The biggest secret of memories!

It was 8 years ago that I discovered that memories where actually just a construct of our brain the moment we access them rather than a video that is replayed about what actually happened in the past.

This insight came to me while I was discussing with my brother about events I remember about the time my father was still alive. Events that were for me important things that really shaped my life. In this discussion I discovered that my brother just told me that they never occured the way I described them and that as he was older at the moment of the event, his memory was more precise. It kept me wondering!

So I questioned my sisters and friends of my father and I had to agree that my memories where greatly just inventions of my brain, even though they were form me real.

Two questions popped up:

  1. Was I getting mad or does everyone suffers from this “customizing” of events?
  2. Even more interesting is whether or not these memories continue to be distorted by the “glass” we are looking through the moment we recall the event?

In the article I quote here under, you will get the necessary answers on both of the questions I just raised.

It is an article in wired and you can read it  here:

Let me take some pieces of the article that puzzled me:

…Consider the study of flashbulb memories, extremely vivid, detailed recollections. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, a team of psychologists led by William Hirst and Elizabeth Phelps surveyed several hundred subjects about their memories of that awful day. The scientists then repeated the surveys, tracking how the stories steadily decayed. At one year out, 37 percent of the details had changed. By 2004 that number was approaching 50 percent. Some changes were innocuous—the stories got tighter and the narratives more coherent—but other adjustments involved a wholesale retrofit. Some people even altered where they were when the towers fell. Over and over, the act of repeating the narrative seemed to corrupt its content. The scientists aren’t sure about this mechanism, and they have yet to analyze the data from the entire 10-year survey. But Phelps expects it to reveal that many details will be make-believe. “What’s most troubling, of course, is that these people have no idea their memories have changed this much,” she says. “The strength of the emotion makes them convinced it’s all true, even when it’s clearly not.”…

…Reconsolidation provides a mechanistic explanation for these errors. It’s why eyewitness testimony shouldn’t be trusted (even though it’s central to our justice system), why every memoir should be classified as fiction, and why it’s so disturbingly easy to implant false recollections. (The psychologistElizabeth Loftus has repeatedly demonstrated that nearly a third of subjects can be tricked into claiming a made-up memory as their own. It takes only a single exposure to a new fiction for it to be reconsolidated as fact.)…

Now we know that memories are merely a construct of our brain and NOT a kind of video that plays the moment we access the memories, we can start to think how we could use this insight! (secret)

In the above mentioned article, the scientist goes even further by using proteins the moment people access a bad memory in order to disconnect the bad feeling with the images, sounds, smells, …of the memory.

In the case of a PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) the bad feeling are the same or even heavier than the moment the event took place and this reaction does not seem to fade out. The scientist claims that by  injecting the necessary chemical products into the brain, that he can disconnect the feeling with the memory and thus he solves the PTSS. Tests have been done and results are promising.

When we know now, that memories are just an instant construct of what has been left as residue in our brain, we need to invest in this construct to behave more emotionally intelligent.
A good question to raise is then:”How does my actual state deforms the memory I am recalling?”

Knowing that your state of being is continuously filtering and deforming your memories is a great way to gain more EI!

Please fill in or just ask me some questions of other insights you could have by reading this!


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