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Memory question

Posted by bluezephyr (My Page) on
Mon, Aug 3, 09 at 1:08

Hi,

I have a terrible memory and am wondering if there's a way to recover some of what's lost. I'm not talking about an abuse issue that I've repressed, but things about my life in general.

I'm 36 and I can't describe with any real accuracy many incidents from elementary school through high school. I'm not kidding. Of course I remember going to school, and various friends and events, but specific incidents, including conversations and what I was thinking/feeling at the time, are quite hazy.

Part of this is perhaps due to my preoccupation with sports during this period. Football was my life and I'd basically daydream through classes. There was also a fair amount of getting drunk involved in high school which probably affected my memory of that time as well.

So I'm just wondering if something like hynotherapy might help. Talking with friends about past events helps jog the occasional specific memory, but I'm amazed at how much more they remember. It's actually kind of embarrassing, and sometimes I act like I remember things when I really do not.

Whenever I read biographies I can't believe how much people remember. I realize that such memories may not be completely accurate, but the level of detail is staggering. If I wrote an autobiography (which I've tried) those early chapters would be incredibly short and vague.

Thanks very much for any thoughts or suggestions.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Memory question

Have you always had this problem or is this a recent thing? Are you on any medications? If so, what and when did you begin taking them?


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RE: Memory question

Thanks for the reply, Pris. I've always had this problem. No medications at all. I don't think it has to do with memory suppression due to emotional or other trauma, either.

My sense is that I just really wasn't paying attention back then. My memories of college, for example, are much clearer (though still not as good as most people I know), and now my memory (of the last 10 years or so) is pretty good, but I use all sorts of memory tricks (I've got all the books).

So maybe the question is, if I didn't really process those memories very well, were they ever really "burned to the hard drive" so to speak? Perhaps that part of the disc is just sort of blank. But if it's not, I'd love to be able to recover some of it, I think it would be a fascinating process.


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RE: Memory question

I don't know if you can recover lost memories, but, you can learn to retain information going forward. There are all kinds of tricks to use. The simplest might be to keep a log or diary and write in it daily. Jot down everything you did that day and before going to sleep go over the day in your mind and tell yourself that you will remember these things. You may have to review your journal in the beginning but will find that as time goes on it won't be necessary. As for older memories, when you're with friends and relatives from those times, ask questions and discuss things that happened back then. Add those conversations to your journal at the end of the day and you should be able to recover some of those lost memories.

I really think a lot of us sleepwalk through life without noticing what goes on around us. Those memories are still in there. We just have to prod them to come out.

I don't know your age, but as we get older we have to take medication for various illnesses. Some of those medications can cause memory problems. Be sure and read all the side effects and if there are some that you have a problem with, discuss it with your doctor. There may be another alternative you will be more comfortable with. If not, you can at least be aware and choose the best option for you.


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RE: Memory question

Great suggestions, Pris. Thanks very much. Jotting things down or using a voice recorder has helped with day to day stuff, and I have been keeping a journal for several years now. Discussing past events with friends and family is also helpful and I do that whenever possible.

I'm 36 and haven't ever taken medication (except for the occasional Ibuprofen or Theraflu).

Though it's controversial, there seems to be a way to recover memories through hypnosis, but maybe that's different because these seem to be memories suppressed due to emotional and/or physical trauma. Such memories most likely made a deep impression at the time, even if they were later "forgotten," so perhaps they are more recoverable than, say, memories of more mundane incidents.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.


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RE: Memory question

This is such an interesting topic because at times (I'm 54) I feel like I am watching the world go by. I have great memories of my childhood, college, etc. but don't have like these great stories of events that make the room rock in laughter. I just don't remember specific events.When I have been to a funeral and they ask for memories, I just think of them as someone I enjoyed being around where others break into great events they experience together.

When I watch a movie or read a book, I enjoy it and then I seem to just have it vanish it from my life. I am part of a book club and I may have only read the book two weeks ago but certainly don't recall all the picky stuff that everyone else does and when they talk about it I am sure that I get a deer in the headlight look----like was that in this book?? I do though often read while we are driving and I am not just focused on that book but looking up and checking road conditions, etc. I am not a big movie person but boy my co-workers can recall lines from movies, etc.

For me, I don't think of it as a pre-alzheimers type activities--sometimes maybe brain overload?? I am not noticing that I forget my grocery list or peoples names when I see them but may have trouble recalling a name when we might be talking about them.

HMMM...


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RE: Memory question

Hi deannabsd,

I can definitely relate to all of this, especially the part about not having a lot of great stories that I can accurately recall. Some of my memories seem like impressionist paintings-- I remember the feeling of the experience more than the exact details.

Remembering books is difficult for me as well. I think part of it stems from not really thinking about them after I've read them. On the other extreme, my college roommate was a history major, and it was simply astounding how much he could not only recall but also put into historical context, compare with other works, etc.

I think brain overload may be a factor too. There's so much information coming at us every day and it's hard to process everything, let alone access it afterwards with any degree of accuracy.

On another forum I discovered the term "forensic hypnosis," which seems designed to help people recover memories. If I can get a solid referral, I'm going to try this. It might help fill in a few blanks.


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RE: Memory question

There's a lot about my early to mid childhood that I don't truly remember. The stories or events I do recall I'm not sure are MY memories or memories of stories my mother and older brothers told later. My parents were divorced when I was 8 or 9 and there are very few memories prior to that. So, yes, they are probably suppressed and could probably be brought out through therapy or hypnosis of some kind. Somewhere back there in the back of my mind something is telling me that there must be a reason for suppressing them so why not let sleeping dogs lie? You know. A big red sign saying "keep out".


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RE: Memory question

Pris,

You raise an interesting point. There may indeed be a reason that your psyche chose to suppress some memories and dredging up unpleasantness may not have any real value.

In my case, though, I feel strongly compelled to remember what I've forgotten, and I'm also curious about the process of recovering memories itself.


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RE: Memory question

If you do decide to go through some sort of memory recovery process, be aware that it is remarkably easy to create memories which you then believe are 100% true. You can do it yourself, as can someone who is guiding you through the process.

For example, Elizabeth Loftus, a prominent researcher in the area of memory, once did an experiment with some of her college students for them to try to create a memory in the minds of their younger siblings. (Questionable morality, yes, but very interesting.) The college student would start by describing a story that never happened. "Remember when you got lost at the mall?" Over a period of a couple weeks, the college student would add more detail to the never-happened story. "Remember - you were wearing that green plaid shirt." After a couple weeks, the younger children not only believed that the never-happened story had happened, they created their own embellishments to the story. "Oh, yeah, I remember that Mom finally found me in front of the Gap. It was Christmas time - I remember the Santa Claus decorations."

This is exactly the sort of thing that ended up getting all sorts of people arrested and jailed (or merely accused and lives ruined) for stuff they never did.

Having done a lot of research in this area because of my line of work, I know that I would never trust "recovered" memories that weren't verifiable from other sources. After a brief but sad heyday in the late 80's through mid 90's, most, if not all, courts in the U.S. now dismiss the idea of recovered memories as junk science, and it's not permitted in court.

Personally, I think that what you describe is just how memory works. It's not like a tape recording at all. It's just a series of impressions, some of which come to mind at any given time, some of which don't. I think you probably have the answer already - you were really into sports, and the other stuff that was happening didn't make much of an impression.

I don't feel like I have memory problems, but I don't remember many details about my school days. Part of that is because I've always lived in my own mind, and just don't notice the stuff that happens around me.


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RE: Memory question

I am almost 77, and I have never remembered much about my days in grade school. The things I do remember are more connected with what happened outside at recess. I think it is what was most important to you that you remember. I remember some good things and some bad things from my youth.
There a period of time in my 30s that I cannot remember a lot about. And some of the things that I do remember make me wonder "Why in the world did I do that?"

Now I go back and read some of the things that I have posted on another forum, and think, "Did I say that?" It is as if I am reading someone else's post!

Some of my more recent memory problems I blame on my Fibromyalgia Syndrome.

This is probably of no importance to you for your problem, except maybe the part about remembering what was the most important to you.


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RE: Memory question

First of all. No one remembers all the details of every event in their past. You remember in detail if it's a tramatic event or something special, but never the day to day events. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts those biographies you read are embellished or remembered the way the writer thinks they went. My sister and I have in no way any kind of dementia, yet we each remember events differently. No one is wrong. Our mind holds on to the important things and then fills in the details.

Just think how overloaded your brain would be if you remembered every detail of every event in your life.

Have you ever been around anyone who suffers from dementia or Alyzimers. They remember the past but can't remember what went on 2 minutes before. The short term memory goes first and then the long term memory.

My dear bluezephyr:
There is nothing wrong with your memory. Your brain has not held on to those memories because they were simply not important. I'll bet you remember some of those football games though. Relax and stop worrying you are perfectly normal.


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