Remembering The Good Old Days….

May 12, 2014

As we all get older we sometimes yearn for the good old days. Those were the times when things were slower and life was less complicated.  Or were they???

Here is a quote from a book entitled “Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)” that tells us a little about our memories

2014-05-01_12-56-37Memories are not buried somewhere in the brain, as if they were bones at an archeological site; nor can we uproot them, as if they were radishes; nor, when they are dug up, are they perfectly preserved. We do not remember everything that happens to us; we select only highlights. (If we didn’t forget, our minds could not work efficiently, because they would be cluttered with mental junk—the temperature last Wednesday, a boring conversation on the bus, every phone number we ever dialed.) Moreover, recovering a memory is not at all like retrieving a file or replaying a tape; it is like watching a few unconnected frames of a film and then figuring out what the rest of the scene must have been like. We may reproduce poetry, jokes, and other kinds of information by rote, but when we remember complex information we shape it to fit it into a story line.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (Tavris, Caroll;Elliot Aronson)

So, whether we realize it or not much of our memories of the good old days are really made up to fit our current story line of those times.  We stored away a few pleasant thought and then filled in the rest. This book goes into much detail about this phenomenon. It is like how I remember all those good times while I was in college forty plus years ago.  But if I really remember them they also contained many  hours of work and many lost nights of sleep. Yeah I did make it to a few of the after football concerts and such. I will never forget seeing my heroes Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel on stage. But I could never afford to do much else. All the money went to tuition and room and board.

The generic term for all this is selective memory. We all do it and have been doing so throughout history. Historic events are filled with selective memory. Even the accounts found in our bibles which were written forty or more years after the fact are I’m sure filled with selective memory with the gaps made up to fit the desired scenario.  There is nothing wrong with this as long as we recognize that fact.

It is funny to see the stories in the book where two people talk about the same event and while having lived it together have very different memories of it. Here is another quote from the book in that regard:

When you remember your fifth birthday party, you may have a direct recollection of your younger brother putting his finger in the cake and spoiling it for you, but you will also incorporate information that you got later from family stories, photographs, home videos, and birthday parties you’ve seen on television. You weave all these elements together into one integrated account.