I Will Never Forget You

(c) 2012 Diane DeFelippo. Ultrasound of my nephew Anthony.

The thoughtfulness of remembering

We like to be remembered, especially during special times like birthdays and anniversaries. When we are remembered by family and friends, we tend to interpret it as meaning that they care about us. It feels nice to have our occasion imprinted in their brains and on their hearts.

People selectively remember

However, unfortunately sometimes even those with the best of intentions sometimes forget. This does not mean that they love any less.  It might be that their mental faculties may have been distracted for whatever reason. Or that they don’t get the dates and facts straight in the first place. Or they might have even delivered but the message was not received!  If you live in a high-rise building like I do, sometimes cell service selectively receives messages.

A lot can be said about memory. In general, most people are poor historians. That is because each and every one of us selectively remembers events and people.  It is not on purpose. So as a general rule it is better to give people the benefit of the doubt. It is just the way we are. If you ask ten people to recall an event, you get ten different versions.  It is not that one is better than another, but they will be different. One popular technique in psychology is to ask a client their earliest memory.  A lot can be inferred by what a person happens to recall, the way that it is described, and what is omitted. Research has shown that often the event might not even match what really happened from a historical perspective. 

Memory and pathology?

Memory can serve a survival function in allowing us to selectively recall or not recall traumatic experiences. The brain is wired to help warn and teach us of dangers through its fight or flight functions. If a monster is going to attack us, we need to remember where it is and how we came upon a monster. However sometimes memories can become overwhelming and lead to post traumatic distress (PTSD) type symptoms with flash backs and nightmares.  A person might have trouble turning these types of memories off and therefore might seek professional help. Or in the case of repression, a person might need help to turn on a memory.

There is the classic case of a Soviet neuropsychologist, Alexander Luria, who studied a subject in the 1920s named Solomon Shereshevsky who literally could remember everything.  Luria’s work resulted in a book entitled, The Mind of the Mmenomist.  His patient could recall details of events even years after their occurrence, including complete speeches, and complex mathematical equations.  However, when it came to everyday life, Shereshevsky had great difficulties, suffered from confusion, had difficulty reading, could not keep a job, and barely scored average on intelligence exams. This person had to go through great effort to delete memories from his brain. Looking at the above examples makes one wonder if it is worth having a good memory at all. Clearly as human beings having total recall can turn into a liability. 

Out of sight, out of mind?

The old saying goes that when something is out of sight, it escapes our mindfulness.That is why it is a great mnemonic device to place visual reminders around to do something. There are people who put strings on their fingers and set timers. I might place a bag of trash in the middle of hallway to remind myself to take it out.

Women contemplating an abortion commonly don’t like to hear the word “baby” used to describe the fetus. This is because the idea of a blob of tissue is replaced with the image of a genuine live human being. In fact, when abortion-minded women see their unborn children via ultrasound…86.9% choose life (http://www.frc.org/brochure/i-see-you-telling-the-icu-mobile-story).  They cannot forget the child. This was obtained from a report by R. G. Morrison of the Family Research Council.  A natural love bond forms between the mother and child when she is able to see her little one for the first time.  Seeing the “baby” imprints on the mother’s mind.  The ultrasound image is often the first picture of a baby.  Proud parents often display it on the refrigerator and even post it on Facebook. On the flip side, many women report having grief and inability to forget their baby and even their unseen fetus for years after undergoing an abortion procedure.  Ambivalent feelings may initially dominate, however guilt, insomnia, depression, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, infertility, eating disorders, psychosomatic illnesses, and failed relationships commonly result after a woman decides to terminate her baby’s life through an abortion (obtained from hopeafterabortion.com).

A mother’s memory

Interestingly from a spiritual standpoint, the memory of God is compared to that of a mother!  The capacity of a mother’s memory when it comes to her children is amazing.  I often joke that with each pregnancy more brain cells escaped with the placenta.  And it takes a lot of memory to multi-task when taking care of little (and big) ones.  Women can hear and do out of more than two ears and hands. Today’s (March 21) reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah 49:8-15 states:   Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  I will never forget you.   

A very comforting image that speaks of God’s great compassion and love for us.

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