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Can we ever trust our memories?

I started writing in a diary back in 1985, after leaving high school. I  had the idea of recording my life for posterity. But unfortunately it turned out to be pretty boring for the most part. But I persevered.

It got a bit more interesting in the early 1990’s, which was great, because then I could write more about things happening than just a line or a paragraph. I wrote some huge pages of content back then!

In the mid-90’s the internet started gaining some popularity, and I started learning web design so I could transfer a monthly newsletter I published into an online format. Instead of postal subscribers, I could have email subscribers and website visitors! Ah, the fun times I had.

It wasn’t until the late 90’s that I thought about putting my diary online too. And now, here in 2016, I’m still doing it.

One of the fascinating things about keeping a diary is that when you write down how things happened and how you felt, you then usually forget about all those finer details you wrote down. You rely on the memories in your head, thinking that’s good enough. But it’s not until years later, when you might revisit what you wrote, that you get a shock – what you remember is different to what you wrote!

This has happened to me a few times, where I’ve looked back into my diary at things that happened in the early 90’s, and was shocked that what I wrote was completely different to what I remember? What the fuck?!

It’s said that every time you remember something, you’re not actually remembering the original event, but you’re remembering the last time you remembered it. Complex!

The brain changes a memory every time you remember it. It alters the memory according to information relevant to who you are now, so that the next time you remember it, it’s with the changes introduced the last time you remembered it. And then there’s new changes introduced!

“A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. The more you remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes.” – Jonah Lehrer

So really, when you focus on any memory from your past, you’re always changing it. It feels reliable in your head, but it’s invariably been changed so that it’s completely different to the reality of what happened.

When you see quotes like this:


Now you know it’s all bullshit! People don’t WANT their memories to change, but change is inevitable. The life we remember is a complete lie.

Thank God I keep a record of my life here!

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