Memories Depend on Focus

We teach our anger management students that often anger is generated by arguments with someone reagrding what happened in the past. As you probably know, two people (like a parent and child, or, two siblings) may have the same experience but remember it in quite different ways.

Why is this? Often we suspect that the other person is wrong, is lying, or is distorting the truth. And, of course, if we believe these things, we generate anger.

To manage your anger, try to understand that there is at least one other explanation. It is literally a matter of focus. As one of our recent students from IEC reviews vape devices explained, our memories depend on our perceptions of the situation. Like a still photo, your “perception” depends on where you aim your camera. Imagine an elephant. You may take a picture of his trunk so you remember the trunk. Soemone else may take a picture of his rough skin- which is the main thing he or she may remember.

So, five years later when you are both discussing your experience of the elephant, you remember the trunk and he/she remembers the rough skin. Neither of you sees the whole picture, but part of it.. a snap-shot of it- segements of the total.

We tend to focus on those parts of the total situtaion that are important to us, and ignore or minimize the rest. An example: a sixteen year old boy asks his father for a car. To him, it is his whole life. The father is dismssive. To the father, it may be an amusing request that has no relevance to his life. Years later, the boy remembers the rebuke vividly; the father doesn’t even rememvber it at all.

Same “reality.” Different snapshots of it. Different memories of what “really” happened.