Why is it we remember some things better than others?
I’m not talking about remembering to put the bins out or that you’ve got an appointment at 3pm, important though those things may be to you. I’m not talking about remembering how to do things or where we need to be either.
I’m talking about the memories that we consciously recall, or that sneak up on us unexpectedly, from the recesses of our mind. Sometimes these are memories we recall frequently; in others, we’re surprised to see them appear, bringing to mind things we thought we’d forgotten long ago.
What all these memories have in common is the symbiotic relationship they have with our emotions. No one recalls a missed appointment from 30 years ago unless there’s an emotion attached to it, just as no one spends time thinking about all the weeks they’ve successfully put the bins out! You might wake up in the night because you forgot the bins or an appointment; however, that’s usually driven by guilt, frustration, annoyance or anxiety – which are, of course, all emotions…
What comes first memory or emotion?
Emotions help us remember. Yet what comes first: the memory or the emotion? That’s a tricky one to answer. The memory may appear first – revisiting a place may bring back memories which trigger emotions. Yet equally, the emotion may come first. Mourning the loss of a loved one may trigger memories of other losses, or happy times may cause us to remember similarly happy occasions.
When they’re positive memories, we may recall them deliberately to flood our mind with happy thoughts. Memories of a great holiday, a night out with friends or spending time with our children are all guaranteed to give us that feel-good vibe.
There are bittersweet memories too, when for example we recall happy times with someone who’s no longer in our lives. We feel sadness at their loss and joy at what they meant to us.
Then there are unhappy memories that we may try to keep at bay, yet the emotions overwhelm us.
There’s a reason why all of this happens. Each time we recall a memory which triggers an emotion (or the emotion may trigger the memory) we view the memory through the lens of our emotions. It’s why we talk about viewing life through rose-tinted spectacles, or – in French – la vie en rose (life in pink). These phrases illustrate our capacity for remembering things more positively than how they actually occurred. Imagine that your memory appears on a wall and each time you view it you paint the colours brighter, the smiles wider, the weather better and so on.
And just as we have the capacity to make things appear better, we also have the capacity to make things appear worse. That’s why reliving a trauma or phobia in our minds can seem worse each time it happens.
It’s also why no two people have the same recall of an event even if outwardly what they experienced was the same. They bring their world view to the experience so see it in a different way and then when they recall it it’s shaped by that view and also by the emotions it triggers, which are always individual.
The ebb and flow of our emotions
We interpret memories through our emotions and as our emotions aren’t static, our memories may ebb and flow like waves on an ocean. We possess the ability to let memories fade, yet we also have the ability to magnify them too. These abilities are rooted in our unconscious minds – we may consciously choose to let a memory fade yet unless we master it at an unconscious level it may come back to bite us.
People who have lived through trauma don’t consciously choose to allow negative memories to resurface. They spring up unbidden from their unconscious mind, triggered by a place, a phrase, music, someone’s behaviour, or something else. They appear in full technicolour and if you speak to people who work with those who’ve experienced trauma, they will tell you that reliving the trauma can be worse than the original event.
It’s the same with phobias – each phobic experience adds layer upon layer to the memories so that they become magnified. Imagine carrying around one piece of paper for each phobic experience you have – you could quite quickly amass a large volume that you carry with you all the time.
Banishing our demons
Our ancestors were taught to keep a stiff upper lip and box away things they didn’t want to think about. Yet just like Pandora’s box, at some point the lid is likely to be opened and all our demons will spill forth. If you’re lucky you may experience this only periodically, however some people contend with their demons on a daily basis, which can drive negative behaviours and emotions such as addictions, anger, violence and so on.
Wouldn’t our lives be enriched if we had the ability to tone down the colours of our demons or to banish them entirely; and if we were also able to tap into the brightness of our happy memories whenever we needed to too?
Well, we can!
Time Line Therapy, hypnotherapy and NLP can help us in powerful ways.
They can remove the negative emotions, feelings and limiting beliefs attached to our traumatic or unhappy memories. We literally rewire our neural networks so we can recall the memory neutrally, without any trauma or unhappiness. We never remove a memory as this would cause problems in another way, leaving gaps. Time Line Therapy is used successfully to help people with PTSD and phobias to free themselves from the intense emotions attached to memories that weigh them down.
Additionally, they can help us strengthen our ability to view our happy memories in vibrant colour, brighter and with more clarity plus magnify our positive emotions too. This also has a wonderful circular effect, as the more able we’re to do this, the more positive our happy memories become and the more happy memories we recall. What’s more, we can learn how to tap into this at any time to feel peaceful, serene, calm, contented, happy, joyful.
Imagine not only freeing yourself from the weight of negativity and distress, but also replacing it with the power to tap into an unlimited source of joy. Living la vie en rose every day….
Does that sound good?
It does to me!
If you’d like to find out more about how I can help you to banish the bad and tap into the good, please get in touch.