That’s how we get into these negative loops where we say things like:
– This always happens to me.
– There I go again, making another mistake.
– Will things ever change?
And here’s the thing with memory, it’s highly subjective. In fact, we often choose how we remember our past experiences, and they may or may not be what happened. How we remember informs what we anticipate for the future.
“Sometimes the truth can be hard to find through the murkiness of pain or elation, heartache or passion, darkness or joy. But do the work.”
Powerful, two minute reads that have helped change the script in thousands of people's lives.
He explained that we all have two selves: a remembering self, and an experiencing self. In essence, we do not choose between experiences, but rather between memories of experiences. According to Kahneman, even when we think about the future, we think of our future not as experiences but as anticipated memories.
In the end, our experiences are not the dominant force affecting our happiness or expectations. It is instead our remembered self that controls how we perceive and experience life.
That’s why two people can have the same experience and remember very different things about it. It's not our experiences, but how we remember those experiences and even what experiences we choose to remember, that have the most profound effect on our happiness, and our perception of the future.
British Philosopher Allan Watts once said: “The power of memories and expectations is such that for most human beings, the past and the future are not as real, but rather more real than the present.”
My parents divorced seven years ago. It was a harrowing, horrible time. And since then, the temptation to that let experience taint my previous memories of a happy family are strong. Sometimes I’m not even sure what is a real memory and what has been influenced by the pain and confusion of that season. Our memories are subject to our own biases.
Our narrative informs our perspective. The stories we tell ourselves about our past directly impact our expectations of the future. Or more to the point, the way we tell those stories and the things we choose to remember, directly influence our beliefs about tomorrow.
I’m not saying that we don’t own our stories. That we live in denial about all the bad and horrific and unexplainable things that have happened to us. Not at all. I am suggesting that we get to choose how those stories, how the words in those stories, create our world, for today and tomorrow.
Wrapped up in the Hebrew word for Hope – Tiqvah – is the character Vav, which means: ‘to add completion and redemption.' When redemption and completion visit our memories, it visits our expectations, too.
Written by Liz Milani