It’s Not the Days We Remember, It’s the Moments
Memory is far from being an exclusively intellectual function. A person’s memories are not the same as a computer’s: it is not data that is stored, but experiences. This means that we remember visual images, words, but also smells, tastes, sensations…
We could say that memory, in a human being, is a basically affective function. The information and experiences that are remembered almost never correspond to objective data. The human memory is creative, and as a result, it suppresses or adds elements to those memories, depending on the feelings that are involved.
“There will come a day when our memories will be our fortune.”
In fact, there are times when we remember events that never even happened. This mainly takes place with childhood experiences. A fantasy is felt with such intensity that it ends up becoming part of our memory, without ever having happened in reality.
The experiences that we remember
Memory is actually capable of storing absolutely everything that we experience throughout our existence. However, we only consciously remember some of those events; the rest are submerged in our unconscious mind.
According to a study done in Canada, memories from the early years of our lives are erased due to the constant production of new neurons.
Additionally, we do not have those first memories because during that stage, some of the most profound experiences of our psyche take place, and they end up being repressed because they can end up being intolerable for our conscience.
Even so, many of those memories remain and appear in our conscience as an isolated sensation, and at the same time, a very deep one. For example, when a melody is heard and an emotion is activated, taking us back to the past, but where we cannot put our finger on the date or a specific situation.
In general terms, it can be said that what we consciously remember is that which demanded great attention or concentration and which had content that we could understand. Positive or negative situations, but relatively reasonable ones that do not have emotionally confusing or contradictory content.
We remember less common things better
Those situations that entirely capture our attention usually involve a series of components. Mental concentration, our senses alert, a strong associated feeling, and some element of surprise or novelty that is related to the three previous components. This is why it is relatively simple to remember the less common events, whereas we easily forget those that are routine.
We consciously remember those moments that, in one way or another, demand our full attention and that have an emotional impact on us. But those moments also have to be perfectly understandable for them to become fixed in our conscience; otherwise, they are generally repressed.
The unforgettable moments
What is not forgotten is that which forces us to intensely live a situation in the present. Those moments in which you feel like you are one with the universe, where there is nothing more than what you have around you, and you feel as if the world were starting and ending right where you are standing. This counts both for pleasant experiences as well as for the terrible ones.
They are the moments when you feel the pulse of life in your skin. It does not matter if it is during the day or at night, if it is cold or hot. The only thing that matters is that you feel like the protagonist of a fleeting story, and at the same time, you feel eternal.
Those moments become so lasting that even years later, they can be recalled with a very singular emotion. There are remnants with enough intensity that moment is almost experienced again.
Depending on the experiences that came before or after that moment, the memory can be more or less exact. If what followed a negative event were pleasant times, surely it is possible to remember it with less dramatic effect and even with laughter. If there were other difficult situations after it, a value of profound aversion will be given to it.
If what we experienced was positive, but negative moments followed, we will remember it with nostalgia. If what came afterwards were more pleasant times, the memory’s emotion can be very intense and gratifying.
This is how memory is: creative and flexible. Like a sponge that absorbs those unique and irreplaceable moments that create a difference in our lives. Like a great album full of photographs that we go through when our heart needs it. We realize that it’s not the days we remember, it’s the moments.
Images courtesy of Jennifer Holmes, Kim Joone