positive uses false memory“In my mind, I’m always the best. If I walk out on the court (and) I think the next person is better, I’ve already lost.”  — Venus Williams; 1980–

The malleability of human memory has been increasing acknowledged in the past decade; indeed the science of false memory has become well established (“The Science of False Memory; Oxford Psychology Series by C. J. Brainerd and V. F. Reyna).

We tend to

– see what we expect to see

– unconsciously mold our memories to conform to the recollection of others (social norms are powerful, conflict can cause us to doubt our perceptions, the desire to belong to the group, be accepted, is strong and subtle)

– modify our memories to align with our world views (we tell ourselves stories to make sense of the things that happen to us, theses narratives impact our memories, some nuanced, some not)

– subsequently incorporate suggestive remarks as our own memories, later unable to distinguish between planted memories and real ones

While the relative ease with which false memories can be created has scary implications for the reliability of eyewitness testimony, there is also a positive potential.
Our self-concepts are powerful determinants of our destiny. We rarely attempt ( and if we do, often not whole heartedly) what we do not believe ourselves capable of achieving.

While full pledged disillusionment should be avoided, visualization is a powerful tool for creating positive “memories” that can fuel greater effort and build self confidence.

Example: I am an avid racquetball player. When I miss hit a shot, I immediately re-play it in my mind, vividly “seeing” the shot I intended to make: a wicked corner shot, a devastating roll out, a demoralizing soft drop shot. The goal is to erase the real memory of the error, leaving a positive memory of success. As Venus Williams said: “In my mind, I’m always the best. If I walk out on the court (and) I think the next person is better, I’ve already lost.”

In other areas, If I do not perform up to my goals, instead of dwelling upon the error, I  will mentally replay the moment, “seeing” myself responding at a higher, more effective level. This mental pre- and post- “playacting” creates confidence and develops pre-programmed success scripts for moments of stress or crisis.

Our memories of our past sway our beliefs about our possible futures. Another technique is to recall formative memories from the past, ones that may have created limiting beliefs about yourself. Is there another, more empowering way to interpret them? Can you tell yourself a better story? A good friend or professional coach/counselor can be extremely helpful here to help you establish a different, healthier story.

Hey! Your best life awaits you. YOU are the creator, YOU are the author; you have more power to edit and revise then you know. Change your mind, change your life. Write your best story, live your best life.