Replaying Bad Memories and Being Asked for Donations.

The following two articles are taken from Men’s Health Magazine, September and August, 2015, from a section entitled, “Am I Normal”.  Readers write in mental health questions and the magazine asks experts to respond.  Two articles recently caught my eye:

Question: “I constantly replay bad or embarrassing memories in my head…am I normal?

Answer: At the risk of adding “that time I wrote to Men’s Health” to your lousy-experience loop, this isn’t exactly typical behavior.  “Most of the time you should be able to reflect on the event and move on,” says Elizabeth Kensinger, PH.D., a professor of psychology at Boston College.  “It shouldn’t be the case that nearly everything reminds you of bad moments from the past.” The next time you find yourself running on the rumination wheel, grab a good friend’s ear and talk about how the memory makes you feel. Are you angry? Frustrated? Humiliated that you bared your soul to a national men’s magazine? “Verbalizing what we’re experiencing can sometimes help us control our emotions, minimizing the impact a past bad event has on us in the present,” says Kensinger.  If that doesn’t work, it’s possible that your obsessive thinking is a symptom of an underlying anxiety issue.  Time to see a professional psychologist.  Find one at

This is a common presenting concern in my office and it has been one I have struggled with personally.  In my early 40’s, after being in therapy, I devised a verbal stragegy/comment or statement I say to myself when I begin thinking obsessively about something embarrassing I had said or done.  The statement is, “At that time, that was the best I could do (as bad as it was).  If I were to be in that situation again, what I would say/do is…….” This statement does a number of things: First, it acknowledges or I acknowledge that I made a mistake.  It keeps me humble.  Second, it allows me to take advantage of the growing I have done since then be re-addressing how I would respond to the situation if I were to face it today.  Third, in doing so, I can forgive myself for not knowing THEN what I didn’t know THEN but know NOW. Finally, it helps me look forward to the future, versus the past.

Question: When I’m asked to make a donation to a charity, I just get annoyed….am I normal?

Answer: We’re going to assume you aren’t a millionaire.  For people with realworld wealth, the annoyance usually arises from the public nature of the ask. “There’s a lot of social pressure involved,” says Stefano DellaVigna, Ph.D. , professor of economics and business administration at UC Berkeley. “Being put on the spot can be very uncomfortable.” In a study he published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, DellaVigna found that when people were given the chance to avoid interacting with a charity solicitor, as many as 25% took the out.  And those who did give? They felt ambushed for alms and coerced into opening their wallets.  So the next time you find yourself facing a guy with a bucket and a bell or a cashier asking you to add an extra dollar to your total, just remember your most recent charitable donations, smile and feel free to decline.  Don’t worry: As the research shows, plenty of other folks will knuckle under and give to escape the guilt.


More later…..