The Happiness Connection  

Memory is a survival tool

Remember: to bring to mind or think again Mirriam-Webster

You remember things for a reason. This ability isn’t designed to torment you, it is a tool for survival.

Your memories allow you to:

  • recognize skills that helped you, so you can hone them.
  • identify problems to you can create solutions.
  • detect behaviours that no longer serve you, so you can let them go.
  • shape the action you will take tomorrow.

That seems straightforward, but things are often not what they seem.

When your day revolved around finding food and outsmarting other predators, your memories gave you the information you needed to increase your chance of survival: â€‹

  • recall
  • learn
  • adjust
  • repeat.

Your memories serve the same purpose today as they did thousands of years ago, but the complexity of our modern world has changed their clear-cut usefulness.

Because learning from your past isn’t required for survival the way it once was, you can skip this step and still live to see another day. However, if you don’t learn you won’t adjust either. This puts you into the possible cycle of recall, resent, repeat.

This changes the result of remembering from learning to feeling victimized.

When I was a Microsoft Office trainer, I used to thank my students when they made mistakes. You learn more from your mistakes than you ever will when everything works out without a hitch.

You are more likely to learn from your mistakes because they often come with heightened emotions. Tremendous highs and extreme lows stick in your memory more than things that happen when you are ticking along in a moderate emotion.

This is one of the reasons you remember events that are traumatic. The heightened emotions ensure the memories stay firmly planted.

I am fortunate to have lived a reasonably trauma-free life, but let me share one of my most challenging experiences.

When I was in my twenties, I went to Egypt. This was the first solo adventure I had ever taken to an exotic location. It was a bucket list destination that could not be missed.

I decided my best course of action would be to take a bus tour. I expected to join other tourists hungry to see the pyramids and tombs.

When I arrived in Cairo, I discovered I was the only person on my tour. I was as an extremely young-looking single woman in a very foreign land. It was the 1980s, so there were no cell phones or internet.

I was on my own in every sense of the word.

The thought of spending 10 days there all by myself was terrifying. All I wanted to do was go home, but I didn’t have the money to buy another ticket.

It took every ounce of courage I could muster to leave my hotel room. To this day, it remains one of the most challenging periods of my life.

I got through it and returned to London unscathed.

The memories of my adventure are unlikely to ever fade because the experience had such a profound effect on me.

I had no control over the situation, although I kicked myself repeatedly at the time for not asking the travel agent how many people were booked on the tour. If I had known, I believed I would have made a different choice.

The point to this story is not that it happened, but what I did and continue to do with the memories.

I learned that I was much stronger and more resilient that I thought possible. For that reason I am thankful for the experience.

I don’t blame the travel agent. Sure things could have turned out differently, but they didn’t. There was no use me worrying about what might have happened or being afraid to travel in the future.

You may have memories that arise from deep trauma. When this happens, reach out to a professional for help. Don’t think you need to find the learning by yourself. It can be very deeply buried.

Your life is yours to live. Choose whether you want to learn from your memories or turn them into the mud of victimization.

Victim: one that is injured, destroyed, or sacrificed

Student: an attentive and systematic observer Mirriam-Webster

Stop lamenting your experiences. They are part of your life. Embrace them, be compassionate, and find the lessons.

Your story shaped you and turned you into the person you are today.

Remember that and honour the being you have become. Your past is here to help you, not to hurt you.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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