I’ve often said that vain regrets about the past are meaningless, and a recently concluded 10 year study soon to be released provides reason #37 as to why that is so.
Jonah Lehrer noted in his Wall Street Journal article entitled: “When Memory Commits and Injustice” that:
The biggest lie of human memory is that it feels true. Although our recollections seem like literal snapshots of the past, they’re actually deeply flawed reconstructions, a set of stories constantly undergoing rewrites.
Consider our collective memories of 9/11. For the last 10 years, researchers led by William Hirst of the New School and Elizabeth Phelps of New York University have been tracking the steady decay of what people recall about that tragic event. They first quizzed people shortly after the attacks, then after one year, and found that 37% of the details had already changed. Although the most recent data have yet to be published, they’re expected to reveal that the vast majority of remembered “facts” are now make-believe.
In recent years, neuroscientists have documented how these mistakes happen. It turns out that the act of summoning the past to the surface actually changes the memory itself. Although we’ve long imagined our memories as a stable form of information, a data file writ into the circuits of the brain, that persistence is an illusion. In reality, our recollections are always being altered, the details of the past warped by our present feelings and knowledge. The more you remember an event, the less reliable that memory becomes.
I cannot stress enough the importance of living in the “now.” It is terribly easy to let the past hamper your work in the present! I hope that these new findings on human memory help you to see the folly of overlaying your memory of the past on the opportunities that are crossing the threshold that separates the future and the present.
To make all things new you must see all things new.