Memory – Recall – Improving Recall

by pre., Friday, August 7th, 2009.

The Transcendence Institute has already talked a great deal about memory. In particular, we have discussed ways to better encode the things you want to remember in order to aid in getting them into memory in the first place, and then in the second lap we talked about how to keep those things in your memory for as long as possible, essentially by refreshing those memories as often, emotionally, and vividly as possible.

This lap around we’re considering memory recall. You’ll use the mind-manipulating skills you have learned in previous months to understand how memory recall works, how to aid it, and how to practice it’s improvement.

How Recollection Works

We have noted that human memory doesn’t work like computer memory. You don’t just demand the contents of your memory from a certain block of your brain and have it returned to your mind intact. Instead, human memory is an associative memory. You recall things not by giving the address of that thing to a memory postmaster and having him fetch what lives there, but instead by association. By being reminded of a thing through those ideas you have associated it with, or by it’s features, it’s colour, shape, texture.

This explains a salient point about memory recall: that recognition is easier than recollection. That fact is why people sigh with relief when they find out some test they must take is a multiple choice test. Just hearing an answer reminds you what the answer is. Why you can tell that you know someone, yet still not know their name. Why you can struggle for a long time looking for an answer until someone tells you and you exclaim “I knew it“, despite the evidence that you couldn’t bring it to mind.

It’s clear then, that having something stored in your memory and being able to retrieve it are different things. Doing all the things we mentioned in the first two laps around the spiral will help recall. Ensuring the thing to be remembered is well encoded, that it’s vivid and striking and emotionally evocative, will help bring things to mind by ensuring your memory is stored properly in the first place. Refreshing your memories often, wondering around your Loki map regularly, taking time to vividly recall your experiences will also aid no end.

Given a memory which is already encoded, though, one which has been repeated and re-recalled as often as it has with no chance to change that retrospectively, what can you do to aid recall?

Tips on improving recall

The key, as you may have guessed, is to push as many reminders at your mind as you can. To try and get your brain-state to closely approximate the brain-state it was in at the time the memory was first formed, or at least subsequently re-formed.

You may have had the experience of not remembering your PIN if you’ve ever tried to recall it in unusual circumstances, but know that if you were stood in front of a cash-point it always slips into mind. You may have tried to recall which song is next in some album and been unable to do so yet as soon as the previous track ends you start humming the first few bars of the next before it starts whether you want to or not.

This is because once your brain configuration more closely resembles the configuration it had at the time the memory was stored it will automatically push the rest of the brain into remembering, recalling.

Stories appear to be a natural way to do this. It’s why the question “Where did you last have it?” is useful when searching for some item now lost. If you can describe the story leading to an items loss, the story will often bring to mind the things involved in that story, pushing your neural networks closer to that recall epiphany.

If suffering from a tip-of-the tongue blockage when searching for a word or a name it can even pay to simply roll through the alphabet: “Does it begin with an A? How about a B?” turning this name-guessing recall problem into a multiple-choice recognition problem.

It’s not particularly helpful to struggle to remember. Your memories do not respond well to pressure, or to demands. Instead, just think about the related things which you do remember. Try and let your mind wonder, while staying broadly on-topic, searching for the key, the one jot of information which will remind you of the sought data.

In this way you’ll learn to enjoy searching for memories since it stops being a difficult struggle and starts being a walk in the park, a stroll through memory lane.

Next week we’ll consider the opposite of recall: forgetting. Then, since this lap is dedicated to dream-work, we’ll discuss improving recollection of dreams. Finally, at the end of the month, we’ll present a guided lucid-dream designed to help you improve both your dream-recall, and your ability to mine the depths of the memories you have stored.

Memory – Recall – Forgetting

by pre., Friday, August 14th, 2009.

Science has progressed to such an extent that it understands, in broad-brush outline, how memories are stored. However, how memories are lost is, if not quite a mystery, much less well modeled and mapped than the process of long term potentiation which enables memory.

While the process of myelination is perhaps to some small degree reversible, it seems that this process is overwhelmed by the myelination of other memory-traces. Memories are lost, it seems, through interference rather than decay. Evidence to support this comes from the fact that recognition is easier than recollection, and that being in a similar situation aids recall.

A forgotten memory, especially one once remembered well, is more likely hard to retrieve than gone. The ‘problem’ with forgetting isn’t that you fail to be reminded, it’s that the particular event you’re looking for is drowned out by the flood of other memories of which you’re also reminded, all clamouring for your attention.

Forgetting is a failure to select the right one of competing memories more than it is a failure to store or retrieve.

This is why the advice given last week on how to improve recall (essentially, think of as many ancillary and related things as possible, put yourself into as similar a mindset as you can) works: it increases the strength of the desired memory. Helps it to stand out against the crowd of other memory traces.

Deliberately Forgetting

If you’ve thought about something often enough that you’ve decided you’d like to forget it, it’s probably going to be a difficult job to do so. That ‘something’ has likely been pondered by you many times, recalled and refreshed so often that the connections between the neurons making it up will be heavily potentiated, sheathed in myelin and difficult to change. The whole reason you’re likely to want to forget something is because you keep being reminded of it already. This is a strong signal and it’s going to take a long time to decay.

Understanding forgetting more as the generation of competing memories rather than the decay of old ones, however, gives us a better perspective on the process by which time heals, and ways to speed it along it’s way.

A common reason why an especially troubling memory is so persistent is that recalling it brings back vivid, often unpleasant emotions. As we explained during lap one, an event which is highly emotionally charged causes the long term potentiation’s efficiency to increase. The fact of the strong emotion brought about by the recall makes the refreshing effect stronger. Each time you are reminded of the event, you not only provoke the unpleasant or unhelpful emotion, the fact you are doing so makes you more likely to be reminded of the event again later.

On the whole it’s going to be easier not to forget it but instead to just change the emotional significance of a memory. Firstly, because nobody cares about being constantly reminded of that funny thing, but also because a reduced emotional response reduces the chances of further inadvertent recall later. Opening up competing memory-traces to other less emotionally negative things is in fact the key to stop being troubled by memories.

Changing The Emotional Significance Of A Memory

The key to changing the emotional significance of a memory isn’t to try to forget. The act of trying to forget will just make you remember more. Instead the key is to deliberately remember, but to also distort that memory in a way which reduces the emotional impact.

NLP practitioners suggest various ways to do this. Recall the event as though you are watching it on TV rather than through your own eyes. Recall it in fast-motion, or made small and distant, or with a comedy sound-track. By strengthening the pathways activating less negative emotions you will reduce the flow of emotion toward those negative sources.

So here’s the method: Sit down, relax, take the time to drop down into a suggestible state. Then visualize the events you’re trying to forget. You want to distort what you see though. See it as though it’s not happening to you, but projected on a screen at the other end of a large hallway, in comedy fast-motion, with a clownish trombone sound-track. Watch it clearly, as vividly as you can given all those distortions.

This should reduce the emotional significance of the event. Perform this meditation several times, over several days, and soon you’ll find the meditation itself, and the reminders of the event you find in daily life, provoke less and less of a reaction from your emotional systems. Eventually, the event should become so trivial and mundane that you’ll stop being reminded of it all the time.

Solve Outstanding Issues

However, if you still owe money or favours or expect something or feel like you need to tell someone something, that fact will keep popping up into your head. If you need to resolve the matter, you should resolve it before you try to forget.


Of course, when you find that you’re thinking about the thing which you are trying to forget without deliberate distortion, you need to divert your mind onto something else. Try and have something worthwhile handy to distract yourself with, a project you want to plan or topic you like to discuss, perhaps skill you’re trying to learn. When you find yourself thinking of the forbidden thing, turn your thoughts instead towards that handy distraction. This will have the benefit of also progressing your side project and giving you valuable practice at honing your concentration!

Memory – Recall – Dream Recall

by pre., Friday, August 21st, 2009.

During the Intermission, we explained that dream recall can be improved by immediately writing a dream down as soon as you wake.

It seems that some systems in the sleeping brain prevent long-term memories from forming. Likely the long term potentiation of the neurons involved is suspended, or reduced. We don’t have a lot of evidence go to on to determine exactly how this process works, but we have plenty of evidence that dreams can indeed be hard to recall.

Writing a dream down as soon as you awaken refreshes all these memory traces in the waking brain, allowing those traces to be strengthened a second time, without the dampening effect of sleep. The fact of writing it down is usually enough to force those memory traces to remain open. Simply recalling them is less effective, perhaps because putting things into words is a more powerful process, perhaps simply because you have the written record to refer to.

Either way, the act of struggling to remember a dream is doubtless practice at recalling difficult to remember things. As you have learned from the beginning of the Transcendence Institute’s writings, the things which you practice you will get better at. Thus, simply the act of remembering your dreams in the morning will in itself improve your memory recall.

Lucid Dreaming

With the addition of the ability to dream lucidly, whole new avenues are opened up to help you to improve your memory recall.

As you have learned, all memory is essentially constructive. You don’t recall every bit of data which flowed into your nervous system while an event happened, you brain doesn’t recall a trace of every patch of colour your saw or waveform your ears processed. Instead, you recall the gist, a personal story about that event, and your brain reconstructs the data from the traces of that high-level memory.

Sometimes interference from other memories or associations may impede this process, making it difficult to bring some desired detail to mind.

During a dream, however, your mind is less constrained by your current sensory experience. It’s more prone to freely associate, to lower the barriers to recall and present detail which you may have assumed you had forgotten.

Once you have learned to lucid dream you can take advantage of this. When you realize you are dreaming you can place yourself, within the dream, in a replay of some event. You can look around, interacting with the dream environment, the virtual reality, and take note of things which you thought you had forgotten, maybe even details which escaped your notice at the time.

While dreams are not bound by current sensory inputs, they are influenced by memory interference, assumption and false association as well as random noise. While actively using lucid dreams to recall some event can give clues, cast light upon a fading memory, they can not be guaranteed reliable. Though, as usual, with practice you may be able to learn to tell the difference.

Since the lucid dreaming state leaves a person so suggestible, you can also use Lucid Dreaming to actually improve your expectation that your memory recall will work well. This expectation can influence the likelihood that a given memory trace will surface. Try eating memory-improving pills in your sleep, or visiting some swami who can improve your memory and performing the tasks he suggests. Magic and voodoo can work in dreams. Their effects can sometimes influence our subconscious to make that ‘magic’ work outside too. Our meditation, the guided dream this month, will simply give you suggestions that the act of practising is improving your memory and dream recall.

The Meditation

Once again this month we’ll present you with a guided lucid dream. In the dream you’ll be gradually brought to dream-consciousness, into lucid dreaming. You’ll be prompted to recall some event, to relive it in detail, to refresh and improve your recall of that event. To notice details you hadn’t seen before. To look around and understand the event more fully.

For example, you can try and use your dream to recall the face of someone who was close to you but you haven’t seen in years. To refresh their memory in your mind by dreaming about them during the night.

If you aren’t particularly interested in reliving some old event, or refreshing your memory of some person, you should imagine instead an imaginary event, one in which you gain guidance and then follow through with action on how to improve your memory through magic, spells and dream-chemistry. This should improve your belief in your recall, which could in turn improve your ability.

Memory – Recall – The Meditation

by pre., Friday, August 28th, 2009.

This week the Transcendence Institute presents a guided lucid dream intended to improve dream recall and to help you use your lucid dream to explore the details of something thought forgotten.

As with the other guided lucid dreams we’re presenting during this third lap around the spiral, it’s designed to be listened to as an alarm set for ten minutes before you must get out of bed.

It will start quietly, spending a couple of minutes getting gradually louder, giving suggestions that we hope you’ll recognise in your sleep, bringing you to consciousness in your dream without waking you up.

In order to improve dream recall, the next two minutes will be spent suggesting that you go over the content of the dream in which you have come to consciousness. Spend a minute recalling the adventure so far, summarising and driving those events deeper into memory.

The next four minutes or so of the lucid dream will be spent helping to recall some detail of things you may have thought forgotten. Before you sleep you’ll ideally have selected something. The location of some lost keys perhaps, or the detail of the face of an old lover. If not some urgently needed memory then presumably something you’d like to reminisce on, relive in your dream.

In the dream, you’ll bring this memory to mind, undistracted by input from your main sense systems. You’ll stare at, play with, manipulate and remember this memory in order to recall it when you wake.

Finally, for the last two minutes you’ll go over the content of the entire dream again, before being told to wake up and write it down. Writing it down is important. In the time immediately after waking your dreams are usually erased unless they’re recorded, and concentrated on.

Download The Meditation:

Guided Meditation File 19 – Memory – Recall
Backing Music “Distorted Reality” By Zero Project
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