Our perception of the mental, physical and emotional perspectives of life shape who we are and how we understand our place in the world. We keep these experiences as memories—serving as functional reminders of our previous experiences and a means to safeguard our future. Memory is quite useful purely in terms of survival, but can also help us to thrive is more subtle aspects of life as well. Considering the dynamics of how memories are stored, and how they are manipulated may help you leverage their innate power for your own personal development.
The Influence of Memory
Imagining memory as an anchor to your past can help you gain an awareness of it’s influence over your present circumstances. If you have failed at a task your last 10 attempts, it’s easy to focus your perspective on those failures than on your next attempt’s chance of success. This is impossibly easy to do, and almost never beneficial. This type of wiring is so polarized from our long evolutionary history of needed to never forget where and how we run into predators and mortal dangers. In modern life, it has much lessened applicability. Should you fail those first 10 times, it’s easy to believe that you’re likely to fail the next time. There are many factors which could make that sentiment true, but the memory of your past failures is not one of them. Our memory is what separates us from many lower-level species—like worms—and seeking to discount it entirely would be a tragic mistake. Seeking to have more active control over your memories’ affect on you can be a powerful and rewarding endeavor, but you must first become intimately familiar with how your memories are made, as well as how they are recalled.
Perspectives of Memory
Without being handed a book of Life’s answers, we are left to conceive of our inner truths based on our experience of the world. One useful method of Self-inspection is to regard your memory as being divided among three perspectives—the physical, mental, and emotional, which all blend together to form one overall ‘summarized’ memory. Within this schemata every experience in life has a physical, mental, and emotional component to it—and so does our memory of it. An example of this can be illustrated by imagining a beautiful sunset, warm with bright orange and red color. The experience of such a sunset might be of physical warmth and brightness, it might be thought of mentally as being beautiful and poetic, and it may also stir emotions of comfort and connection to the world. While the physical sensation will be similar for most, the mental and emotional interpretation would likely be different. Many factors influence the different ways people experience this sunset, but memory is one that can have the most abstract affect. For example, a man having just lost his wife would likely have a vastly different experience of the sunset than a woman having just given birth to a new son. Memories of past events can affect our current state of being, and thus our current perspectives of the world around us. What’s important to recognize is that if your perception is comprised of three distinct perspectives, your memory will likely have a similar composition. If you have a memory that is affecting you emotionally, you may be able to focus more heavily on the physical and mental aspects of that experience to reduce its overall impact on your daily life.
every experience in life has a physical, mental, and emotional component to it—And so does our memory of it
Assuming that life’s perception is constructed largely of three primary perspectives, consider that your memory may very well constructed in similar structure. Emotional, mental, and physical memory may very well exist separately within us, recalled in similar fashion to how those experiences were perceived initially. That’s to say; if you have a physically-intense experience such as burning your hand on the stove, the bulk of that memory will be stored as a physical memory. Your mental memory of that event will likely be comprised largely of the moments immediately afterwards when you assessed the damage, and the pain of healing in the weeks following. Your memory of that event would have been stored in similar proportion to the balance of your perspective during the experience. This may sound complicated and overly-complex, but the nature of this dynamic is quite simple—we remember things as we experience them. Where things can get dicey is the ability of past memories to affect current perceptions, which will in turn affect current memory. For example, an emotionally-traumatic event might overshadow every new experience you have for some time. This emotional overshadowing might affect how you perceive new events, which will thus affect how your store new memories of those events. So that single traumatic moment in your past, can be affective in a very cyclic manner towards your future experiences. By understanding how your balance of perspective creates your memory of events, and how those memories affect your future perspective, you can begin to insert your own will into the process—manipulating your very perception for your advantage.
Dynamics of Memory
These concepts are among the most basic of our lives. The perspectives through which we see the world are at the root of how we define our Self. Your balance of perspective is akin to your fingerprint — an arrangement unique to only you. Your life experiences have shaped your perspective, your memories of those experiences continue to shape your life. One could argue that the coincidence of your first experience after being born affects the entire path of your life. While our paths are continuously shaped by the events around us—it’s not untrue to say that our initial trajectory may have been set by which leg the doctor yanked us out by. This concept is called Chaos Theory, in which an entirely unpredictable series of events occur within an entirely predictable arena. For example, for all that man has done in the past—it was only until recent history that he did it anywhere other than on planet Earth. Memories are made every moment of every life, and they affect every moment to come. Emotional Trauma may affect mental performance, which further affects emotional well-being. Like Chaos, it is impossible to predict how any one person will create a memory—but it is possible to understand the framework in which they will use. Through working to understand the fundamental components how you form memory, you can begin to understand how you might be able to alter the balance of past memory in an effort to better suit your present goals.
An entirely unpredictable series of events can occur within an entirely predictable arena
Imagine three houses; one house is brick, one is wood, and the third hardened steel. Each of these three houses are in need of repair, although each requires a unique approach. To alter the brick, you’d need a sledgehammer to break apart it’s mortared joints. The change the wood, you’d need a saw to cut through the timber frames. The change the steel house, you’d need a fiery torch, to burn through their powerful atomic bonds. These three houses are like three people; unique in how they have come to exist — yet similar in their goals. Each wants to change, yet each must change in a manner suited to their structure. The same can be said taking control of how our past memories affects us—we must first become aware of how we remember them. Through this we are better able to expand our Self awareness in order to heal ourselves properly, and become more resilient to changes around us. To remodel a house built of brick, you must first be practiced in swinging a heavy hammer. To heal an emotional trauma in your life, you must first understand how to connect to the memory of it. While gravity and weather may stop us from building houses, fear is often the element we must battle to remodel our Self. Fear is deeply connected to a lack of understanding, and to the lack of familiarity brought by change. By working to better understand your fundamental Self—you can overcome the fear of, and exert more control over, your own Self change.
Layers of Memory
How is a familiar emotion different from a familiar scent? Imagine perceiving each without memory for reference. You would be much like a child — experiencing the world in it’s rawest, most pure form. Unadulterated experience is a rare luxury in the modern world, and our experiences are often influenced heavily by existing associations. This has been invaluable to the evolution of our species, as one fight with a lion allowed our ancestors to realize the danger of a second fight. In modern times—where simply surviving isn’t the first priority for many of us—this type of memory seems impractical. Biological evolution is a painfully slow process, and if you wish to overcome any of it’s influence within a single lifetime, you’ve got to ‘color outside of the lines’ in your pursuit of personal development. With memory it is useful to consider the influence it has, as well as the unique perspectives from which it’s made. The dynamics of how those perspectives affect your past—and future—formation of memory can help you exert a degree of control in the process. Any given memory may be constructed by layers of different perspectives, such as mental, physical, or emotional. Depending on your balance of the three perspectives during your experience, each memory will have a unique balance of these perspectives. Memories that are more emotionally-weighted will influence your more emotionally, while more mentally-balanced memory will affect your mental processes more. Understanding the layers of your own memory can help you better understand how to address their affect over you and the decisions you make.
Memories that are more emotionally-weighted will influence your more emotionally, while more mentally-balanced memory will affect your mental processes more
Raw physical experience may create muscle memory, raw emotional experience may creates a sense of, and raw mental experience may create new thoughts. Yet, we remember how people make us feel, we remember how food smells, and we recognize the texture of our favorite clothes when touching them. Each unique perspective you view the world through creates a unique facet of the memory you make for that experience. That’s to say; you have a physical memory, and emotional memory, and a mental memory. To reshape your past memory you must afford deep consideration to the balance of each memory’s perspective. Emotionally-traumatic events often overshadow future experience through the lingering connection to them. Over time, these types of influences naturally tend to level themselves out, although a concerted effort to ‘re-remember’ these memories can help greatly expedite the process. For example, one effective technique in overcoming emotional trauma is to focus on the physical and mental details of that event. If your grieving from the unexpected loss of a loved one, try to remember the smell of your lunch after receiving the news. After that, try to remember the texture of the pants you were wearing. These types of exercises are concentrating on changing the balance of your emotionally-shifting that memory to reflect a more physically and mentally balanced experienced. This effort can be effective in dampening the negative effects of past memory, as well as manipulating the positive impact of current experience. For example, the next time you bang your skin against something and experience acute physical pain, quickly try and focus on recalling multiplication tables—a mentally intensive task. These types of willful interjections within the natural course of your perception can help you more fully harness the power of memory.
Leveraging Your Memory
Imagine you’ve just undergone a deep emotional trauma. Perhaps you lost a loved one unexpectedly or were delivered a worrisome medical diagnosis. These types of events can often be more than we are able to process. We remember these events as the emotionally-weighted experiences they were, though our minds often record many more details surrounding our physical and mental perception of the event as well. Imagine an emotionally traumatic memory as existing in three parts—the mental, the physical, and the emotional. These are each the three perspectives of that experience, and each contain a unique facet of your memory of that event. Upon hearing the news of a lost loved one, many people can be consumed by emotional distress. Even while we are absorbing the shock of emotionally-difficult news our senses are observing the sights, sounds, and smells around us. A memory of a car wreck may seem to only be recorded as ‘bad’, but somewhere in that memory was the color of the sky, sound on the radio, and taste of chewing gum. We don’t regard these types of details as important and in the immediate sense they often aren’t.
Imagine an emotionally traumatic memory as existing in three parts—the mental, the physical, and the emotional. Focusing your attention on the physical and mental aspects can help control how that memory may influence your life.
Imagine this traumatic memory as a three platform balancing system—each perspective resting on each. If a memory is more heavily remembered as emotional, the overall balance of that memory will be more emotional. If a memory is more physically recalled, it will affect us more on a physical level. If a memory is more mental in nature, it will affect our thoughts more than how or what we feel. Now imagine how an emotionally-traumatic experience may tilt the scales of your memory of that event. It may have a dramatic influence over your perspective long after it happens, which will in turn affect the emotional weight of newly-formed memories. A good example of this can be in remembering how you felt the days after you achieved a goal you’d worked towards for a long time. That surge of positive emotion carries into the next few days in many circumstances, and is capable of painting potentially-negative experiences as positive. The same thing can happen with bad experiences which have the potential to shift our perspectives toward the negative.
All About Balance
If a scale is tilted towards one side, and you want to tilt it towards the other—you add weight to the side that has less. In cases of balancing fixed amounts (like our focus) you take from one side and add to the other. Imagine doing this same act with your focus upon a memory. Think of an emotionally traumatic event, and try to remember non-relevant details like you shirt color, the temperature of the air, or what song was playing on the radio. Focusing heavily on these types of non-emotional details can help to re-remember a memory in a more balanced and less affective sense. Within the field of psychology, this process is referred to as reconsolidation, which can be regarded as an abstraction of the process of consolidation—where by short term memories are transferred into long-term memory storage within the brain. The process of reconsolidation involves recalling a memory, and changing the amount of focus you contribute to each of its perspectives. This process has been studied quite a bit by psychologists in recent years, and offers great insight into healing after traumatic experiences 1. Better understanding how your memories are formed, and how they may continue to affect you can help you work towards re-balancing disadvantageous memories, and maybe even falsifying a few to better serve you in the pursuit of your goals! This could be a dangerous game however, and the power of memory should never be regarded lightly.
Memory is one of the single most valuable survival tools that we have. It’s integrated into us on many levels of which we are scarcely even aware. You may avoid touching a hot stovetop because of a painful memory from early childhood, but you turn your head to pinpoint the sound of a snapping twig from many millennia of evolution. Memory is stored as a dynamic blend of our physical, mental, and emotional perceptions of events in our lives. This balance of perspectives plays a role in how memory affects us—past events very capable of affecting our future perceptions. Through such processes as reconsolidation you may be able to help control how the balance of of your memories, thus better controlling their affect over your present and future endeavors. This can be though of simply as holding on to empowering memories, and working to lessen the burden of negative ones. Perspectives are as unique as fingerprints, and noone else truly shares your perspective entirely. Understanding the dynamics of your own perspective, and how it plays a role in your formation of memory, can help you more effectively forge a deeper self awareness and continue along your path of personal development.