The Memory Phenomenon: Missing Things You Don’t Really Miss 

I’ve been writing a lot lately about minimalistic living and the importance of being mindful – topics that are proving to be similarly thematic. Their overarching theme: the importance of living simply and in the moment. Easier said than done, of course.
The concept of minimalistic living extends further than cleaning your closet; in theory it’s tangible change that affects you mentally. Because a clutter free home equals a clutter free mind – or something of that nature. I’m not big on clutter. I like my possessions, but I keep the hoarding to a minimum, primarily due to my small apartment and my neurosis pertaining to mess. That said, I feel like I am constantly cluttered anyways mentally. 
I once attributed the fact that I hadn’t changed the background on my phone (a photo of me and my then ex boyfriend), to the fact that I’m an emotional hoarder. Maybe I don’t keep old clothes or hang on to every hairbrush that comes into my life, but when it comes to the sentimental, I’m grossly attached. In fact, just yesterday I found a photo of my ex boyfriend from high school stuffed behind a business card from a job I quit last August, snuggly layered behind behind two fortunes cookie fortunes that yet another ex gave to me years ago. It was at this point I realized, my emotional hoarding might be a little more of a problem than I’d given it credit for.

I cling to memories past pretty ferociously, oftentimes because the past seems preferable to the present. So I recall the past wearing proverbial rose-tinted glasses. I call it the family vacation phenomenon. 
images.jpgSay you took a family road trip when you were just a kid. It rained from start to finish, and you were confined to the stuffy back seat of a small car for the duration, quarreling with your brother about who gets to play with the Game Boy next. But ten years later, when you tell your new boyfriend about the trip you took all those years ago, you’re likely to tell the tale with a wistful smile on your face, describing all the good ol’ family fun you had. It’s not that you don’t remember the painful memories of using public road-stop bathrooms and sleeping in a slug covered tent, its just that your mind has coloured your perception of the past, which is a common and explainable phenomenon. 
In a 1988 paper researched by Tory Higgins and Charles Stangor in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they present a few possible explanations as to why this memory phenomenon occurs.
They deduce that our opinions tend to be coloured by the experiences we’ve had leading up to that point. For instance, that really fun field trip to the zoo your class took in 2007 was a total blast and you remember it as so, but that same trip may not be as thrilling if you experienced now, because now you would be comparing it to every fun thing you’ve done since 2007. With a broader base of experiences as an adult, it simply takes more to favour our curry; a fact which we conveniently forget when we we make the brazen credo that things were easier, funner and better when we were children. 
A second theory presented in Higgins and Stangor’s research is that our perception of the uncomfortablesoul_tumblr_l7e2mydgst1qah2fqo1_500.jpgpresent will always be affected by the annoyances of our every day life. Something as minute as having to pay your MasterCard bill, a subway delay that makes you late for work or getting caught in the rain on the ONE DAY you straighten your hair can ruin your day, and subsequently influence your perception of the present. With time those annoyances fade, leaving only the unencumbered memories, which is why the past may appear as if it were less stressful than the current.
The reality is, our memories are simply cluttered by too much for our recall to be fully accurate; its just one more reason, if you needed one, to be mindful and present and leave the past where it belongs: in the past. 

ZAKIYA KASSAM12312232_10208039303806073_238423358_n

Zakiya has her degree in journalism from Ryerson University and currently works as a freelance content writer based in Toronto. Zak is a dedicated journal-er and enjoys writing and reading fiction, particularly science fiction, in her free time. Mental illness is something that has touched her life and the lives of her loved ones, so she is supportive of anything that brings attention to and provides new perspectives about mental health.

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