Reality check: Forgetfulness Choices

When we met to catch up, my friend realized that she had forgotten to bring her pictures. Discussing those pictures was the main reason for our get-together.

But we didn’t have them and it wasn’t practical to go get them. The point of our meeting that day wouldn’t be fulfilled and there was nothing to do about it.

How do you react when you’ve forgotten something?

Forgetfulness can be aggravating, frustrating, even frightening if you take it as a sign of things to come.

Let’s examine those choices again, using different words.

If you believe that you have some control over your reactions, you could say, “I choose to be aggravated by…; I choose to frustrate about…; I choose to fear my forgetfulness.”

That wording highlights something different, doesn’t it? Implied is that the aggravation, frustration, or fear doesn’t just happen. Rather, we choose.

Is it helpful to perceive responses as a choice? Well, if we can choose one response, then we can choose another. For this example, among the array of options are:

  • Spend the entire conversation talking about how sorry we are, how stupid we feel, and how we could be enjoying this time together if only we had the pictures.
  • Blame it on age, complete with complaining and moaning.
  • Worry about the inevitability of losing one’s memory.
  • Choose to take preventive action and write a reminder for next time.
  • Choose to talk about other topics and enjoy this unstructured time together.
  • Choose to be glad to have a life that is so full that some things slip your mind.
  • Choose to be grateful to be getting older, compared to the alternative.

People sometimes choose an excessively negative, catastrophic response because they think that it is expected. The basis for that choice: “I have to make this a big deal and beat myself up, or my friend will think that I don’t feel bad about it.” However, does that really help?

When you do forget something, or when you do something that you’d rather you hadn’t, try consciously choosing your reaction. You may not be able to fix it, but you may be able to interpret it in a helpful way.

If you want to be aggravated by your action, to put yourself down, to be frightened about your future, angry about your stupidity, you can. However, if you begin to see that these responses don’t work so well for your well-being, recognize that you may have more positive options.

Does it sound like I’m saying, “Make the best of it!”? Actually, I’m just suggesting that you stay aware of your choices.

Which is more effective for you: To make the best of it? Or the worst of it? Which response is more likely to be helpful for your relationships?

Oh, to any of my friends who have ever forgotten anything, this column is not about you. No, no, never.

Have you ever chosen the worst interpretation of your action because you think it’s the proper, serious, mature one? Is that really more genuine than looking for a positive, optimistic, joyful response?

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