We tend to remember events from an immersive first-person perspective. This causes us to get lost in that moment and conjure up emotions we may not enjoy. The solution? Think about things from a third-person perspective, and you won’t have that problem.
Photo by M R (Shutterstock).
Guy Winch, psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid, cites a study that demonstrates how a shift in perspective makes a profound difference:
[Ozlem Ayduk from the University of California and Ethan Kross from the University of Michigan] had participants replay emotionally painful memories from a third-person perspective — which involves visualising ourselves within the scene as if we were watching it from the perspective of an outside observer. The difference between the two types of perspectives was profound. Participants reported feeling significantly less emotional pain when they envisioned the memory using a third-person perspective than when using a first-person perspective. Further, utilising a psychologically distant vantage point also allowed them to reconstruct their understanding of their experiences and reach new insights and feelings of closure.
To achieve this new perspective, Winch suggests a little practice. Start by lying down and making yourself comfortable, then think of a potentially painful memory. Take a moment to “zoom out” from that recollection and watch it as an onlooker. This may feel awkward at first but with a little practice you can get used to remembering in the third-person and downplaying an excessive pain from a traumatic memory.
A Simple Mind Trick that Reduces Emotional Pain [Psychology Today]