The Power of Experience vs. Memory
It’s easy to recognize. Memories are the basis of our storytelling and get repeated over and over. They can easily get distorted over time to create comparisons that are hard to live up to if the memory was great or hard to live down if the memory was painful.
You may not remember the whole of experience with its ups and downs, pleasant moments, and painful moments; most likely, you’ll remember the ending as a significant event. If it was a divorce, you might easily forget any good or loving times. You forget the whole of the experience, and only remember the content of a heartbreaking ending. If you stayed together and worked through the experience, then you’ll remember the breakthrough, because whatever happened is in the context of staying together.
I wonder if we’re looking to create a new and pleasant memory with each experience and then are disappointed when the experience doesn’t match the picture we hold in mind. I’ve said in The Promise Of Fulfillment, that fulfillment, a deep sense of happiness, is in action you take right now. Not in what you could have done yesterday, or what you will do tomorrow, but at this moment now. Experience is used up at the moment, leaving you in action and discovery, both present and connected to what is occurring and what’s possible. So memory isn’t as important to me as the experience of this moment.
The main lesson we get from the research on well-being is that happiness is different for the remembering self than for the experiencing self.
Think of listening to a song that triggers a painful memory, and before you know it, you’re going down memory lane, feeling bad! Until you experience, at the moment, that you can press a button and change the tune. A smile comes to your face because you can distinguish between memory and what’s happening now.
I’ve talked to several people these last few months that were relating disappointment in their financial situation. They’re thinking about where they went wrong in their decision-making. As if it could change the decisions they made. But when I ask them how they’re doing right now, they’ll say, fine actually. They have the money they need, but not the money their memory tells them they should have.
It’s always a good time to look and see if you’re present to experience this moment freshly versus a memory. I might have said, before listening to Dr. Kahneman, be open to creating some new memories today. But that may be a block to experiencing the moment by distorting the importance of creating a lovely memory versus connecting with what’s possible now.
So here’s to finding fulfillment in the action you take right now. That’s not to say that I don’t have a treasure box full of mementos and pictures, where I could spend hours reminiscing and laughing. The more important lesson is not to let moments of experience morph into memories that overshadow the possibility of a lifetime of happiness lived now.
May your day be peaceful and productive.
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Paulette Sun Davis