As we look at how our life advances, neuroscientist and author Moran Cerf believes that our reality unfolds in mere 1.5 second increments at a time. That’s the time he estimates it takes for our physical experience to be realized, understood and processed both consciously and subconsciously.
Most of us don’t live in this reality, optimizing our 1.5 second clock ticks. Instead, we get hung up in our past, lost in our stored memories, which are often compressed and inaccurate. And these memories can be changed and shaped in the present. Or, we ponder the future, trying to use our current sliver of reality and past inaccurate memories of experiences to make predictions about a future that has not yet occurred, often yielding fear, anxiety and stress.
First let’s examine the experience of the past, where many of us in grief get hung upon.
We have a huge store of memories, and to store these efficiently our brain uses shorthand: a story about the experience. The story is formed around a collection of 1.5s sensory experiences of the current reality AND a sense you have of yourself at the time, Think of this sense as a picture of your psyche and emotional point of view (PoV).
If you are feeling good about yourself, feeling love and kindness, or you are feeling bad about yourself, in hurt and pain, the story narrative that is stored in your memory about the reality will be dramatically different.
And when we recall these memories they are not just logical thoughts, but strong emotional reactions are recalled as well, many times positive, but in grief often negative. That last fight, shortfall, regret or trespass memory recall can weigh heavily on our present, and we experience similar emotion as if the event we are recalling is actually happening again.
For me, a lot of the memories I was replaying over and over regarding Judy were negative, reflecting the hurt and sadness in my grief. One in particular, I would recall the vision of helping the hospice nurse change and prepare her dead body for transport a little after she had passed.
Is this shocking and sad memory I have about this experience accurate and real? Because these events are stored shorthand in my brain as a story, my recall of the actual event likely isn’t accurate to match the reality. First it is tainted by the mental lens I had during the event. I was sad, exhausted and feeling defeated in having lost the battle, and through this lens I stored a lifeless, broken, scarred, and heartbreaking final image of Judy.
But is this accurate? Looking back, I believe that the hospice nurse needed help, but she also wanted to help me, not scar me for life (although I did have PTSD regarding this for some time). Instead the nurse wanted me to realize something very important. That this body was not Judy. That her beautiful soul had already departed and moved on – no longer sick and scarred, but restored to the inner beauty and light in a much better place.
The good news is that we don’t have to be trapped in the stored narrative of the memory forever. Memories are plastic, meaning you can recall and reshape the story from negative to positive. If you’ve ever been to therapy this will sound familiar, where the therapist wants you to recall the past and then helps you to retell, recast and replace the memory of the troubling event with a different, more positive perspective and point of view. Do this a few times, eight on average according to some studies, and you’ve effectively reprogrammed the story and your mind.
So if there is a particular memory that is bothering you, is there a way to see the positive versus the negative, as I now do from my originally troubling last memory of Judy?
Leveraging your growth in Spirit, is there a way to forgive or ask for forgiveness about the events to recast and replace guilt and regret with peace? Is there a way to transfer the burden of the event to Him and store this transference as a part of the memory?
Anytime you have an overwhelming burden from your past memories, leveraging your Spiritual growth, you can cast this burden to Him, which can make all the difference and make the change in your past perspectives positive more quickly, and permanent..
As we live our 1.5 second reality, we are shaping and storing new memories about these experiences.
The narrative that you tell yourself about yourself is vital as it shapes the way your new experiences will be stored. If you have a negative story you tell yourself about your struggle, sadness, loss, victimhood and inferiority, this will unfortunately reinforce itself in your new memories.
It doesn’t stop there. As you recall old memories, this current point of view can also impact how you update the story and replace those past memories, and not for the better.
Your negative self thoughts and image are reinforcing – impacting how you store current events and shaping a devolved narrative on precious memories from the past. Work on reforming and growing this self image and tamping down the negative thoughts.
Leveraging growth in Spirit, your current narrative should reflect having His grace, and His love on you and in you. So work on your current narrative and remember that any negatives will infiltrate your current and past memories, but positives will reinforce to create peace and joy.
In order to keep us safe and optimize outcomes, our minds form predictions about the future, a story we tell ourselves about what will or might happen in the future.
This is conjecture, a guess at what might be in store for us, based on the current sliver of reality, our current point of view about Self, and from what we have learned, inaccurate and compressed memories of our experiences from our past. The hippocampus is a part of the midbrain, vital in helping humans form memories, but also playing an important role in imagining events in the future. Particularly the hippocampus is vital for constructing the possibilities for future events, and directly leverages our stories of the past to influence our forward-looking thoughts about the future.
In our current POV and memories of pain, loss and grief, we are likely projecting this current self image into perceived future scenarios, as if the future will be similar to how we are looking, acting, living and feeling today.
We’ve all been there, where we spin on what the future might hold around a particular scenario, forming story after story about the possible outcomes.
For me, one common future-scape: I would be at home, at night alone, thinking about how empty the house was. And this was great at sparking forward looking thoughts about my current loneliness and I would then spin around this current perception, projecting the current feelings and scenario out into the future. My future scenario, anxiety that I would never be able to have another partner like Judy for the future, a scenario I know many have pondered over time.
Many of these scenarios that you forecast fuel fear, angst and anxiety, all feeling as if these scenarios are reality, when in reality these predictions are merely imagined. The anxiety and fear of the future outcomes we are projecting not only can affect our current mood, but causes us to act in non-rational ways, discounting viable current options, or making poor choices and jumping at opportunities we shouldn’t out of perceived fear or desperation.
Realizing how our narrative about past memories and our current self image are impacting our future-scape is an important first step. Consciously, as you think about the future, you can leverage this insight, to know that these projections can be distorted. Instead of using past and current, first, reimagine the narrative you want to have about yourself, in a more positive light, and the self image you have in the future first, and now execute your projections. How different the potential outcomes will be?
And certainly beyond this technique, don’t forget to leverage your Spirit growth. To avoid spinning about the future, know you are in His hands, and He already has plans and knows what is your best next step.
- How to Bend Reality to Your Will and Become Unstoppable – Moran Cerf on Impact Theory
- How the Hippocampus Influences Future Thinking, Neuroscience News – https://neurosciencenews.com/future-thinking-hippocampus-5680/