Forgotten Memories

While researching content for a post I have now published, I recalled part of a long-forgotten memory. Although I quickly recalled part of the memory, I could not remember the most important details.  At one time, the memory was vivid and complete. My partial memory is similar to remembering you own a blue car, but not remembering where you parked the car.

My memory was not fantastic before the brain surgery, but it was noticeably worse after the surgery. As much as I tried to remember the missing details, nothing came to mind. I even tried to think about something else in the hope that I would recall the detail I had forgotten. It’s too bad that neither memory vials nor time travel are commercially available even though both are used in popular books and movies. Thankfully, I remembered a few people who might remember the missing details and a few places where I might find helpful records.

A frequent result of brain injury is that recipients of the injury often forget some or all of the events that occurred and the recipients often have trouble forming new memories. Many brain injury survivors are embarrassed by their poor memory, but there are benefits of a poor memory. For example:

  • You now have a reason to interact with other people . . . to ask for help.
  • You now have a reason to exercise your brain . . . because you recognize the need.
  • You can now read a book or watch a movie for the first time . . . again.

What I found fascinating about my missing memory is that I am not alone. Some of the people I talked with, none of whom had a brain injury, had zero recollection of the event. Others recalled the event, but they could not fill in the missing pieces. The final group recalled the event, knew they did not have all the answers, but knew where to go to find the answers. Clearly, a poor memory is nothing to be embarrassed about; people without brain injury experience it too.

Many researchers agree that there are essentially five components of memory:

  • Attention – you cannot recall what you never noticed.
  • Encoding – you are unlikely to recall what you categorize inconsistently or inappropriately. For example, if you categorize a narwhal as a mythical creature, you might not remember seeing them or knowing they exist.
  • Storage – your container for placing temporary memories in a more permanent container.
  • Consolidation – your ability to integrate new information within existing frameworks (schemas).
  • Retrieval – your ability to find, access, and recall information when you need it.

Brain injury survivors are not the only people who experience memory deficits. A poor memory is a sign that you are having difficulty with one or more components of memory. Thankfully, there are compensation tools to help you address some of your memory deficits.

Questions

How do you know if you are experiencing poor memory? Can you remember when you began having memory challenges? If you are using a memory compensation tool, what works best for you? If someone has a poor memory, but they do not admit to having memory challenges, is there any reason to confront the person who has a poor memory? What can you do when communicating with a person who has a bad memory? 

4 Comments

  1. Scott,

    Being that I have been where you are I can totally understand. I love this post and feel it very deep inside. I went through the memories issues and asking others to help me fill in the gaps. Then I said, forget it, let me start over and have some fun with a new beginning so to speak.

    1. Your approach to the “new” normal is fantastic. Why use family and friends as a memory prosthesis when you can simply accept what is and exercise your brain?

  2. Prior to brain injury, all my memory functions were good. after brain injury, I have no place left to lay down tracks so I am often lost. Now I print out maps and use GPS. I do pay careful attention to where I parked my car but if I am in the market more than a few minutes, I often cannot remember. I bought a bright aqua colored auto so that I could find it, and it was my best compensation device.

    1. Frances, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using compensation tools. The good news is that you learned the tools to help you succeed whereas many people believe they don’t need help, refuse to use compensation tools, and decline due to their refusal to change, learn, and grow.

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