Why do good memories hurt

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

How can a good memory hurt?

This sounds like a strange question. After all good memories are supposed to improve our moods and to make us feel better. So how come can good memories make us feel bad?

And we do good memories sometimes hurt us so much as soon as we recall them?
Before i answer that question let me first give you a brief idea about how the human brain stores memories. Memories are stored in the brain based on associations.

This is why when you remember one thing you quickly remember all of the other things that are related to it. This is also why you might remember a certain thing when you smell a certain perfume or hear a certain song.

So based on that concept good memories must always make us feel good, right?
After all the good memories are certainly going to be associated with positive emotions, right?

While this fact is true still we do many other calculations in our minds that make good memories more bitter than sweet. Let's see how this happens

This is why Good memories hurt you

The human brain uses comparisons all the time to in order to understand things. According to one study women who see ads featuring bikini models usually end up feeling bad about themselves. The reason those women feel bad is that they unconsciously compare themselves to those models.

Now the problem arises when you recall great memories then compare them to what's happening right now in your life. The possibility that your present is much worse than your past can make the good memories hurt a lot.

In such a case the pleasant emotions associated with the good memoirs are clouded by the negative feelings you got when you compared your past to your present.

Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion that could motivate people to recall good old memories but we usually become nostalgic when our lives aren't going well. See I feel nostalgic all the time.

In other words before we recall the good memories we have actually set the stage to feel bad about them. This why nostalgia is usually a bitter-sweet emotion. The mixed feelings result from both the positive and the negative emotions coming together. See also Why your early childhood memories could be made up

How to solve this problem

The solution here is very easy to describe but it's not that easy to apply. The short version of the soloution is: Fix your life.

Back to the women who feel bad when they see the bikini models. Had those women worked on their bodies until they reached a satisfactory level then certainly the bikini pictures won't have that bad impact on them.

The same goes for your life. When things are working well then comparing your past to your present won't result in such bad emotions. In fact when your life is going well you are less likley to remember the good old past simply because right now the present is the good thing.

This doesn't mean that you won't remember good memories when you are happy but it just means that you are less likely to live in the past when you are satisfied with the present.

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Want to know more?

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