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Bad memories have a long shelf life

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By Dr. Andy and Renie Bowman
HCP columnists

Have you ever had a bad day, when everything you touched just soured? Sure, we all have had those kinds of days, nothing new to any of us. And when you had one, didn’t you find that it was difficult to be a sweetheart to everyone around you? 

After all, living 24 hours in the pits doesn’t exactly make you feel like being the Perfect Parent/Spouse/Employee. Probably, more than likely people avoided you like the plague to evade getting bombarded by the toxic words spewing out of your mouth. 

And even when you came back to normal, your family and co-workers undoubtedly felt like they needed to throw a white flag into the room before they entered, to see if it turned brown before they risked walking in themselves. Not a pretty thought, is it?

And that is my point. 

When bad days make you act like the south end of a north-bound donkey, you aren’t just hurting the people around you. You are hurting "the you" that has to live with the long memory of just how badly you behaved. And that is no fun. If by some weird chance you don’t believe me, try this. 

In your head, create the next 24 hours. A full day when you deliberately let your guard down. When you let yourself act and speak like a complete jerk. When you’re unconcerned about your loved one’s hurt feelings as you make cruel fun of them. 

Carelessly and deliberately damage someone’s reputation by passing along juicy and completely false gossip about them. Yell mercilessly at your kids and watch the stricken look on their faces. For good measure, kick your kitty or puppy three feet ahead of you as you stomp into the bedroom to pick a fight with your spouse.

Then, when you have mentally destroyed those 24 hours, stop and rethink that daydream. How would you feel if you actually acted it out? Lousy and ashamed, you say? I would agree with you, you jerk. 

Folks, being the previously mentioned donkey body-part creates two huge permanent problems. For the people around you who were treated so callously, as you would have probably caused them emotional scars. And also for the future you, who has to live with the memories of your shame and embarrassment. Because memories, especially the painful ones, have a very long shelf life. 

Something about acting like a jerk and a fool has tremendous staying power when it comes to trying to forget. Even when you beg for forgiveness from the very people you hurt, and they graciously give you what you don’t deserve, you can be haunted by a memory that never seems to fade away. 

Surfacing in your thoughts when you lay awake at night. Or popping up unexpectedly when that loved one is sitting quietly by your side.

Not worth it, folks. Bad memories live forever, so do your best to make ones that don’t hurt.

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