Memory is one of our most precious gifts. It’s the key to evolution. Memory is what helps us define who we are. Consciousness would become useless without memory. It is the fuel that feeds our ability to adapt.
Memory isn’t just a storage partition of our brain, but the definition of who we are
Every new thing that comes our way is filtered by our memory. Through memory, we find the familiar pieces of that novelty and separate them from the new pieces we have to learn about. We learn them and we transform them into new memories that will serve us for future experience. This is how we know things change.
At this point, we experience fear and excitement. Depending on which of those feelings prevails, we become one or the other: preservers or explorers. We can’t be pure preservers nor explorers. We are always a mix between those two, and we constantly become one or the other depending on what our memory whispers to us.
Associative memory is the interpreter of reality
Our memory is the definition of our uniqueness. No memory matches another. Not even for those that went through the same thing, at the same time, at the same place.
And that’s because all the memories until that moment aren’t the same so, the way we process that identical event can never be the same.
Our associative memory is what makes us experience the same thing in different ways.
Why do we forget things?
We also forget just as much as we remember, if not more. We do it to protect ourselves from unnecessary data or form harming data. We unconsciously decide what’s best for us. But that data isn’t all lost for good. Memory keeps the data that has the potential to become necessary.
How often does our memory take us by surprise by pushing through the surface of our consciousness things we forgot we even knew? That happens because of our memory stores more than we apprehend.
Psychology versus neurology
Those aren’t just psychological interpretation. Neuroscience endorses it. Memory reigns over the hippocampus. It is a part of our brain with the shape of a sea-horse hidden in the depths of our brain. In Greek, Hippocampus means sea-horse. We have two hippocampi, one in every cerebral hemisphere.
The sea-horses are in charge of securing the data storage from short-term memory to long-term memory, and in spatial memory. According to a recent study on mice, the “cells in the hippocampus keep up a level of persistent activity” that makes associative memory possible.
This is how every little thing that reminds us of trauma will take us back to it with the help of our associative memory.
The wonder of memory has its dark side too.
When trauma occurs, it can become the second voice of our memory, if not the voice. It is the crossroad that can change us forever. If memory wouldn’t exist, the trauma wouldn’t exist either.
But that would be impossible. Life survived and became what it is today with the help of memory. If we wouldn’t remember that fire burns, we wouldn’t remember to keep the safe distance from it. This is the reason that makes memory let that second voice take the lead. To keep us safe.
When the memory of trauma becomes the only whisperer of the memory, the individual ends up experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder. His/her memory acts as if it had been conquered by it.
And if memory helps us define who we are, then memory can make us become that trauma. If we suspend the rest of what we are and we reduce ourselves to one single memory, then reality becomes the endless possibility of reliving that trauma.