Memory is important. There is nothing as frustrating as standing there trying to remember someone’s name and come up with a complete blank.
We all blame this on a bad memory. That may not be the problem at all.
How well you remember someone or something may all depend on the very first impression. How well did you grasp the facts the first time you saw or heard them?
We talked in a past post ( Why you can’t forget the painful past ) about how pain is burned into us and happy memories take time to sink in. But there is more than just your emotional state at work in how well you remember.
That forgetting things – it may not be about old age or the beginning of Alzheimer’s. An example may help explain this.
You attend a social function over the weekend and meet some new people. On your way in past a hoard of noisy people trying to find their dinner table you are introduced to a couple and you shake hands just before you are whisked away to you table. You think that their names are Jane and Tom. Later when you say something to your partner over dinner about meeting Jane and Tom, they say who? You mean Janet and Tim?
Not what were their names? You are not real sure. Two weeks later you start work at a new company. The boss, you suddenly recognize him, you met him at the dinner meeting, but what was his name?
The problem here is not that you forgot his name. It is not even that you did not try to remember all those people who you met that night for the first time.
The problem is not in the retrieval part of memory. You never really learned this person’s name in the first place and clearly you can’t remember something you never knew. You have just learned an important lesson.
How well you remember depends on the first impression something makes on you and on your brain. Hear a name clearly, get a chance to repeat it a few times, maybe even write it down and you will probably remember it. But hear it once, over a lot of noise in a hurried situation and it may well never get stored away in your memory.
Much of what we call forgetting is really a failure to learn things in the first place.
Remember that chemicals in your blood stream can affect recording, processing or retrieval of information. To remember something you need to be able to do all three functions. We have talked in the past about how chemicals in the bloodstream can alter the storage and retrieval of information.
If you need the same chemical in your blood stream to remember as was there when you learned something this is called State Dependent Learning . We also talked about Marijuana and how it may interfere both with the storage and the retrieval of information. And of course alcohol can cause blackouts, the total failure to record information even while you are talking and moving about. See “ Do people really forget what happens when drinking .”
You now know that another major source of memory failure is not slowing down and learning things thoroughly enough in the first place.
A good memory is important in life and we could all use some help in improving our memory and our ability to make use of that thing we call our brain. Over the posts to come I will talk more about how to get the best use and mileage out of that thing we call our brain. Better and clear thinking is a skill that can be learned. It does not benefit from the use of self-prescribed street drugs to boost its functioning.
Oh yes, some memory problems can be organic health problems. If there is a chance of that or you are concerned that this forgetting may be excessive, if you worry about having or getting Alzheimer’s, please see a doctor.
But also in the future work on improving you memory by, slowing it down, letting it sink in and you will find the things you fully learned you will remember better.
For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com .