I'm in the exhilarating and beautiful thick of a new project. I thought I'd take a break to share some of the core themes, thoughts and questions I've been working with this season. In keeping with the spirit of radical grounded authenticity, I'll share and explore these preliminary concepts, casually here with you.
Memory can be a funny thing for most people. I've pulled a ton of "white paper" research on it. Some of which has been incorporated into my Masters by Research. But, let's start here:
I have been told that I have an eidetic memory. Okay, fine.
-What is eidetic memory?
"the ability to recall images with vividness bordering on actual visual perception; total recall; also called photographic memory. Eidetic memory, to use the clinical term, is the ability to recollect an image so vividly that it appears to be real." (Dictionary.com)
Sure, this is true. But, I can also remember a song after the first listen, remember every conversation, every feeling, every detail of an interaction with everyone and everything.
-How does one develop it?
For as long as I can remember (ha...) I can recount most things in great detail. Ask any of my friends or family and they will agree that I am the keeper of the archives of our lives. Honestly, I'm not sure if I was just made this way or if it was a survival strategy.
You see, growing up I was routinely told that what I saw, heard, thought, felt or said was something other than what it was. (This is called gas lighting, if you're wondering. Don't get upset. Everyone does it to everyone at some level at some point in their lives. It can range from innocent deflection to covert manipulation tactics.) So, I began keeping a journal of activities, interactions and things accomplished, said, heard, felt etc. I still do this. It has saved my sanity in several instances. It has also helped me to keep my projects and milestones organized as I push toward undertakings beyond my comfort zone and personal creative deadlines...all while adulting. This tendency toward being a chronologist, as evidenced by volumes of black sketch books full of details, has most likely reinforced my ability to remember everything.
-Is there a downside to having this sort of memory?
Yes, while it's very helpful for keeping details organized or pulling up beautiful memories it's still quite overwhelming. Especially when I don't particularly WANT to remember something. Our brains are already primed to hold experiences marked by feelings. For example: Traumatic experiences, as a rule, stick in your mind due to a whole domino effect of synapses firing, physical sensations, polypeptides being released and locking everything in. Repeated traumatic experiences create complex programs that run like malware underneath everything.
People with the propensity to observe and store a collection of otherwise supplemental detailed markers such as body language, air temperature/conditions, colors, smells, frequencies, etc ... access multiple facets of an experience for the anchoring (and recall) of memories. It requires a lot of energy to take it all in. This is something I can't really just turn off as I have an aversion to dulling or numbing myself.
-Does this relate to empathy and the concept of "the empath"?
Sure. Empathy is the ability to understand another's experience by putting oneself in their shoes. The concept of an empath is someone who picks up on and feels others' emotional, mental, and physical states. They can especially resonate with those closest to them. While this can be helpful in significant relationships...sometimes it's not. People don't like being seen and heard beyond their facade. Since it's not something I can just turn off... seeing and hearing people beyond their front...I've had many a strange encounter with those who think they are "hiding in plain sight". (All I said was that you had spinach in your teeth...I was just trying to be helpful.)
Soooooo, memory... I can understand why having this sort of extra-sensory-empathy opens up the body and brain to receiving more signals to anchor a memory with.
Introversion(On a mega personal note: When in a crowd of strangers for a prolonged period of time I tend to become exhausted and have a sensation of being inside out and sucked dry. This also happens when I cannot get enough rest or when there is stress or a sense darkness looming that is not from me and left unresolved within my safe space. I try to stay mindful of when I am approaching overload so as to not burn out. Some of my coping strategies include: journaling, getting to a quiet space to do breath work, moving my body and running or walking in nature. If I'm unable to be in private I create a pocket for myself by playing music while wearing earbuds or headphones and either listening to something I'm mindlessly familiar with or nothing at all. I've mentioned my tendency toward introversion, before, yes?)
-Can one "dump" memories?
Not exactly. Short of a lobotomy, memories cannot simply be erased. I've been exploring the concept of neuro-plasticity and reframing this season as I intensely & intently "hold every thought captive". I observe and test each one for it's usefulness as I move forward. Interestingly, my level of empathy allows me to view things from separate angles helping me to reframe things.
*Check out Einstein's Conservation of Energy and replace the word "energy" with "memory" and swim in that for a while.
-How does all of this relate to music? Research?
Generally I tend to use those "dumpable" thoughts as material to create with. Things I'd like to forget tend to be transmuted into something useful. A recent example is my Masters research dissertation: Processing trauma, building up mindfulness...mapping the movement of either empathically acquired or embodied pain/lament as physio-psycoemotional-alchemy and finding peace somewhere in all of that. Muck raking the soul from the inside out. Yeah, I don't write happy songs sometimes. Working on it.