The Pollyanna Principle – people remember positive things more readily than negative things

I first learned this in a psych class in college and it has remained in my consciousness ever since, due to its ever-prevalence in my life.

Going hand in hand with forgive and forget, the Pollyanna Principle is what allows you to selectively remember the good parts of things, and simply overlook the bad in memories. You can remember laying on the couch with him and what movie you watched, or every detail about the night when he first told you that he loved you. Five years later you will still remember what you both wore to that baseball game, but you have to stretch your memory to recall the “bad stuff.”

Your brain doesn’t want you thinking about how much you cried when you found out that he cheated on you, or how much it hurt when you saw him out with another girl immediately after you broke up. It’s too hard for your brain to process those thoughts years later, so everything is seen through rose-colored glasses.

I worked an event yesterday at a college basketball game, and immediately felt a twinge, missing working in sports. I remembered the energy of a game-day, and having that excitement every day at work. I love my job – it is hands down the best job that I have ever had, and I do know that. But there is always a part of me that is going to remember my days in baseball through rose-colored glasses – the excitement of working opening day, and the constant energy and movement. That part of me has to struggle to remember exactly how it felt never having a day off, never having enough money to make ends meet, and always thinking that stopping to breathe would be the start of the end.

The Pollyanna Principle protects us – it allows us to more easily remember what was good about a person or a particular situation. Just the same, there is a benefit to tempering your most romanticized thoughts with a dose of reality to remember why things turned out the way they did.

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