Memory – Storage – Manipulating Memories

Friday, December 26th, 2008 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

Last week we talked about false memories, explaining how experiments show they are most easily created and how this matches with what we know of neurology and the way our brains form connections.

The last point we want to make about memory storage this lap around the spiral is to point out a practical application implied by the existence of false memories and our understanding of how they’re implanted and the neurological system underlying the mechanism: You can manipulate your memories.

Is that wise?

Our own self-experimentation and investigation indicate that in fact deliberately and consciously changing a factual memory is difficult. Trying to reprogram your own mind to think you experienced something you didn’t, or saw or heard something you didn’t, or changing the position you came in some competition, is probably unwise and, in our introspective tests at least, impossibly difficult. The problem is that while you’re trying to associate in the false memory you also associate in the fact of trying to change that memory. You remember trying to change it, and thus what you tried to change it from. You end up reinforcing the truth (or at least your original interpretation) as much as you add the extra association for the false memory. You inevitably think of both during recall.

However even if it were possible to reprogram your factual memory at will, we couldn’t recommend even attempting it for anything other than trivial matters to explore the limits of possibility. A keen and understanding mind is based on good factual recall of the truth, of actual events, and building a house of cards based on deliberate lies will not help you genuinely transcend the personality you randomly acquired anyway. It can only help build delusion.

Changing the emotional content of a memory

It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to factually convince yourself that you didn’t do that utterly embarrassing thing which you have regretted your entire life, or suffer that tragedy which tainted your personality from then on out, or get rejected in that cruel way by that otherwise amazing, towering human being. However it seems that your emotional response to these events is more easily manipulated.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioners claim good success treading patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by using essentially these false-memory techniques. They have the patient vividly recall the incident, not trying to change the facts, but to watch it as though it was a movie on a screen, a long way away, perhaps with a comedic sound-track playing at the time. In other words to downplay the emotional significance of the events. Essentially to use the same mind patters that you use when you walk out of a movie-theatre, ending your suspension of disbelief.

The emotional system, it seems, it easier to fool than the more factual Declarative Memory system.

Many scientists have argued that Clinical Depression can be exasperated, even caused, by focussing the attention on sad or unlucky events rather than on happy occasions when things went so very right. Neuro-Linguistic-Programmers have claimed good success treating patients with depression though teaching their clients to reduce or change the emotional content of their memories, the events they focus on. Teaching them to re-visualise those memories with different contexts, as a movie or as a small event a long way away, or played with a clown’s slurring trombone comedy soundtrack. This, it seems, changes their emotional response to the memories. They still remember consciously doing it, they remember how the memory used to hurt them, but the actual emotional pain is reduced. They remember reducing it.

In this sense a learned emotional response is different to a declarative, factual memory of an event. While remembering that you changed the facts of an event in your memory suggests to you that you the change is untrustworthy, remembering that you changed your emotional response to a memory intrinsically makes the suggestion that your emotional response should therefore now be improved.

This makes it difficult, even ignoring how unwise it would be, to try and change the factual content of your memory. It also means it’s easier, as well as more useful and helpful, to change the emotional significance of memories. Doing so will help improve your mood, happiness, help you to build an optimistic view on life.

How

The “Memory/Storage” meditation introduced below is designed to help you to spend a few minutes vividly reviewing the most important events of the last few days. To relive them in as much detail as you can, strengthening the neural pathways which keep that memory vibrant as time goes on. You should do this often, with happy joyous memories you want to treasure forever. However, if you find you have a memory which you can’t help lingering on, which is making you sad or mad or angry or hateful it may be worth not ignoring that memory since it has such a strong hold on your mind but instead changing it’s emotional context. Go through our meditation and keep in mind as you visualize the events to see them a long way away, or on a movie-screen, or with a laugh-track. Change the focus of the memory away from your embarrassment or shame or anger or sadness by replaying them without the emotional significance they once had.

This month’s meditation

This month we present a meditation designed to improve the life of your memories, to keep them vibrant and vivid for longer, to reinforce the neural pathways which help a memory stay in your mind for longer.

You’ll be asked to recall significant events from the last few days, or however long it’s been since you last listened to this meditation. You’ll be asked to visualize those events strongly, vividly, in as much detail as you can and reminded how this works, how it’s fusing the bonds between neurons, increasing Long Term Potentiation and supplying you with suggestions and positive reinforcement to help you hold on to those memories for ever.

Guided Meditation File 11 – Memory – Memory Storage
Backing Music “Wellenreiter” By Klangwuerfel
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