Is Your Long Memory Making You Unhappy?
One of the best things about being over 60 is that you finally have some perspective on how the world really works.
When it comes to relationships, love, money and health, you have decades of experience to draw on. For the most part, this is a great thing. After all, as George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if there is a darker side to having a long memory. Is it possible that our memories echo so loudly in our present that they prevent us from hearing the call of happiness in our future?
I know people who divorced over a decade ago, who still cannot bring themselves to trust others enough to start dating. These men and women would secretly love to have someone in their lives, but, they choose to stay isolated because they can’t bring themselves to trust others.
There are plenty of people who use past discrimination – whether based on age, race or gender – to justify their views that it isn’t worth starting anything because the world is inherently unfair. In many cases, these subconscious opinions were formed during our childhoods and have become so ingrained in our personalities that we barely notice them. They sit below the surface, preventing us from giving the world a second chance.
Audrey Hepburn once said:
I heard a definition once: Happiness is health and a short memory! I wish I’d invented it, because it is very true.
This quote is true in spirit. Of course, we need to remember the past and use it as a compass to make decisions about the future. But, we also need to remind ourselves to keep our memories in perspective.
Our past does not have to be our future. We can choose to give the world a second chance. We can choose to find the golden mean between habitual pessimism and baseless optimism. We can choose to make our memories work for us, not the other way around.
Sometimes our memories echo so loudly in our present that they prevent us from hearing the call of happiness in our future. Finding happiness requires us to remember less and live more.
Do you find that many people have pivotal events in their past – a divorce, financial crisis or health issue – that prevent them from getting the most from their lives after 60? What painful or damaging memories do you think are the hardest to forget? Please join the discussion.