So embarrassed over memories

Dear Annie: What do you do about embarrassing memories that pop into your head randomly and make you want to crawl in a hole?

It keeps happening to me lately. I’ll be washing my hair in the shower, or trying to drift off to sleep at night, when, suddenly, I remember a humiliating event from my past and feel a flush of heat through my whole body. This is especially a problem when I’m trying to sleep since it sends adrenaline rushing through me and keeps me awake for an hour or more.

I don’t know if there’s anything I can do. I guess I just needed to get this off my chest and share it with someone. I’m also curious to know if anyone else has experienced this. Am I crazy? — Mortified

Dear Mortified: No, you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone. To err is human; to dwell on the error, especially so. Everyone experiences these “cringe attacks” from time to time. It can help to let the memory come up, rather than trying to suppress it. What we resist persists. A 2015 study found that focusing on other details of such memories — such as what the room looked like or who you were with — can gradually reduce the emotional effect they have on you. (Melissa Dahl discusses this study in her book “Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness,” which is definitely worth a read.)

Still, if you notice that these thoughts are becoming more frequent and interrupting your daily life, consider seeing a therapist for guidance in managing anxiety.

(Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. This column is syndicated by Creators Syndicate columnists. Visit the website at www.creators.com.)


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