Throughout our day, the voice of memories echoes in our head. It can be the source of great happiness, or the source of great pain. Memories allow us to time-travel, as the voice of memories belongs to yesterday, yet affects our future.
Memories are vital to our sense of self-worth and the control centre of our existence. We preserve information, as well as recover it from our memory bank. Memories give meaning to our everyday life, both consciously and unconsciously.
Imagine waking up each morning and relearning how to talk, walk and feed ourselves. Seriously impaired, or injured people, find that a necessity.
People living with dementia create fresh memories each day, even though the memories may be fleeting. They often revert to incidents that happened long ago, as if they took place only yesterday.
Storehouse Of Memories
Our mind is a receiver, as well as a storehouse. It is a judge and jury. Situations are judged by what we have stored in our memory bank.
Our memories are a map of the paths we take. They are a web of things that have occurred throughout our lifetime. We attribute meaning to memories as we react to smells, sights, and sounds, or the feel of something we have touched.
Our mind intentionally or unintentionally alters facts. We can change the details of negative memories and soften them. Yet the memories of the children who were exposed to the actions of a deranged gunman at the Robb Elementary School will never completely fade. Something as simple as a smell can trigger a range of terrifying memories.
A group of people who witness an accident will recall different aspects. What they report is what they filter through their personal experiences and what is in their memory bank.
Memories have special value that allow us to tell meaningful stories about our lives. They help us set goals and envision the future. Our past adds value to our future and our future adds value to our past.
The voice of memories allows us to associate unrelated facts, as memories are a patchwork of inferences. Our memories comprise both fact and fiction.
Memories And Dreams
Our memories are influenced by dreams. They are part of our well-being. Through memories and dreams, we create our future.
We can withdraw into the world of dreams when things get rough. It’s a private world in our head, where our voice of memories and aspirations have free rein. It can help us shine a new perspective on our daily problems. Memories and dreams can enable us to use our natural problem-solving gift. A gift we all have.
Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory sufferers recall everything that has happened to them, in precise detail. One sufferer described it as, “An endless roll of non-stop memories. An uncontrollable, totally exhausting burden”.
Rebecca Sharrock, and HSAM suffers, constantly and emotionally relives her autobiographical memories. Her earliest memory was when she was just twelve-days old.
That kind of life is incomprehensible to most of us. It’s enough having the memories we have, without adding a million others to the memory bank.
Longevity was once the norm. Mrs Noah lived for nearly a thousand years. What memories, regrets, or desires would she have to contend with? It would have been a disaster if she had suffered from HSAM.
Encoding Voice Of Memories
Memory is both dynamic and flexible. It is constructed from elements scattered throughout various areas of our brain. This process is called encoding.
We all experience lapses of memory. This can be from not remembering where we parked our car, to the items on our grocery list. Or it can simply be the recall of a name.
When introduced to a new person, there are dozens of distractions. We don’t properly encode the name of the new person. We hold only one thought at a time in our mind. Remembering a name is at the bottom of our list.
Mostly, our stored memory lies beyond our conscious awareness. It is a struggle to bring a memory into consciousness. This problem increases with age. We have a lot more memories to scan.
Each time a memory is visited, it changes a little. It also resets stronger and more vividly.
The voice of memories can be embarrassing. Casting a humorous light on it will soften it. We can then turn a social gaff into a highly entertaining story.
Life is too short. We shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. We need to laugh at ourselves. ‘Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone’.
Voice Of Memories Substituted
We can substitute one memory for another. As a mother who lost a teenage daughter, I can recall every detail of the accident, despite how many years pass. I can choose to think about the accident, or who she was when she was alive. Or I can quietly shut the door and move on. The choice is mine.
We have the option of redirecting our memory to a more enjoyable target. It’s a choice between slamming the car brakes on, or steering to avoid a hazard.
Subduing The Voice Of Memories
Negative memories have a powerful impact on our bodies. They can evoke responses that are physical, such as sweating or increased heart rate. The memories cause us to experience sadness, terror, or embarrassment. Cognitively, negative memories can cause us to have doubts about our ability to cope.
Freud made a suggestion one hundred years ago. He said that humans use a mechanism to block unwanted memories from the conscious mind. Modern scientists have finally agreed with him.
We can’t erase all our negative memories, but we can subdue inconvenient details. It’s important to learn healthy ways to cope with emotions that accompany negative memories. That will cause bad memories to lose their power. We also need to increase our ability to forgive.
Improving the Memory
Information needs to be rehearsed and reviewed for it to be remembered. We learn timetables by rote. My son endlessly recited his timetables during a school holiday trip, much to the discomfort of the other passengers in the car. Now he’s a builder working with intricate maths.
Our memory is far from being infallible. It has flaws. We forget or misremember things. For a person to move on from traumatic experiences, misremembering can be a necessity. However, it’s important to not spend so much time listening to the voice of memories and dreams we forget to live in today. Disability, trauma, and drama should not define who we are.
Types Of Memory
Broadly speaking, there are three types of memory, each with a unique function. These are sensory, short-term and long-term.
Sensory memory allows us to take in information about the world. It is fleeting and acts as a buffer for stimuli, which is received through the five senses. The specific categories are all fleeting:
- Iconic is immediate and visual and very fleeting
- Echoic is auditory and relates to audio
- Haptic is the sense of touch
- Olfactory relates to smell
- Gustatory relates to taste.
Short-term is working memory and is of low capacity. It is temporary and the precursor to long-term memory.
Long-term is the function that allows for storing, managing, and recalling information. It has eight different categories:
- Explicit is the conscious and intentional recall of information
- Declarative relates to retention and the recall of important facts, e.g. dates, events, information
- Episodic is the ability to remember first-hand experiences
- Semantic relates to the storage of vocabulary, key facts, names and general knowledge
- Implicit is the unconscious
- Procedural is how to do things
- Auditory holds information about the sounds we hear
- Visual-spatial involves visual clues
Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made. We gain our sense of value from who we believe we are. In her sphere of influence, every woman has a unique voice. It is a voice we should value.
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