The Past Is Not What You Think

Remember that old game of telephone where a message gets passed from person to person and comes out bizarrely different at the other end? Our memory is just like that.   Our memories mutate over time because each time that we access our memory, we are actually accessing our last memory, not the original event.

I haven’t looked for the data that shows that each mutation is influenced by our opinions, focus and biases, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

I’m as certain as the next gal that my memory of the past is pretty accurate. Yet I keep proving myself wrong.   I can recall at least one instance where I wondered if I had done X, and searched my memory banks for that action. After several repetitions of that, I was pretty sure that I had done X (I could then visualize it) only to realize later that I had completely fabricated that memory.

Maybe this is the definition of crazy.

A more concrete example has to do with my journal. I don’t tend to like to read back on previous entries….ewwww…. but on occasion I do. Sometimes I am frankly appalled by the difference between what I wrote versus my memory of that event. Though that entry is a snapshot in time, and my memory is perhaps focused on a slightly different moment in time, it still does not quite explain the considerably rosier recollection of the “me” in my head compared to what I wrote in my journal.  I can’t even accuse someone else of twisting the facts or misremembering.

The recurring theme in this repertoire of life lessons has to do with certainty. I have less and less of it as I age, which given how opinionated and certain I have been most of my life, is probably a very good thing.   The less certain I am, the less judgmental and controlling I need to be, and thus more open to other ideas and realities.

You may not agree that we should operate with less certainty. But trust me…???