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Your Worst Memory

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Everybody has one bad memory worse than any other, a traumatic moment that haunts them for the rest of their lives. This experience often grows to define their character and drives them to compensate for what it represents. Sometimes, they may even force themselves to forget it, with varying degrees of success.

And then, no matter what they've done to suppress it, along comes something that makes them relive the moment.

This trope can occur in a number of different ways: on the simplest level, it can appear in the form of a dream, especially if the memory was traumatic enough; in more extreme cases, it can be brought back through magic, technology, or even an afterlife. In some cases, time travel may be involved. Whatever the case, the character is made to watch their worst memories play out all over again — and if they're unlucky, more than once. If they're really unlucky, forever.

For good measure, a not-uncommon twist to this trope involves someone else being invited along to this particular trip down memory lane, perhaps out of solidarity, maybe by mistake, or perhaps out of sheer sadism.

May involve a Journey to the Center of the Mind, a Mind Probe, Mind Rape, a Mind Prison, a Black Bug Room, or a Psychological Torment Zone.

Compare and contrast My Greatest Failure, which may be a source of this trope, and Trauma Button, which can be inspired by examples of this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • For Yuko in The Demon Girl Next Door, the time when she was in the hospital dying from a double dose of the Light Clan's curse on her family. When she uses her Dream Walker powers on herself, she was trapped in this part of her memories, being attacked by syringes and IV drips in a labyrinthine hospital with no exit, to the point it took Momo with (temporarily) to become Yuko's vassal to make them family, as only another family member can enter a Dream Walker's dreams, so Momo can go into Yuko's nightmare to pull her out.
  • In the manga and 7th OVA of Hellsing, Seras is subjected to Mind Rape, forcing her to relive her painful childhood memories, particularly when she was Forced to Watch her parents being murdered by gangsters and her mother's corpse being raped.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, a mental assault by the Fifteenth Angel, Arael, causes Asuka to relive her whole Dark and Troubled Past, which includes her mother Kyōko going mad after test-piloting EVA Unit-02, being unable to recognize Asuka, shunning her daughter in favor of a Creepy Doll, Asuka herself hearing other people talk about her and her mother's lives, her father cheating on her mother with her mother's doctor, Kyōko trying to strangle Asuka in the manga, and Asuka finding Kyōko's hanging corpse (alongside the doll) on the same day Asuka was chosen as an EVA pilot.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Kaneki holds his mother in high regard, faithfully holding on to her belief that that kind people can tolerate any pain or any wrong done to them and still be happy. However, suppressed memories from his childhood reveal that Kaneki's mother was occasionally abusive towards him and that he held deep resentment towards her after her death. This revelation is what causes him to leave his mother's way of life and start following his own ideals.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • The crux of The Holy Terror. After exploring the Castle at length, the Doctor learns that it's actually a Prison Dimension for a single inmate: Eugene Tacitus, the court scribe. Most of the time it's a Lotus-Eater Machine to lull the prisoner's troubling memories and make him forget his former life; every few thousand years, however, a new character appears in the Castle and forces the inmate to relive his crime "in every horrific detail": the murder of his own son.
    • In Master, after finally being forced to spill the beans on "John Smith's" past, the Doctor recounts the Master's worst memory and allows John to experience it as flashback alongside the narration. Here, a young Time Lord murdered a bully to save his best friend's life: the guilt gradually transformed the murderer into the Master, the champion of Death herself, while his friend became the Doctor, his greatest opponent. However, when she later appears, Death reveals a hidden twist: it's actually the Doctor's worst memory, for he was the one who murdered the bully to save the Master; realizing that Death was going to make him her champion, the young Time Lord begged her to take the Master instead — a deal that she accepted. For good measure, she forces the Doctor to relive the incident in flashback just so he knows she isn't lying — leaving him weeping with remorse.

    Comic Books 
  • Across the Batman franchise, the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents serves as the most consistent example of this trope. Numerous works depict Batman still occasionally suffering nightmares and flashbacks when reminded of the event, while hallucinogenic substances — like Scarecrow's fear gas — may force him to relive it in detail.
  • In Captain Britain: A Crooked World, Linda McQuillan (AKA Captain UK) is revealed to have escaped Mad Jim Jaspers' anti-superhero pogrom and is now living an ordinary life in our dimension. However, she's soon stricken by horrific nightmares of her worst memory from the world she escaped: the day her husband died at the hands of the Fury while getting her to safety. The horror is compounded when she discovers that Jaspers' counterpart in this dimension has just been elected Prime Minister... and then the Fury finds her again. Suffice it to say, this was a plot arc that spent a lot of time hammering Linda's Trauma Button.
  • Throughout the early chapters of Locke & Key, Tyler and Kinsey Locke are traumatized by the murder of their father, and infrequently flash back to the event - Kinsey recalling hiding from the home invaders on the roof, Tyler remembering his confrontation with Sam Lesser and Rendell Locke's bullet-ridden face. Even the smell of paint is enough to remind Kinsey of the half-painted house she was hiding over, prompting her to vomit. Later, use of the Head Key reveals that the sight of Rendell's dead face looms large in Tyler's mental landscape, along with the words Sam said to him.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen makes it abundantly clear that Mina's encounter with Dracula left her both physically and emotionally scarred, growing upset whenever it's brought up. However, in Century, this comes back to haunt her during a live band performance when a flock of bats are unleashed upon the audience: by this time, Mina has been unwillingly dosed with LSD by Tom Riddle and narrowly escaped possession by Oliver Haddo over the course of the trip, so she perceives the half-suffocated bats as Dracula coming to get her. Suddenly reliving the moment when she was bitten, she suffers a Freak Out and is hospitalized.
  • One particularly infamous issue of X-Men features Emma Frost getting caught having an affair with Cyclops. Enraged, Jean Grey psychically assaults Emma at length, forcing her to relive all of her most painful memories, most prominently her failure to save the Hellions.
  • While X-23 has endured loads of pain and trauma in her young life, and it has taken years for her to come to terms with the terrible things she has done and had done to her, it's implied her single worst memory is of being forced to kill her mother under the effects of the trigger scent. Emma Frost specifically uses this memory to torment her in an effort to drive her away from the school. It reduces The Stoic Laura to tears.

    Fan Works 
  • In Adjusting, Matt clearly views his fight with Andrew (where he had to kill his cousin to save Seattle) as this trope.
  • Better Bones AU: Whenever a cat joins the Dark Forest, the place in which their worst memory occurred is added to the Dark Forest's landscape as a land mar. For instance, Houndleap's is the place he was caught for having many cross-Clan affairs (when one of his lovers ran into him with another one) and Morningstar's is the ThunderClan camp when he was overthrown from leadership.
  • In Equestrylvania, Death has the power to inflict an instantaneous Mind Rape on anyone who makes the mistake of looking upon his face, forcing them to relive their most painful memories.
  • Throughout The Land of What Might-Have-Been, visitors from Oz begin to receive the memories of their counterparts in the alternate universe, experienced as dreams and nightmares. Through this process, Dorothy eventually finds herself reliving the worst moment of her other self's life: the destruction of Kansas, the death of her family, and her agonizing transformation into the Hellion.
  • In the Firefly fic Broken, Mal is captured and tormented by being forced to relive his worst memories. River ends up fixing him after he's rescued.
  • Vow of Nudity: Meeting a Void Genasi in the volcano mines causes Haara to instantly flashback to her traumatic dinner with the Star King years earlier.

    Film — Animated 
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: Poe's earliest (and worst) memories are a major plot point. His nightmares/flashbacks to the night he lost his mother eventually reveal that Lord Shen attacked Po's village when he was a baby, and is the reason why Po is the only panda seen in the franchise to that point. Reliving the memory and learning the truth leaves Po with A Thousand Yard Stare.
  • The Lion King (1994): Simba watched his father apparently fall from the cliff (only learning later that he was pushed) when he was a cub. He has a flashback to this memory when Scar reveals to Simba that he in fact killed Mufasa, giving him a Heroic Second Wind.
  • NIMONA (2023): In the finale, the friendship between Ballister and Nimona breaks down due to a seed of doubt between them, resulting in Nimona running away and having a flashback to easily the worst moment of her life: it turns out that she spent a great deal of time trying to make friends with various animals and being rejected by all of them, until Nimona befriended a human child, even becoming close enough to reveal her powers to her... only for the friendship to come undone when the little girl's parents and fellow townsfolk violently rejected Nimona, resulting in an accident that burned down her village. In the wake of the disaster, the little girl - Gloreth - rejected her as well, eventually forming the basis of the society that continues to demonize Nimona and everyone like her to this day. The recollection is so painful that, back in the present, it causes Nimona to give in to every horrible thing said about her and transform into a monster.
  • Steven Universe: The Movie: Several Gems are stricken with Identity Amnesia, and the only way to fix it is to remind them of the significant life experiences they've forgotten. In the case of Spinel, the movie's antagonist, she has to be reminded of the worst experience of her life: being abandoned for 6,000 years in Pink Diamond's garden, and not knowing that she had been abandoned until she saw the transmission Steven made at the beginning of the movie.
  • In Turning Red, while preparing for the red moon ritual, Mei flashes back to when she had mauled Tyler in her giant red panda form, and jumps back slightly in shock.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • As part of the ongoing Mind Rape of the rescue team in Event Horizon, the eponymous ship summons up illusions of their most traumatic memories: Captain Miller experiences visions of an ensign he was forced to leave behind in a spaceship fire, while Dr Weir repeatedly hallucinates his dead wife — until he relives the moment she committed suicide. Everyone ends up deeply disturbed by what they witness, except for Weir, who crosses the Despair Event Horizon and tears his eyes out, before becoming a thrall of the ship.
  • In The Force Awakens, one of Rey's worst memories is the day her parents left her on Jakku as a child, never to return. When she finds the Skywalker lightsaber, she has a number of disturbing visions and one that horrifies her the most is seeing her child-self being restrained as her family's ship flies away, screaming for them to come back. Shortly after, Maz Kanata tells Rey that deep down she knows her parents aren't coming back, but she's so distressed by this that she initially goes into denial and runs off in tears. The vision in fact seems to have partly triggered by Finn, her first real friend, telling her he's leaving, which brought up her old memories and fears of abandonment.
  • In Inception, Dom Cobb has created a prison inside his mind in which he stores his most painful memories. Ariadne pays a visit and discovers that chief among them are the scene of Mal's suicide and the moment when Dom had to leave his children to go on the run. Later in the film, as the heist grows more strenuous and his composure begins to slip, the image of his children begins to haunt Dom alongside Mal's shade, always out of reach and always with their backs turned to him.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier features this as an apparent effect of the villain's powers: Sybok has the ability to telepathically confront others with their "secret pain" and heal them of it, usually converting them to his side in the process. Bones relives the moment he was forced to take his father off life support, while Spock recalls his birth and the conflict between his human and Vulcan heritage that resulted; however, neither of them joins Sybok.note  In Spock's case the effort backfires when Spock points out to Sybok that he had already made his peace with that demon.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: Loki inflicts this on Valkyrie when he realizes who she truly is. During the backstory, her fellow Valkyries were all wiped out in a hopeless battle with Hela, leaving the future "Scrapper 142" as an alcoholic Shell-Shocked Veteran: a little Mind Rape from Loki brings back the memory in exquisite detail, giving her an extended flashback of all her friends being slaughtered by a barrage of Hela's throwing daggers, portrayed in eerie slow-motion glimpses that make it look all the more like a nightmare. For good measure, it's also implied (and later confirmed) that Valkyrie lost a lover in this fight, given her devastated reaction to a fellow soldier Taking the Bullet to save her from one of Hela's blades. However, instead of stopping her, the mind rape just pisses Valkyrie off: kicking Loki's ass, she then decides to give up the life of an outcast and join Thor.

  • Everworld features David being tormented by the memory of a child being molested by a counselor at summer camp, and it's believed that his failure to save the boy from rape is what drives David to be such a Heroic Wannabe. However, after spending time under Senna's influence, he relives the incident in greater detail: it turns out that David was the one being sexually assaulted, and he's been trying to make up for the shame of what was done to him.
  • In the ending of The Fractured Atlas — Five Fragments by John Connolly, the protagonist is psychically imprisoned in his memories of World War One, specifically the catastrophic battle of High Wood. Indeed, the Humanoid Abomination presiding over his sentence notes that the memory was so horrific that there honestly wasn't much more that the Not-God could do to him other than make him relive it.
  • Gerald's Game has the protagonist hearing voices in her head representing different parts of her personality. They all help her extract the painful memory of her father sexually abusing her when she was 10.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Dementors are Emotion Eaters who suck out all joy from humans, leaving them with nothing but their worst memories. Harry, when attacked by the Dementors, hears the voices of his parents right before their murder at the hands of Voldemort.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry views Snape's worst memory using the Pensieve, a Memory Jar containing Snape's unwanted memories, during occlumency class. The chapter is even called "Snape's Worst Memory". The memory involves Snape being brutally bullied by Harry's father, which horrifies Harry. Later revelations in the seventh book reveal that the real reason it was his worst memory was that it was the day he lost Lily, the love of his life, for good.
    • In the sixth book, Dumbledore starts sobbing and pleading to someone after drinking a potion in the Horcrux cave to hurt him, instead of "them". It freaks Harry out but since there are more pressing matters, he doesn't really have the time to give it much mind. Harry, at that point, knows two things about Dumbledore's younger years: he defeated a dark wizard named Grindelwald some fifty years previously and he has a brother named Aberforth. Over the course of the next year, Harry learns more about his history: he and Grindelwald were "friends" and he had a sister named Ariana who died when the three of them were teenagers. During a confrontation between him, Grindelwald, and Aberforth, Ariana died in the crossfire and while they don't know who exactly killed her, he considers himself her killer and still hates himself for it a century later.
  • In The Ship Who... Won, Sapient Ship Carialle underwent a harrowing ordeal where she survived an explosion and drifted through space, her brawn dead, most of her sensors nonfunctional, perceiving or hallucinating Salvage Pirates painfully picking pieces off of her and killing yet more of the few inputs she had remaining, slowly going mad. After two years of extensive therapy she returned to being installed on a ship and picked up a new brawn, but she still Hates Being Alone. Sometimes when Keff is asleep or unavailable she vividly recalls the explosion and its aftermath - as a shellperson, if she wants to forget or just have the memory not be crystal clear and as if it happened mere minutes ago, she has to deliberately and painstakingly remove it from her memory banks.
    • In the same book, Ozrans can use their mental influence to cause completely vivid and realistic hallucinations, which they use to torment people who can't fight back. One manages to turn this on Carialle and then complains that her screaming is too loud.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In A Game of Thrones, Eddard "Ned" Stark is haunted throughout the story by his sister's death, continuously remembering a "bed of blood" and her last words to him: "Promise me, Ned." After getting his leg crushed under his horse in a street brawl with Jaime Lannister, Ned is given milk of the poppy for the pain and experiences a dream in which he relives both Lyanna's death and the events leading up to it.
    • In A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion Lannister is haunted by the memory of killing his lover and father. Whether or not it's his worst memory, it's definitely the major drive behind his complete breakdown in that book, and he constantly hears the sound of the crossbow he used.
  • In the Arcia Chronicles, when Roman runs into a pair of ancient deities known as "Great Brothers", one of them wears the face of his long-lost friend Uann and the other, that of his late father Asten. They then explain that every person sees them differently; one face represents the greatest mystery in the onlooker's life (Uann in Roman's case), while the other represents their most painful memory (Asten).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In "The Well", Ward touches an Asgardian staff and is forced to relive what he describes as his worst memory and the first time he felt hate — namely the moment his older brother told him to leave his little brother at the bottom of a well. May picks up the staff later and is able to handle it. When Ward asks her about it, she explains that she sees her memory every day.
  • According to American Horror Story: Coven, those damned to Hell are forced into either their worst nightmare or their worst memory, as the witches discover when they visit during their final exams: in the case of the latter, Queenie ends up working her old self-esteem-destroying job at the fried chicken restaurant, while animal-loving Misty Day is condemned to relive the dissection of a frog in biology class. Of the two, Queenie is able to leave before it's too late; Misty doesn't.
  • An episode of The Book of Boba Fett revealed Grogu’s was, shock of all shocks, Order 66.
  • Farscape:
    • In "That Old Black Magic", Maldis taunts Captain Crais with a vision of the day he and his brother Tauvo were conscripted for Peacekeeper service, specifically the moment when his father entrusted him with keeping Tauvo safe. Already miserable enough on its own, the fact that Tauvo was killed in an accident at the start of the series only makes the vision even more upsetting for Crais, fueling his hunger for vengeance against John Crichton — who he blames for the accident.
    • Zhaan's worst memory makes an appearance in "Rhapsody In Blue", deliberately shared with Crichton via her Enlightenment Superpowers: Zhaan was once the student and lover of Bitaal, spiritual leader of the Delvians. Not wanting to give up power, Bitaal and a small faction of conservative priests seized control of the planet with the aid of the Peacekeepers and instituted a reign of terror. Despite loving her tutor with all her heart, Zhaan killed Bitaal to avenge the lives he destroyed — while the two of them were sharing Unity, no less, a process that clearly left Zhaan devastated. She was immediately arrested and imprisoned by the Peacekeepers, of course, but the psychic backlash of succumbing to her darker impulses quickly drove Zhaan insane: she spent the next seventeen years in captivity as "a savage" before she was able to gradually return to her study of the Delvian Seek and regain her sense of self.
    • "The Hidden Memory" brings back Crais' worst memory when he's tortured for information by Scorpius, the memory-extracting Aurora Chair replaying the moment on a nearby screen. Already in agony, Crais spends the next few seconds screaming at Scorpius to turn the machine off — much to Scorpy's amusement. Ironically, this isn't the memory he really wants to keep hidden: as it turns out, it's the moment Crais murdered his loyal first officer to keep his dereliction of duty a secret.
    • Scorpius later subjects himself to this in "Incubator". Here, in an effort to persuade Crichton's neural clone of the threat posed by the Scarran Imperium, Scorpius shares the memories of his past as a Scarran test subject. Out of all his memories, the most prominent is the point when his "nanny" forced him to watch recorded footage of his mother being raped by a Scarran soldier — in other words, the only video footage Scorpius has of his parents. The experience of reliving it is so traumatic that the present Scorpius begins to suffer a fit, endangering his life and actually prompting genuine concern from Crichton.
    • In "Mental As Anything", D'Argo finally catches up with his wife's killer at a training camp equipped with a virtual reality machine. Macton, brother to the murdered Lo'Lann, at first appears to have the upper hand: ambushing D'Argo while he's using the simulator to overcome his rage, he gaslights him into thinking that his wife committed suicide after repeated Domestic Abuse, then traps him in his worst memory, namely his cell on Moya after he was framed for Lo'Lann's murder. However, D'Argo gets a Heroic Second Wind and turns the tables on Macton, forcing him to reveal that Lo'Lann's death was due to an accident in the middle of an argument over her marriage — though the frame-up certainly wasn't. Deciding not to kill him, D'Argo instead leaves Macton comatose and reliving his worst memory for the rest of his life: disfiguring his sister's body so that D'Argo would be blamed.
  • The Haunting of Hill House (2018) establishes that Nelly's sightings of "The Bent-Neck Lady" comprise some of the worst moments of her life, chief among them being the death of her husband courtesy of a stroke. The house brings this back in a particularly cruel way when it fools Nelly into hanging herself, then sends her ghost plummeting backwards through time: the realization that she was the Bent-Neck Lady all along is bad enough, but the sight of her husband's death repeating itself before her is even worse.
  • In Preacher, the denizens of Hell are forced to relive the worst moments of their lives for as long as they're kept in their cells: Eugene relives the moment of his crush's attempted suicide and his own facial disfigurement; the Saint of Killers repeats the day his wife and child died, then re-enacts the vengeful massacre he inflicted on the town of Ratwater; and Adolf Hitler re-experiences the moment of rejection and humiliation that first drove him to get into politics.
  • This is the main effect of the "A" pill in Maniac. While under its influence, the test subjects relive their worst memory, allowing the researchers to map out their traumas for the next stage of the treatment. Here, Annie repeats the last day she spent with her little sister Ellie, during which Annie went out of her way to hurt her feelings — right before their car veered into the path of a truck, killing Ellie on impact. Meanwhile, Owen recalls an incident in which he suffered a psychotic episode and become convinced that a girl he had a crush on was spying on him, resulting in a public meltdown that destroyed their relationship and left Owen forever in doubt of his own sanity. In turn, the "B" and "C" stages bring back elements of these memories, but in progressively more constructive ways until Annie and Owen should finally be able to confront and overcome them... or at least that's their trajectory up until the computer in charge of the treatment starts developing personality problems of her own.
  • When Commander Sisko first meets the wormhole aliens in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he keeps repeating the worst moment of his life - the day his wife Jennifer was killed at the Battle of Wolf 359. Finally, he demands to know why they keep bringing him to that exact moment. The aliens, who have no concept of linear time, say they are not bringing him there. He is in fact bringing them to that moment, because he has never been able to move past her death.
    Sisko: I see her like this, every time I close my eyes. In the darkness, in the blink of an eye, I see her like this.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Gamekeeper", SG-1 is unexpectedly captured and placed in a virtual reality simulation by the eponymous villain, each scenario modeled off a particularly traumatic moment from a team member's past: Jackson and Carter relive the day when Jackson's parents died in an accident, while O'Neil and Teal'c repeat a disastrous mission from O'Neil's black ops days. The Gamekeeper initially claims to be giving them a chance to correct the mistakes of the past, but in reality, he's just delaying them with a Lotus-Eater Machine to ensure that none of his captives wake up and spoil the paradise the planet has become. As such, every attempt at righting the wrongs ends in failure.
  • Westworld: To make them more lifelike, each of the hosts is implanted with a particularly intense memory that forms the cornerstone of its personality. Some of the memories are happy, but many are traumatic, such as the death of Bernard's son.
  • WandaVision: Agatha Harkness casts a spell that makes Wanda relieve key moments of her life, including some of her worst memories — the death of her parents from a bomb, and Wanda becoming HYDRA's test subject. Agatha follows Wanda into these "re-runs" because she wants to find out the origin of Wanda's powers.

    Video Games 
  • Another Code: Ashley's worst memory is her third birthday, seeing her mother get shot to death. The fact that she frequently sees this as a fuzzy nightmare doesn't help her.
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • As with the rest of the franchise, Batman is haunted by the death of his parents: his second dose of Scarecrow toxin in Arkham Asylum results in him regressing back to childhood and stumbling across the bodies, while Arkham VR allows the player to experience a nightmare of the event in first person.
    • However, in Arkham Knight, Batman is more driven by his fears of losing the Bat-family, and so his original worst memory appears to have been succeeded by Jason Todd's murder at the hands of the Joker (reportedly seen on tape after the fact). As such, Batman's efforts to keep Tim Drake safe at Panessa Studios results in his increasingly-unhinged mind conjuring up visions of each stage of Jason's torture, concluding with the now-branded and brainwashed prisoner being shot dead by Joker... until Batman finally caves in and locks Tim in a quarantine cell, believing that he'll be safe there. In the end, this only makes it easier for Scarecrow to kidnap him in the finale.
  • In Dead Space 2, Isaac is haunted by the death of his girlfriend Nicole, and the power of the Marker brings the memory back in the form of an illusory Nicole exactly as she was just before her suicide, even re-enacting her final moments early in the game.
  • During a visit to Korriban in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, you have the opportunity to stray into the tomb of Ludo Kressh. Much like the cave in The Empire Strikes Back, it forces the the Exile experience nightmarish visions: one involves the ex-general's memories of an infamous battle during the Mandalorian War, in which the Exile ordered allied troops to cross a minefield, killing most of them; from the dialog options, it's clear that the event still haunts the Exile. However, in this vision, you have the opportunity to either force the troops to re-enact their senseless deaths, disable the minefield one by one, or cross it yourself to save the troops.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, Rose is eventually revealed to be carrying a great deal of trauma over the death of her friends in the final battle of the Dragon Campaign over eleven thousand years ago, the worst moment being the eternal petrification of her fiancé, Zieg - and her last attempt to save him before the two of them were parted forever. Rose finds herself unintentionally re-enacting this moment while she and Dart are dangling from the edge of the phantom ship's prow; Dart already reminds her of Zieg, so when he urges her to let him go and save herself as Zieg once did, Rose begins having flashbacks. After the two are washed ashore, Rose is left tending to an unconscious Dart through the night, during which she suffers another flashback and relives the moment in horrific detail.
  • OMORI: Sunny's darkest, most repressed memory that Headspace was created to keep hidden is him accidentally pushing Mari down the stairs and killing her, then trying to frame it as a suicide with the help of Basil. His attempt to repress this is what turns him into a hikikomori, shutting himself away from his dear friends because he cannot bear for them to find out the truth. Yet despite this, nightmares about that memory frequently surface throughout the game.
  • The Secret World
    • Spinoff game The Park is eventually revealed to be an entire instance of this trope for Lorraine Maillard. In the aftermath of her visit to Atlantic Island Park, during which she suffers a Mind Rape and is forced by Nathaniel Winter to murder her own son, she repeats the opening lines: "in my heart and mind, I always return to Atlantic Island Park." Then, once the credits are over, you have the option of "continuing" the finished game; this, combined with your inability to leave the area on the grounds that you "still have things to do," indicates that the whole game was just Lorraine reliving the events of her visit to the park in her nightmares... and she will continue to do so for the rest of her natural life — and given the fact that she becomes effectively immortal in the main game, this may be a while.
    • In the main game, Lorraine's brushes with this trope continue in "The Seven Silences." At some point, she's set herself the task of finding seven dreams powerful enough to end her torment once and for all, and it's up to the player to follow the trail of dreams in order to find out what happened. All the dreams she experiences somehow tied back to the traumas she experienced during and after the visit to the park, but the fourth actually requires her to return to Atlantic Island Park in her nightmares and confront the monstrous inhabitants again. Just to drive in the trauma for Lorraine, there's also a vision of Callum's body there.
  • In the Mind Prison arranged for her in Saints Row IV, Shaundi is forced to witness the death of Johnny Gat all over again. Unknown to her, Johnny is actually still alive and in a Mind Prison of his own.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line, Captain Walker is left traumatized by the White Phosphorous incident, particularly the sight of the mother and child he'd burned alive during the massacre. Not only does this cause him to experience flashbacks to the incident for the rest of the game, Colonel Konrad is able to get under Walker's skin by painting the incident on canvas. And then it turns out that the Konrad you've been talking to for most of the game is nothing more than a hallucination, making the painting just another product of Walker's guilt-stricken mind.
  • World of Warcraft: Sylvanas' worst memory is undoubtedly the moment she was raised by the Lich King as a banshee and forced to raze the homeland she swore to protect, Quel'Thalas.

  • In the "Strong Enough" two-parter in Batman Wayne Family Adventures, a tire iron dragged on the floor sends Jason into a panic attack, causing him to relive being beaten to death by the Joker and then resurrected by the Lazarus Pit.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Durkon being kicked out of his homeland without any notice or explanation was the worst day of his life. The experience left him miserable and bitter for decades until he met Roy and became friends with him. The vampire spirit controlling his body then forces him to relive that memory, using it as the basis for a Breaking Speech that leaves Durkon unable to speak back. He later inverts this, regaining control long enough to let Belkar stab his vampirized form, as Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. So badly, in fact, that he ASSIMILATES the vampire spirit!
    Durkon: Thar's na much ta explain. Ye told me b'fore tha ye are who ye are on tha worst day o' yer life. An' tha's true. Tha's 100% true. But ye know who else ye are? Ye are who ye are on the next day. Tha day ye wake up an' haf ta decide: are ye gonna make this tha new worst day o' yer life, or na? An' ye are who ye are the day after tha, which can also be yer new worst... or na. Ye are who ye are on all o' yer days. All o' em. Includin' tha worst an' tha best. Ev'ry single one counts. All tha way ta tha end.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, General Karl Tagon recounts the day when most of his family was killed by a weaponized nanobot attack aimed at him. To make it worse, his actions in the aftermath of the assassination attempt alienated his single surviving family member, his son.

    Western Animation 
  • BoJack Horseman: "Time's Arrow" is A Day in the Limelight for BoJack's elderly mother Beatrice, who is suffering from dementia; the episode is composed of various scattered, often less-than-coherent memories from various important points in her life. The most pervasive image among these memories, and the final memory we see before Beatrice comes back to reality, is when she had scarlet fever as a child and her abusive father Joseph threw her favorite baby doll into the fire to prevent her sickness from spreading, then threatened to lobotomize her if she cried about it. The memory of her doll burning is what prevented her from aborting her pregnancy, representing how her childhood trauma ruined her life as an adult.
  • Infinity Train:
    • In "The Cat's Car", Tulip is trapped by a device that sucks her into her own memories. It's pleasant at first, but then things get increasingly distorted. Tulip realizes she's romanticizing her pleasant memories and exaggerating her bad ones, and she has to remember what really happened. This includes facing her memories of the day her parents told her they were undergoing a separation and confronting how bad she feels for lashing out at her parents and blaming herself for their divorce.
    • A later episode shows the same thing happening to Grace, where she realizes that her desire to be seen and be the one in charge (even if she doesn't really know better and is only pretending to) comes from being ignored by her parents as a child (being cared for by revolving nannies whose faces she can't even remember) and alienated from the kids she tried to bond with.
  • The Owl House:
    • In "Knock Knock Knockin' on Hooty's Door," Hooty drugs Eda with potent sleeping magic, inadvertently forcing her to not only confront her Owl Beast curse but witness the most traumatic memories related to her curse, namely when she lashed out at her father while cursed and when her partner Raine broke up with her. It also appears that the Owl Beast itself relives a traumatic memory alongside Eda, as we see a memory of the beast get captured and trapped inside a spell that seems unfamiliar to Eda herself.
    • In the Season 2 finale, Gus uses his illusion magic on Belos to drag up the memories of him murdering his own brother Caleb, and creating the Grimwalkers in Caleb's image. This causes Belos to grab at his head and scream in agony, and after Hunter interrupts the spell by pulling Gus out of harm's way, Gus has one hell of a Thousand-Yard Stare on his face.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • "The Rickshank Redemption" features this courtesy of a Virtual-Reality Interrogation: imprisoned by the Federation, Rick is grilled for info on the physics behind his portal gun and sent back through his memories to find out how he got it to work. As it turns out, our Rick was once an unambitious family man who gave up on interdimensional physics when he saw what the other dimension-hopping Ricks across the multiverse were like, even turning down an offer of assistance from the Council of Ricks. Unfortunately, the Council retaliated by murdering his wife and daughter, leaving Rick with nothing left to do but work out the calculations in the ashes and cobble together his first portal gun. It's made abundantly clear that his present self is left absolutely devastated from re-witnessing this moment — not helped by the fact that the agent supervising the interrogation couldn't give a damn about any of it. And then subverted when it turns out that Rick faked the memory just so he could hack the Mind Probe and steal the supervising agent's body.
    • "Rickamurai Jack" reveals that Rick didn't fake the memory entirely, as is discovered when he reluctantly shares the truth with Morty: the death of his wife and child was real, but he didn't work the calculations immediately. Instead, he spent quite some time mourning for their deaths alone in the ruins of his house before finally returning to work - this time with the goal of hunting down the Rick that carried out the assassination. He never found him. In the process, he ended up wiping out a huge chunk of the Rick population before they sued for peace - later becoming directly involved in the creation of the Citadel of Ricks, making him indirectly responsible for the atrocities the Citadel Council inflicted on Ricks and Morties across the multiverse.
  • Twelve Forever: In "Secrets Forever", Reggie, Todd, and Esther come across a grocery store in the middle of Endless that doesn't seem to have any groceries within initially. However products with their faces on the labels start popping up and they find that anytime they open them, it plays an embarrassing memory from their lives. Todd and Esther's aren't too bad on the first few products, but when they get to Reggie's, hers turns out to be a memory she's not keen on. Namely that on her eleventh birthday, she tried to invite her class to her party, but no one other than her mom's friend showed up. It does end up subverted in the end as, while disappointed her classmates didn't come, her mother and said friend did cheer her up.
  • World of Quest: The two-part episode "The Fall Of Odyssia" has the Valley Of Sorrows, a place whose mist causes its victims to relive their worst memories. While we get a brief glimpse at most of the heroes' respective memories excluding Way, the most focus is given to Quest's, specifically the events that led to him being banished from the kingdom by the Queen for failing to prevent an infant Nestor's kidnapping.

    Real Life 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, aka PTSD, is based largely on this; the sufferer essentially relives the event which caused the trauma when they're reminded of it, and enters the same state of panic. It can be triggered by something relatively mundane, (e.g. first responders at the Pulse nightclub massacre being triggered by cell phones because of the victims' phones ringing as their loved ones tried to contact them), and sufferers often feel like they're back at the traumatic event.


Video Example(s):


Valkyrie's Past

In the middle of a fight with Valkyrie, Loki uses his powers to bring back the worst of her memories - the death of her friends at the hands of Hela.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / YourWorstMemory

Media sources: