Improving Memory

Improving Memory is the third part of my presentation at the International Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy conference. Earlier parts are here and here.

Changing your outlook from ‘I am like this’ to ‘I can be different’ however – is a first step towards positive thinking. To do this therefore let’s focus first on memory.

Here are some points you need to know about improving memory;

Repeat – As humans we need to process information immediately and repeatedly. It’s why learning to play a musical instrument demands repetitive practice. Repeat to learn.

Match – Because when new knowledge comes along, we fit it to what we already know.

Picture it – We think in pictures and not words.

Slower – If we slow down,  we move information from our working memory into our long-term memory.

Structure –  we are meaning making machines, we search for meaning. It’s a classic part of the psychology of teaching. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell it to them, and then tell them what you’ve just told them, therefore creating a structure.

Creative – our memory is both creative and re-creative, as in the movie ‘Inception’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio, where he implants memories to change reality.

Obviously (and ethically) therapists don’t do this, but many of my therapy clients are stuck in thoughts, one client for 20+ years.

We all know thoughts are important in therapy, take negative automatic thoughts in CBT. Thoughts and memories obviously connect, but importantly memories are not always fixed.

We think the memory works like a recording device

This is not true.

And changing this can create a new sense of possibility – a space where we can become

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus is especially relevant in this area. She described memory as like a Wikipedia page because you can go in and you can change it, and so can other people.

As therapists we can’t plant memories, this is the reason that I don’t do Hypno-Gastric band work. If our memories represent our identity, it helps to know we can change it.

We can recreate a sense of self.

Memories are not cast in stone, there is room for change,  you are not painted into a corner. How many times have you heard people say “well, it’s just me, it’s just who I am”?

it’s because memories are a foundation to identity that if you can challenge them, then you can ask yourself, “what else can you challenge?”.

What can you change?

Brain and Memory

Brain and Memory is the first part of my serialised lecture from the recent International Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy conference.
It’s a free resource to help you and the introduction is here.
 So let’s begin with the brain and memory. Now the human brain is a remarkable thing. It represents 2% of our body weight yet uses 25% of our daily calories.
Why is the human brain is different from the brains of the other great apes?
In fact the answer is cooking. We don’t eat raw food like for example gorillas or chimpanzees, so we’re not involved in a trade-off. The trade off between the amount of neurons in our brains and our body size.  You can’t have both a big brain and a big body on raw food.
It’s impossible for us to obtain the number of calories necessary to keep our brains working from raw food. So,  we predigest our food by cooking it.  Otherwise we would simply run out of hours in the day to eat.
As humans, our brains are very neuron rich, they’ve grown that way. If  you count the nuclei in a rodent brain, you find that they are far fewer than in ours.
We have 86 billion neurons in our brains and if a rodent brain had that many neurons, it would weigh 36 kg!
We use 6 calories per billion neurons of brain every day. Gorillas are physically much larger than us but their brains are smaller. This is because of the fact that to maintain that body size, they have to sacrifice neurons.
What makes our human brain and memory unique are our cognitive abilities. We have a very dense concentration of neurons in our cerebral cortex. This is what gives us our cognitive abilities.
That rich concentration of neurons fuels our working memory.
Now what working memory does is that it interfaces between what’s going on now, our experiences – and our stored knowledge, the long-term memory.
Now this is a mix that we re all familiar with. What it goes to is meaning
and we are all aware of the fact that how we attach meaning to memory is very important That’s also true in therapy.
In physical terms that working memory is about the size of a pea. We can think of the working memory in terms of RAM, random access memory. It is for example, what allows us to listen into other people’s conversations while we’re pretending to pay attention to the person in front of us.
It always amazes me how many tips and techniques exist in the self-help books relating to making sure that you appear to be paying attention to someone. There is only however one fool-proof method of making sure that you do this and I’m going to let you in on the secret…
 and that is to actually be paying attention.
There are limits to working memory though, losing your keys for example, forgetting what you were going to say, the good news? There are also strategies to improve it.
More of those in the next installment….