I write most things down.
In counselling with couples I draw relational maps so I can remember emotions and how they work back and forth. When I am at home, I make lists of what needs to be done and sometimes I remember to check the list. I am really helped by my iPhone so I can photograph the price of some TV I want to purchase at Costco. Carole and I complete each other’s sentences while we have entirely different memories of the same event. I wish I could remember what I did with the last 10 years and then the 10 years before that. I am glad I write things down.
Memory is odd. We think it is linear like a ribbon, connecting us back to our histories. More likely it is startling and episodic like Instagram photos, highlighting the vivid, often over-coloring the image. You may know the 70s and 80s debate about “recovered memories” vs “false memories.” It turns out that so many of those recovered memories of childhood abuse were false. They never happened. But they were deeply felt to have happened.
Parents, teachers and preachers will tell stories and remember the telling of the story more than the event, and then the hyperbole is believed to be true. It is actually the exaggeration that is remembered. The history is lost.
Families do this a lot. “I remember Candace as being coy even from when she was little.” “Frankie is such a chip of the old block, always in trouble like his dad.” Then it becomes “true” because memory remembers it. History is again reconstructed.
The other day a client-friend asked me, “What do you write down when I am talking?” “Take a look,” I said. He looked at his genogram with all the crisscrossed lines, and my numbered point form of what he said. “Why do you write down exactly what I say?” he asked. “I do this to remember and so that I can understand.” He seemed appreciative: “I don’t think I have ever had anyone listen to me so that they can remember what I said.”
Next post: emotional and social memory. (If I can remember to write it.)