I was reminded of this the other day in a meeting where two people kept saying that they remembered exactly what was said at a previous meeting and then they promptly each gave two
different recollections of the same discussion.
And then last Sunday, Nigel Latta, a clinical psychologist, who does a series of programs on NZ TV called the Politically Incorrect Guide to… commented that our memories are either a reconstruction or a fabrication of the events that really happened.
And that sparked this blog on memory getting you stuck.
In my daily life, I only remember what has been recorded but I know how to reconstruct the likely scenario around events given the outcomes.
This means that in conversations, I need to be careful with the “I remember” stuff. I might recall something but actually remember it verbatim, not likely.
My children constantly remind me that they remember an event in a way that is is different from what I recall. Rather than debate what did happen, we land up discussing how the event made them feel, what they learned from that event and what were their thoughts about the outcome of the event.
In this manner we avoid trying to create the exact memory of the event and discuss what really matters – what happens to us next.
This has also been helpful living with the same person for over 40 years. Neither of us remembers specifically what happened so we just keep moving on with the lessons learned. Even when we recall the event, we recall the emotion and the learning and that is what gets discussed.
We avoid the recriminations because we know we saw the event differently. We also know that time changes what actually happened to what we believed happen.
Life is about choices.
Choices about what we dwell on and what colors our picture of the world. If we chose to see the world with shades of pink than all our memories will be through rose colored glasses. If we see the world as shades of gray then than we see everything as bleak or colorless.
And one thing that happens in many conversations is memory plays a part in the dialogue.
Memory of the event rather than the lessons learned or the emotions developed but he said, she said stuff. And this then can lead to an argument about what happened.
And what actually happened is IRRELEVANT!
During my days in tertiary education, I often had parents, students and tutors in to discuss an event. I learned early on that the actual event was different than either side saw it. The student, especially if the parent was present, was always picked on or hard done by. The tutor invariably had difficulty recalling the actual event and when they heard the student’s side, had a very different impression of the event. The question that needed to be answered was not what happened but what happens next. What will change for all parties involved?
Think about this the next time you are in a conversation about something that has happened. If memory of events is defective, then relying on memory to discuss a reaction could have many problems.
The solution, rather than discuss the event, discuss the feelings and discuss what you would like to see happen next.
One question I find really powerful to resolve disagreements is – “What would you like to see me do about this situation“. It does not mean I commit to give it to them but it stops them and then they start to listen to what is possible.
Life is lived today.
What happened yesterday happened and the only thing that can change about it is the feelings and lessons you take away from it. If you dwell on the memory, you will change the memory. If you rehash the memory, you will rewrite that memory.
You need to look at the event and ask how do you recreate the feelings if they were pleasant or how do you eliminate the negative emotions in a similar situation.
Its not easy but it is that simple. Remember, the mind is different from the movie camera and you re-author it each time you play it back.
Has there ever been a time when a memory got you stuck and made conversation difficult?
Simplifier, Presenter, Mentor