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I have a tendency to act out wierdly and angrily, (usually throwing stuff here and there) when I suddenly remember something stupid that I had done in past, and then bang my head over how stupid I was for some time.

This behavior has caused me to act out randomly, sometimes in public, and even caused me to break a very expensive electronics product by smashing it on the ground.

Only if I could solve this problem of worrying about the past, I'll be able to get more time for other important things in life - like the future.

Any help will be much appriciated

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I mentally torture myself every day over things long passed. You are not alone. –  CptSupermrkt May 21 '13 at 23:52

6 Answers 6

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I think that this is a common phenomenon, although in some people it occurs more frequently and more strongly than in others. The acting out (throwing things, etc.) is a sort of tick that your mind uses to quickly distract you from the unpleasant thought. I find that one solution is to stop avoiding the embarrassing memory and think through it all the way. For example, identify one memory that comes up frequently, and don't allow yourself to get distracted. Take three minutes and talk yourself through the memory it as if you are describing it to another person, and remember every detail you can. Think about why it is embarrassing and what you would have liked to have done differently. End by admitting to yourself that you did something you don't like to remember, maybe it was stupid or hurt someone, but that is a normal part of life and that memory is in the past. This is a very difficult exercise to do because it is uncomfortable to think about the memories, but you may find that as you process a particular memory in this way, it will bother you much less or stop bothering you altogether.

Also remember you are not alone, that many people struggle with unpleasant memories, including the people you think you have offended or embarrassed yourself in front of.

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Everyone does stupid things. Nobody can do everything perfect. Don't think of it as a mistake, think of it as feedback. You need feedback to improve, and the best kind of feedback are mistakes.

Analyze what you could have done better, so you come out of it a wiser person than someone who never made the mistake in the first place.

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According to John Medina in Brain Rules, every time we recall a memory it gets restored. In his book he quotes an experiment where group of people was asked about some of their memories when they were 15 and then again when they were 30 - most had those memories completely modified over the time. We all have a faculty of self deception the point of which is to protect us from negative feelings, thought it's not always working as intended by evolution. If you keep thinking about that incident again and again and always from negative point of view you're in a never ending spiral.

To cut it short, whenever you think of that incident the way you think of it gets "recorded" as the original. So when you think of it don't view it too negatively but view about it from less negative aspects. The fact that you can learn from it is a very positive aspect alone.

So consciously change the way you think about it and then just let it be.

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For me, the acceptance is the key to overcoming such memories. Usually, banging the head occurs when you cannot accept the past. In order to get over it, you have to first accept the reality. It is like you say to yourself, yes that thing happened - I did something stupid, and it had such and such consequences. Then think what was the factual outcome (e.g. broken vase), and was the imaginary outcome (ones you cannot know for sure, e.g. my father thought I gone mad). Find which part triggers severe self-blaming. This is the part you might not be accepting. Then try to accept all parts as reality (because there is no point in denying reality, it won't go away), think of best and worst possibilities for imaginary outcome and accept them as reality.

If you are blaming yourself for what you did, try to understand why you did that, and accept the situation, e.g. yes, I was young and impulsive, or yes, I made an error of judgement, etc. and accept it. Usually, head banging diminishes after accepting that things did go wrong. Acceptance frees you from the past.

DISCLAIMER: it's my personal experience, not supported by any research.

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We only live in the present. Don't forget that.

That doesn't mean that you have to get rid of what you learned from the past (you can learn from your mistakes and try to avoid doing them again, etc) or that you shouldn't consider the future.

But still … lots of people (a lot) never remember to try to live right now, in the present and appreciating it (to appreciate (or to learn to appreciate) our live, being alive, feeling alive or the small things of life (which are the real happiness) etc). We keep spending our time thinking about the past or future, worrying and/or regretting whereas this doesn't define us, who we really are NOW (that's a common misconception IMO).

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As has been mentioned, accept what has happened, remember that it can not be changed. Also, as has been mentioned, remember the lessons learnt from that experience and how those lessons may have improved the way you are now.

Also consider, where are you now (emotionally, career, physically etc) in relation to the time that the stupid deed was done and where are the 'witnesses' now?

Most people will forgive and move on from past transgressions - put it down to experience and focus on what you are doing now.

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