Our life is a basketful of memories – some good, some bad, some memorable, some not memorable. But what is memory? The dictionary defines memory as “the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information”.
Memory is what we remember, what we can recall of experiences that we have gone through in the past. Memory is what helps us to recall earlier experiences, events, opinions, facts we have learned, skills and talents we possess. The reason we can recall is because these have value for us, they have meaning for us and so they remain in our mind. If they are not important for us, we forget them; they don’t remain in our memory.
How can we remember?
Our memories are our biggest treasure, one of the most precious things we possess. If we don’t have memories how will we tell stories to the next generation, how will we recall those we loved and who have gone, how will we remember the times we spent with our friends and the stupid , silly, fun things we did together, how can we correctly remember what we studied so that we can answer our examination papers correctly, how can we remember how to drive a car or play the piano or cook a meal or do any of the many things that make up our lives ?
When we recall a particular memory, we remember not only the event or incident but also the emotions and feelings we experienced at that time. If it was a positive experience we feel good and happy, if it was a negative experience we again, go through the grief or horror or fear or nervousness or anxiety that we felt earlier.
Why we remember?
But whatever it is that we remember and recall, it is because those particular memories had some significance in our lives – they affected us in some way or the other. The nature of the experience we had is important but so is the value that we placed on it. That is why we can remember it later on. We recall good things on our own because they give us happiness, peace, strength, they relieve boredom and loneliness. Negative memories come to mind even when we don’t want them to, but they also give us something of worth , they give us strength to fight similar circumstances, they teach us new lessons which allow us to go ahead, they teach how to avoid doing wrong things.
When incidents or events don’t have meaning for us, our brain erases those memories because they don’t serve any purpose by staying in the mind or in our memory. These memories cannot be recovered once they are “deleted” from our minds.
What we don’t remember
Similarly we don’t remember something that is not used e.g a language that we knew but don’t use any more. You also don’t remember daily activities unless there is a trigger to a specific time. You don’t remember how many times you went driving in your car but you remember the one time you almost hit a pedestrian or you forget how often you went to the library but you recall the time you went there and met your favourite author.
Factual memory draws up facts and figures you learnt, emotional memories recalls circumstances, emotions and feelings while things that have no meaning for you are neatly forgotten and totally thrown out of your mind, for ever.