Memory is our ability to encode, store and recall information. Psychologists are continually trying to discover how something as complex and many sited as our memory really works. The best way I have been able to understand it is to divide memory into these processes.
All the information your brain receives comes through your senses. It is first transformed into a form that is easily stored. It was once thought that the only way to retrieve a memory was through visual cues. So you would think of your grandma's kitchen and you would picture her at the stove taking a pan of brownies out of the oven.
However, the other senses will also be able to enrich that memory and bring it back to life in your mind's eye. You will be able to smell the brownies, you will remember hearing her tell you stories with her Southern drawn, you will almost be able to feel the chair where you were seated waiting for the brownies to come out of the oven and to a plate in front of you.
The more emotion that is attached to the memory, the easier it is to pull it up from your file cabinet in your brain. That is why it is so easy to remember the firsts in your life. Your first kiss. Your first day of school. Your first day on a new job.
Events that were traumatic are encoded and stored but in another episode, we will learn about "re-framing" a memory. However, some trauma is stored in our DNA and passed down generationally. When you learned about a grandmother who was abused, you will feel her pain and her story will be encoded with those feelings.
This idea of encoded memories is fascinating and well worth your study and research. It has been shown that if your grandparents or great grandparents were in a famine, you may have food issues. Some memories are hidden until you start to retrieve and review them. Trust me, I will not allow you to be re-traumatized but rather to re-frame and understand these memories.
After all the information is encoded, the brain is then able to retain the different experiences within the memory. It has been found, or theorized, that there is not one specific place within the human brain where all the memories are stored.
This is the best part for me as a Personal Historian. As you begin writing about your life, you will remember more and more instances and events from your life. Some will be interesting and worth documenting in your memoir and some will just be little tidbits of trivia that have taken up a file in your filing cabinet in your brain.
My friend and colleague, Denis Ledoux, writes in his book Turning Memories Into Memoirs;
"..by writing about your past, you will remember more and more of it! Like water pouring from a hand pump that has been primed, memories begin to flow once you prime them with writing.As you write, from somewhere in your mind you may have thought you had no access to, memories will come to you. The more you write, the more you will remember."
The memory for things on a shopping list is much different from the one of your first day of school or your first kiss.
Story Starters and Memory Joggers
1. What is your earliest memory?
2. Write a few notes about your family's heritage and history
3. Name two pivotal times in your childhood that affected your outlook as an adult
4. Did you collect anything? Baseball cards, Coins, Shells, Comic Books etc?
5. What is a memory of a smell that you remember?
6. What is a memory of taste that you remember?
7. Did your family eat in the kitchen or the dining room?
8. What was your favorite breakfast or treat?
9. What is your favorite treat now and why?
10. Can you remember what you daydreamed about when you looked out your bedroom window?
Be sure and watch for the next episode. We will be reminiscing, which is different than remembering.
A note from the author
Maybe you have never considered that the stories of your life are important. But, may I assure you, that readers will cherish them more than any gift you could buy them. By reading your memories, they will gain understanding and sure knowledge that they too can overcome difficulty. They will laugh with your funny memories and cry with your sad ones. But they will love you forever for writing your LifeStory and Memoir. PS: Be sure and join our Facebook group on Telling Your Life Story and Writing Your Memoir.
Thanks for being you. Fondly, Judy Helm Wright–Author/Historian/IntuitiveWiseWoman