“Just Don’t Think About It”

I have a knack for remembering dates, including kinda obscure ones, that even having brain damage hasn’t affected.  I graduated high school on May 13, 1989, for example.

Two other dates I remember are August 23, 1990 & November 24, 1990.  Those were the dates I met & then broke up with a man I was involved with.  He made me feel so guilty for breaking up with him that ever year for many years, I dreaded those dates because I’d feel such guilt.  Although he was only in my life briefly, the dysfunctional relationship had quite an impact on me.

January 31, 2014, I learned that he shot & killed his boyfriend & then himself two days before.  The news came as a complete shock to me since I had absolutely no clue of his orientation or capacity for murder.  Keeping in mind my knack for remembering dates, all those dates bring him to mind & every time, make me sad for him, his family, his victim & his victim’s family.

A few times, I’ve mentioned the date in passing conversation & the person I was speaking with told me, “Just don’t think about it.”  It sat very wrong with me, even when I knew the person had good intentions, & I’ll tell you why.

“Just don’t think about it” is invalidating.  You’re thinking about something that bothers you & are trying to talk it out, yet the other person shuts you down.  That is invalidation.  Why they do it doesn’t change that fact.

If you “just don’t think about it”, how are you supposed to heal from the incident?  If you want to heal, you have to think about it & process the emotions connected to it.  Not thinking about it is no help at all!

Not thinking about it also contributes to mental & physical problems.  It can create anxiety, depression, anger, high blood pressure, heart disease, & kidney disease.  It also reduces the effectiveness of your immune system, leaving you open to sickness.

Obviously, “just don’t think about it” is not good advice & you should NOT follow it!

I’m not saying you should think of nothing but the traumatic event you were told not to think about.  Instead, I’m saying work with it.  Realize you feel as you do for a reason.  Maybe it’s there to let you know now is the time you should face this issue.  If so, face it.  No, it isn’t easy to face past trauma, but do it anyway!  If you face it, it will lose much maybe even all of the negative effect it has over you.  It also won’t affect your physical health.

If it’s something you’ve already dealt with like I have dealt with my situation, maybe it’s a reminder to pray for the people involved.  I know, praying for a person who has abused you, especially one with no remorse or who has made you out to be the abusive one is tough, but do it anyway.  Do it not because this person deserves your prayers, but because God wants you to do it & because it really can help you.  Praying for those who use & abuse you is incredibly helpful at releasing the anger & even bitterness you feel towards them.  Carrying such things around isn’t good for your health, so why do it?  You can maintain boundaries or even no contact while not carrying around anger.

Whatever you feel when something traumatic comes to mind, honor those feelings & know they are there for a valid reason.  Accept them without judgement.  Face them however you feel you need to do in order to heal.  Pray for the abusive person if you can too.  Whatever you do though, remember that “just don’t think about it” is terrible advice.  Ignore the advice, & take good care of yourself!

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7 Comments

Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

7 responses to ““Just Don’t Think About It”

  1. It amazes me that anyone can believe it’s that simple, that we can simply stop thinking about it. This is the same thing as the admonishment I received from my brother to forget the past. Do the ones who say these things not understand that we’d love to be able to never have these painful thoughts and memories enter our minds again? Do they really believe that we purposely dwell on them or deliberately dredge them up from our memories? Don’t these people realize that I can no more forget or stop thinking about it than a cancer patient can stop having cancer just by deciding to be healed? I’d love to never again think about the abuse, the pain, and the suffering. And here’s the thing. I did try to do this. I stuffed those painful memories and emotions down for years and the only people who benefited were my abusers and their enablers. I was miserable and physically ill, but they got to treat me any way they chose with no consequences. This is really bad, really destructive advice and anyone who says this to an abuse survivor is, to put it kindly, not acting in our best interest.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I totally agree with you. It seems like people do think it’s that simple, just don’t think about it & all will be fine. If only! No way it is though. There is nothing simple about surviving trauma, especially when the trauma involves those who are supposed to love & care for you. And, it’s like you said, the only people who benefit from this advice are the abusers & enablers. Victims are miserable physically & emotionally!

      Since getting the brain damage from the carbon monoxide poisoning, I can’t not think about stuff. Intrusive thoughts happen & I can’t stop them. I used to have some control over them, but not anymore. In a way, I’m glad because it has taught me to use them to my benefit. Since I’m going to think of them, like it or not, I figure I might as well put them to work to help me whenever possible, yanno? Better to face them & heal than ignore them.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I wanted so desperately to stop thinking about my traumatic memories, that at one point I actually tried, with all my might, to force myself to have amnesia. I thought, you know, that other people have gotten amnesia, so why can’t I? I tried everything I could think of to psych myself into having Zero Memories, because having total amnesia would surely be better than walking around with a head full of horrible, haunting memories.

    But I could not do it. I even tried self-hypnosis, and still I could not forget my way into amnesia. My life is my life, my memories are my memories, and they are apparently here to stay.

    The best thing I’ve found for dealing with my painful memories is simply acceptance. Accepting that this is my reality, this is my life, what happened really happened, and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change any of that. It is what it is. And yet, in spite of it all, the Lord brought me through!

    I recently googled the addresses of two houses that I lived in as a child, more than fifty years ago, where some of my worst traumas happened. To my shock, I discovered that both of these houses are listed online as having been for sale a few years ago. One sold in 2014, the other in 2016. Although they are no longer for sale and their listings ended years ago, all of the pictures are still there, on both of these old listings.

    As I clicked through the pictures, I remembered this terrible thing that happened in this room, and that awful thing that happened in this other room. On and on and on, through more than fifty pictures between these two houses, my memories flooded in.

    I was feeling overwhelmed. But then, one of the pictures inside the one of the houses came up, and there was a large decorative banner hanging above a wide doorway that leads from a family room, a room that has been added on since my family lived there, into the dining room and living room beyond, two rooms that hold so many painful memories.

    The words on the banner, in big beautiful blue letters, declares:
    IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

    Amen!!!!!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Pingback: No, amnesia is not the solution for traumatic memories – A Blog About Healing From PTSD

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