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The (Sometimes) Unnecessary Weight of Carrying Your Memories

The (Sometimes) Unnecessary Weight of Carrying Your Memories

It’s amazing what memory can do. It can turn places and people into perfection. It can make you feel on top of the world or lower than dirt. A flickering recollection can change your mood for the better or the worse. A replayed conversation can make you change your mind about a person or a place. Memories can give you confidence. Memories can give you shame. Memories are one of the strongest influences on your present life, yet they are stories that are largely made up in your own head.

After digging up a little info on memory I learned lots of interesting tidbits. Did you know there are different styles of memory? And that memories can be likened to the game of telephone? Our memories change based on our previous memories of the original event. For instance, if you’ve remembered a particular event several times, every additional time you recall it, it is likely to change slightly. 

Therefore, everything in your past is exactly that. It is yours. No one will remember your life the way that you do. Experiences you’ve had, even if they were shared with others, will not exist anywhere else as they are in your mind. This is an important truth that I am guilty of forgetting. 

In my memories, I tend to project my feelings onto others. If I feel bad about a situation, I assume that everyone else agrees that I should feel bad. These negative projections have gone so far as to affect entire periods of time in my life or relationships with people from my past. 

Emotion has a lot to do with memory. The more emotionally affected you are by an event, the more likely the memory of that event will be vivid in your mind. Perhaps this is why you always remember arguments where you were very upset and your partner seems to conveniently forget them!

I recently took a long stroll down memory lane because I had the chance to reconnect with a family I used to live with and work for. I naturally brought up several stories where I had felt foolish or had “messed up” because those were the memories that had stuck in mind. With almost all of these events, those involved either had much less negative interpretations or didn't remember the event at all. Those "mess up" events that were remembered were lightly turned into sarcastic, playful jabs over a glass of wine. None of my "bad" memories held the weight I had been carrying for so many years. 

Memory is a delicate gift. It is clearly something we must have to function. It’s also important for our sense of self and connection with others. But it isn’t perfect and it is extremely personal. 

If a memory is causing you stress or shame, it is important to remember that you have created your memories yourself. You remember the event how you think it happened. And your emotions at the time of the event will dramatically affect how you remember it.

I've found that for memories where I am guilty of bad or less-than-ideal behavior, the best thing I can do is to go back to the scene of the crime. We gain memory from experiences. Thus, to rid ourselves of our I-would-have-done-that-differently moments, you have to create new memories to fall back on. Reconnection can be a wonderful and healing process. When it comes to memory, you do have some control. Constantly create a story you don’t mind carrying with you.

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