FIML and memory distortion

Here is a study that shows how quickly we distort our memories: Event completion: Event based inferences distort memory in a matter of seconds. The study concludes, in part, that “…results suggest that as people perceive events, they generate rapid conceptual interpretations that can have a powerful effect on how events are remembered.”

This study shows that our memories of events are dynamic and can become distorted very quickly. These findings well support FIML practice, which is based on quick interventions while we are speaking to capture sound, usable data that both partners can agree on.

Blogger Christian Jarrett writes about this study saying that “memory invention was specifically triggered by observing a consequence (e.g. a ball flying off into the distance) that implied an earlier causal action had happened and had been seen (Your memory of events is distorted within seconds).” Well-put. From a FIML point of view, we generate or maintain neurotic interpretations (mistaken interpretations) by believing we are “observing a consequence…that implied an earlier causal action had happened.” When we misinterpret an utterance during a conversation, we tend to do so in habitual ways; we tend to respond to that utterance as if it had meant something it did not; we tend to understand the “consequence” that happens in our minds as “implying” or being based on something that our partner actually had intended when they had not had any such intention.

This study illustrates very well why FIML practitioners want to develop their skills so that both partners are able to quickly disengage from their conversation while taking a meta-position that allows them to gather and agree upon good data that they can discuss objectively and rationally. When your partner denies that they meant what you thought they meant, this study will help you believe them.

The sociological Thomas theorem states: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” Leaving aside the irony of how the gender-laden language nicely supports Thomas’ theory, the study linked above shows how quickly we can turn a small mistake into something that is “real in its consequences”. Long ago, the Buddha said fundamentally the same thing: “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

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