DEAR ABBY: I'm a divorced woman, soon to be 60, who is often haunted by vivid memories of the past. I constantly recall times in my life that I regret or cringe about, and things I wish I would have handled better. They range from being embarrassed at my 7th birthday party to being bullied from the 5th through 8th grades to awkward moments in high school to parenting decisions I wish I'd made differently.
These memories play over and over like videos in my mind, causing me to feel the emotions again and again. I've been through therapy three times in three cities over the past 24 years. One therapist even used eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), all to no avail. I know I can't go back and change any poor choices or bad decisions, but how can I stop torturing myself over them? Also, would you say it's normal for people my age to have such vivid memories of what others might have let go of decades ago? -- PRISONER OF THE PAST
DEAR PRISONER: People of every age have been known to revisit the past. Some have "conversations" with deceased parents, divorced husbands, old loves, etc. A technique that might help you would be to get up and move from wherever you are when those flashbacks happen to a new location. Take a 30-minute walk in the sunshine and smell the roses. Count your blessings. And say aloud to yourself, "That was THEN. This is NOW." It is not possible to think of two things at once. Please try it. It's cheaper than yet another therapist, and it works.
P.S. You are not a "prisoner" of your unhappy past; you conquered it. Congratulations.