Dear Abby: My brain keeps reminding me of unfortunate events from my past.

DEAR ABBY: I am a divorced woman, soon to be 60, often haunted by vivid memories of the past. I constantly remember the times in my life that I regret or cringe at, and the things that I wish I had handled better. They range from being embarrassed at my 7th birthday party, to being bullied in grades 5-8, to having a hard time in high school, to parenting decisions I wish I had made differently.

These memories play over and over like videos in my mind, making me feel the emotions over and over again. I’ve had therapy three times in three cities over the past 24 years. One therapist even used eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), to no avail.

I know I can’t go back and change bad choices or bad decisions, but how can I stop torturing myself because of them? Also, would you say it’s normal for people my age to have such vivid memories of what others might have let go of decades ago? — PRISONER OF THE PAST

DEAR PRISONER: People of all ages are known to revisit the past. Some have “conversations” with deceased parents, divorced husbands, former loves, etc.

One technique that might help is to get up and move around from wherever you are when these flashbacks happen in a new place. Take a 30 minute walk in the sun and smell the roses. Count your blessings. And tell yourself out loud, “That was THEN. It’s now.” You can’t think of two things at once. Try it. It’s cheaper than another therapist, and it works.

PS You are not a “prisoner” of your unhappy past; you CONQUERED it. Congratulations.

DEAR ABBY: I recently married a young lady and I want to know the best way to get her to hang up her phone as she is texting about 10 hours a day. She works from home now, and if she’s not working, she’s texting. I feel like I can’t compete and I don’t know what to do about it. Please help. — FIGHT OVER PHONE

DEAR FIGHT: Tell your wife that you feel like you’re competing with her cell phone and don’t like to come second. Many people get so caught up in their electronic devices that their relationships suffer, which is why apps have been created to make addicts more aware of the time they spend on them. Using the “focus” and “do not disturb” functions can also be useful. I suggest your wife start using one of these before your marriage deteriorates further.

DEAR ABBY: As we were driving our car to a babysitting gig, our parents asked our teenage daughter to stop at a pizza place and grab lunch for their child. While entering the parking lot of the restaurant, she hit a pole, which caused extensive damage to the bumper. Should she tell the parents expecting them to offer to pay for part of the repair or is it all up to her? — RELATED TO WORK IN THE WEST

WORK-RELATED EXPENSES: I’m sorry, but your daughter shouldn’t expect her parents to pay for her bender. She can certainly tell them what happened – if she hasn’t already – but not expect them to help her pay to get her bumper fixed.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or PO Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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