Overcoming Bad Memories and Improving Relationships

Wednesday, October 01, 2008
By: Byron J. Richards,
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

How many of us struggle with bad experiences or memories, the “old tapes” that come back to haunt us at the most inopportune times?  The negative imprint of painful, stressful, or unpleasant experiences can be triggered by current situations or reminders, making us feel more like a Pavlovian dog experiment than thinking and reasoning humans.  A new study has unlocked the key to this mechanism, offering hope for improvement to everyone.

Let me use the example of relationships to illustrate the point.  Each person has a history of various relationships, often with bad memories associated.  Also, the longer two people are together the more stressful times they go through together, creating potentially negative memories.  At any time, especially if either person is stressed out or physically worn down, “old relationship tapes” can start to play.  Such experiences may have contextual problem solving value (the lessons learned), but they may also carry with them highly reactive emotions and inappropriate behavior, along with very poor mood.  It can be like looking at your life through a toxic pair of sunglasses.

How can such old memories be changed so that the problem solving value of the experience can be maintained, yet the highly reactive emotions can be neutralized?  How can you live long term with another and maintain the positive bond as the priority, while lessoning the negative garbage of the past?  No doubt, solving this problem could save a lot of marriages and families, as well as helping those who stick it out to be a lot happier.

The new science shows that it requires an adequate supply of a specific nerve compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)1 in order to make the change.  This is actually quite profound.

It means that if you are in a situation or relationship that feels out of control and too stressful you can actually turn this to your advantage.  Of course there are the real issues that still need solution.  All I am talking about is you being able to feel more in control and not accessing a bunch of old trash that is certain to only make matters worse.  I am talking about you being able to maintain a problem solver attitude – the foundation and skill you will need to make any relationship healthy.

The new science says that what you really need is a new supply of BDNF.  If you have that then exposure to the current stimuli can be reprogrammed so that the past memories are nullified, yet left as experience.  The “negative changes” can dissipate or evaporate, never to bother you again.

Adequate BDNF can help you truly restructure your memories and file them more according to your choice.  If you don’t have enough BDNF to do the job, then memories will simply keep playing any time you are reminded of them, especially at times when you are worn down.  Another key sign you have too low a level of BDNF is that your appetite is too large or out of control.  Food cravings = low BDNF2.

BDNF is increased by aerobic exercise as well as multiple nutrients like pantethine, DHA, and zinc.  You can tell you are doing better when you feel calmer and more in control of any situation that has previously been hard for you.  While I give relationships as an example, this information applies to any topic and any memory.


Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ BDNF and Memory  PLoS ONE.  Barnes P, Thomas KL.
  2. ^ Aerobics and Appetite  Endocrine Society’s 90th Annual Meeting.  A. Veronica Araya, et al.

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