Monday, May 23, 2011

Memories are not always accurate

Do our memories ever put on rose-colored glasses? Maybe an event that seemed unpleasant at the time is recalled with fondness and sentimentality. Even to the point that we would consider doing it again, only to realize it wasn’t actually fun the first time. Our brain loves to play tricks on us. It loves to let emotion cloud over better judgment. When you have children, you experience this regularly. You recall the amazing family trip you just had, telling everyone what fun it was, and plan for the next one. You block out the tantrums, the meltdowns, the incessant asking of “Are we there yet?” You conveniently forget the large amounts of money that you just hemorrhaged, all for the sake of “fun.”

Before our third child was born, we planned a trip to Sea World. As with most families, this practically required the selling of our firstborn. After driving ten hours with two children under five, we decided to go to dinner. We knew this would be risky. Two children, who have been cooped up in a Toyota Camry for ten hours don’t mix well with Olive Garden. But we were determined!

So as expected our kids were whiny, impatient and ill-mannered. We were prepared for that. The surprise came when our children were the best behaved. Every single child (and we’re talking dozens) in the restaurant was frazzled, exhausted, over-stimulated and miserably unhappy. All this after their parents had spent thousands of dollars on a dream vacation. At the time I am sure most of those parents were thinking, like us, “Whose idea was this?” Then we got home, back to reality and those memories were pushed to the dark recesses of our mind, and the pinkish, flowery memories emerged.

It is much like childbirth. If all you could remember was the pain, all maternal desires would cease instantly. Instead, our brain pulls a rabbit out of the hat and we seem to block out the nine months of misery and hours of agony. Our brain replaces the difficulties with warm, affectionate memories of holding our little creations for the first time.

The brain is a slightly deceitful genius, so the next time you reflect with fondness on a past event, be careful before you repeat the process, because our memories are not always accurate.

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