what it takes. But it’s time to hit delete.
What’s interesting about our brains and how they process information is that we can heal or hurt ourselves using the same process. We can empower ourselves to choose to focus on positives—our goals, our gratitude, our dreams. Doing this actually makes it more likely that these things will happen.
Apparently, this is the basis for The Secret. At the same time, when we choose to focus on the negatives—thoughts, feelings, experiences—we’re actually hardwiring our brain to store these types of experiences. This will make it more likely that we’ll focus on new negative experiences and store those, too. Essentially, we’re creating the type of life we’ll live by where we allow our thoughts to linger.
Sure, there are outside factors. We all have life challenges. But if we have an ex we badly want to delete from our memory banks, there’s a way to do that.
But proceed with caution: Be careful not to keep the few good memories and delete the rest. That way holds danger, as we may trick ourselves into thinking that those relationships were healthy when they weren’t, and that could tempt us to return to them.
So if we’re going to delete the ex, we need to throw in the good memories too, and mark them for the trash can.
Backspace. Erase. Delete.
It’s time to move on to better things.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Lieselle Davidson