Two people can be at the same place at the same time and have completely different experiences of the event. It’s akin to the game of “telephone” we played as a kids. The first person in line shares a “secret” with the next and so on, until the last person in line says out loud what the first person “said”. As kids this typically ended in bales of laughter about how silly the final product was compared to the original statement. “I wish people liked me” turned into “Irish people eat meat.”
Imagine if you will then, you are one of eight children from the same family. Your ages span 16 years — a virtual lifetime in some cultures. One of you remembers a childhood filled with family day trips, vacations, drama productions, awards ceremonies, graduations, backyard cookouts, and sporting events, where your mom, dad, brothers and sisters, may have been there cheering you on. And another of the clan might remember any or all of those things very, very differently! For some there might be more pain than joy, more stress than ease…you get the idea.
Why do you think that is? Why do we, members of the same family, remember our childhoods differently. Well, here’s the first clue…we ARE different! The second…we are human beings! Everyone, each and every one us, has our own brain and as a result we process our own thoughts and feelings. We file our memories and the associated emotions, under headings or in “boxes” in order to make sense of them; to keep them in a safe place so we can recall the happiness but not be hurt by the sadness or shame or guilt.
Time is like a game of telephone for our memories. Our age, our emotions, every one of our experiences changes how we remember something. Every time we talk about the event we add to it in the course of the conversation. Who we’re talking with at the time and the circumstances under which the interaction happens, also changes the memory. It stands to reason then, that we process our current realities often through the lenses of our past (whether or not we think so, it’s human nature so you might out of luck if you think otherwise.)
Recently, I was turned on to the author, social science researcher and national speaker Dr. Brené Brown. I listened to her book, The Power of Vulnerability. I listened to it in my car as drove to and from work for several days. But the majority of it I listened to when I was painting a room in my home that I will use as a home office. It was a solitary activity on two of the hottest days in July (and no air conditioner in the second floor room). I let her words soak into my soul as best I could and now find myself trying to fit time in each day to listen again to it again. Sometimes on YouTube, sometimes on Oprah’s Super Soul podcast, I am searching for ways to reinforce what I heard during my initial listen and consider the implications for my own life.
Hearing some of the words over again is feeding my soul. It is helping me to be more compassionate, more patient, more human toward others, than I may have thought I was already being. If you haven’t heard, read or watched any of Brené Brown’s work, start with this! (video below)
Today my Thank You goes out to my friend Betsy Pake who suggested Brené Brown in one of her podcasts. (Oh, and listen to Betsy too, HERE.)