Jan 2, 2010

Guilty Again

I've been reading, "Phantoms In The Brain". It mentioned tha tin some brains the person remembers memories while others relive events. There's a difference. As memories are formed our brains edit them and then categorize them (pigon hole them) according to time, place, people and other tags that will bring the memory back. OUr brains also assign meaning to our memories. As we go through life learning and having new experiences we reinterpret our memories based on our new perspective.

A clear example of this might be a child who is afraid of Clifford The Big Red Dog. This really happened with my son. He might have been three. We read him the heart warming story of Clifford the two story tall dog who would peer in his owner's window.

Cute, right?

To Michael it was a terrifying to think about a giant dog peering in your window. As a fourteen year old, he doesn't remember this experience. If he did remember it, he would reinterpret it based on his 14 year old understanding & experiences. Dogs aren't as frightening because he's taller.

The same should be true of embarrassing moments that happened several years ago. Time should add distance, as it were, and further experience change the perspective so that the memory does not reignite that same fear/shame response as the original event.

In fact most people reflect on their small failures or embarrasements with thoughtful reflection (lessons learned) or humor. That is because memories are not static. They are reshaped and reinterpreted based on knew memories that are added. But what if instead of remembering, you relived? The memory would trigger all or manyof the same physiological reactions and the same emotional response.

When I was nineteen I scheduled a skating party for all my friends at college. Some one else had done it the year before, so I wanted to try. I even got sponsors. Instead of hundreds, maybe 20 kids showed up. I was in the hole by $100. Whenever I think back on it, I feel the same dread. As if it is happenning again. In my mind it is.

My thought life is rich with details, sounds, textures, even smells and dimension as well. Today I remembered that skating party and it upset me. I refelt the failure and that sinking feeling in my chest. The Bible talks about taking ever thought into captivity. Taking control of thoughts and deflating their power. After reading the Brain that Changes Itself (Norman Doidge) and Phantoms IN The Brain (V.S. Ramachandran), I believ ethat their are cognitive excercises that one can do in order to stop reliving memories. I'm not clear on the what and how yet.