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Memory Phases Skips

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matt davis, complex personage

Memory for me is ultra weird, I have struggled to understand it my whole life.

I am bad at remembering things and horrible at memorization. Most people seem to have some kind of transitive memory optimized for language that I do not. Instead, mine is optimized for visual representations. Once my brain has built a metaphor concept for the thing, it’s learned and the need for recalling a graphical representation to use the concept (and things within the concept) goes away.

I am an exceptional experiential learner. Book studying and rote memorization isn’t retained by my brain, so I am also lousy at taking tests like pop quizes.

In an article called Faulty Memory Is a Feature, Not a Bug, I discovered a picture of me. Not in the people and test subjects discussed, but in the juxtaposition of creativity with memory loss. Here’s the quote-out from the article:

Misremembering and forgetting allow for the cognitive flexibility required by imagination.

Reading through this has helped me solidify a belief I’ve been curious about for a while. Managing my phases of memory has become an extremely important part of how I live my life. After half a century, I think I’m finally able to see the picture more clearly. It’s made me a better worker at my job, and leading me to the next thing in music and art.

I think of it as an axiom:

  1. When the brain is in Fight or Flight mode, memory management suffers (or is completely shut down).
  2. I have been in a permanent Fight or Flight modality since I was a boy that only got amplified as I grew up; none of my trauma has been treated until recently.
  3. I adapted to fill brain functions in other ways; horrible at retaining lines in a play, learning words to a song means I’ll remember them much easier.
  4. I think about things in very different ways than others do. People are surprised when my thinking and mental models are so deviant from theirs (and I am too).
  5. When I need to remember something, in order to have it stick in my Working Memory so that it can be staged into Concept Memory, I use mnemonics that are either a picture or a reference to a construct/concept/metaphor that I’ve already learned and absorbed into Long Term Memory.
  6. My Long Term Memory recall is highly contextual. Sometimes I tell my therapist it’s like the frame of mind that I was in when I put something to memory won’t let my other frames of mind have access unless it is fed the situation when I learned it.
  7. Understanding abstract concepts that I cannot visualize for my Working Memory to hold is very difficult. I dropped out of physics within the first week because the formulas are incomprehensible to me. But I aced Geometry and Calculus.
  8. People say I am creative, but I don’t think I have very many original ideas. What I have seen of myself is that I am creative mostly when I am working with something that needs an interpretation or gaps filled. I become inspired, and intuition guides.
  9. When I get something to interpret, it alone may fire up the right context I need.
  10. But more times than most, I’m left to improvise with a bag of shards of memories that don’t fit very well together at all, especially because they’re all concepts or pictures.
  11. When I found that I was an excellent performer of other people’s music, it became clear to me that I was a Musical Performer more than I was a Musical Composer.
  12. My imagination flourishes in ambiguity, to a fault. It is sometimes so intense that I have to work to stay focused.
  13. Although, in music I learned to let my imagination flow. Learning to set myself up for trusting intuition to step in. I was practicing how to be poised to adapt in ambiguous situations.
  14. Improvisation is something I do extremely well.
  15. Creativity can happen to me when I least expect it. Especially when I think my brain is failing me by not remembering, I sometimes do not realize that it has skipped ahead to active adaptation.